Oxygen explosion causes worker severe injury and costs firm £1m fine

Oxygen is used throughout many sectors of industry and healthcare.  This common element can be taken for granted as we are so familiar with its name and its use.

Are you aware that;

  1. increasing the concentration of oxygen in air from its normal 21% to just 24% can make an enormous difference  in how easily items will catch alight;
  2. They will also be far harder to put out once they are burning and will burn much more fiercely;
  3. Oxygen which is pure and at high pressure (from a cylinder or supply line for example) can react spontaneously with oils, greases and other materials causing them to catch light;
  4. Nearly all materials including textiles, rubber and even metals will burn vigorously in the presence of pure oxygen.

More information on all of the above and the correct precautions which must be in place can be found here; http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg459.pdf

Below is an accident which illustrates the dangers of bad practices around oxygen.  If you need helps and support on these and other issues please do contact us for more information.

Case Law: Oxygen Pipe Explosion

Sheffield Crown court heard that work was carried out by an in-house contractor to fit a valve to an oxygen pipe that carried 99.9 per cent pure oxygen in August 2013

The worker was checking the work when he heard hissing from the valve. When investigating the noise, the pipe and valve erupted in flames causing the person to suffer 60- 70 per cent burns.

As a result of the severe injuries he suffered he was initially not expected to survive and underwent several skin grafts whilst being kept in a coma for several weeks.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the oxygen pipe had been fitted with contaminated second-hand flanges and butterfly valves containing materials unsuitable for use with oxygen.

Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited of Brightside Lane, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £1,000,000 with £58,000 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Carol Downes commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simple carrying out correct control measure and safe work practices.”

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standard.”

[sform id=’3220′]

Posted by Roger Hart

Case Law: Diversion of workers to maintenance tasks

It can be tempting to allow staff, particularly those who are helpful and keen, to undertake maintenance tasks within your workplace.  You can sometimes hear a staff member state “I could have sorted that for you!”

When you have staff which have worked in other roles through  a diverse career and the work seems reasonably straightforward it can seem like you’re able to make a significant saving or get the work carried out more quickly.

However, you should also consider the lessons which can be learnt from the case below and many like it.

Diversion of workers to maintenance tasks results in prosecution

Kent based Erith Haulage Company Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £215,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £10,622 after an employee fell four and a half metres through a fragile skylight onto a concrete floor while cleaning a roof.

The maintenance tasks were undertaken by two drivers, requested by the company’s foreman and took place on the weekend of the 17 and 18 January 2015.

A Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) was hired for the cleaning, but when one of the drivers could not reach a section of the roof from the MEWP he got out and stood on the roof not realising that the roof contained fragile skylights.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the roof in question was metal with gutters running along it. The skylights were located in strips over the portion of roof but were covered in dirt discolouring them and making them appear similar colour to the roof itself.

After some time cleaning, the driver noticed a section of roof left uncleaned and while walking along a section of the roof he fell through one of these skylights. He landed on a concrete floor some 4.5 metres below.

HSE prosecuted the company for its failure to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was safe, so far as reasonably practicable.

The court heard neither driver had received training or information regarding the use of the MEWP, no edge protection was in place around the roof edges to prevent falls from height, no harness or netting was used (e.g. harnesses or netting) to minimise the distance or consequences of a fall, the fragile roof lights were not covered or edge protected to prevent falls from height.

The fall caused the man to spend a month in hospital sustaining significant injuries including a fracture to the base of his skull, multiple facial fractures, and whiplash. He also suffered damage to bones in both arms which needed pins and plates, as well as leg injuries.  He was, in fact, lucky to still be alive.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Megan Carr said:

“This easily preventable incident resulted in life changing injuries to this man.  I want this case to raise awareness within the industry and amongst companies in general, that proper planning and operation of work at height is imperative. This case highlights the very serious consequences that may arise from oversight.”

Posted by Roger Hart

Spa Pools; new legislation for commercial installations

You might be wondering why this post is here, if you are you’re probably not aware of the wide range of clients which we work with!

This post relates to the commercial rather than residential use of these spa’s but if you’re lucky enough to have one at home there are some good points below which are worth being aware of linked to HSE document HSG282 “Control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa-pool systems” published in January 2017.

The simple facts are that these warm agitated pools of water provide a good breeding ground for a number of harmful bacteria; folliculitis, e-coli, viral skin infections and of course legionella.  Add to this the risk of droplet inhalation through agitation and the risk increases significantly.

The key risk is that water in these pools is kept at a steady 30-40oC, an ideal temperature for these bacteria to breed in, but don’t forget the other key associated risks such as;

  • chemical exposure;
  • electrical risks;
  • slipping;
  • entrapment;
  • drowning and so on.

If you have any of this equipment in use or plan to install it take the time to read through this useful guidance, a copy can be down loaded here:  Control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa-pool systems HSG282 (HSE)

If you’re a user of such equipment ask your hotel or operator if water is changed between rental groups as required by this guidance and check that a robust in line disinfectant feeder has been installed as you cannot rely on direct chemical dosing through tablets.

[sform id=’3220′]

Posted by Roger Hart

Public Tip Off leads to Prosecution and £52,000 fine

HSE often attends sites which have been reported as dangerous by members of the public.  In fact, we hear of these visits quite regularly and they can be as a result of genuine concerns or perhaps as a result of noise, dust and other disturbances causes nuisance to neighbours.

The case below relates to a North London site at which safety management and edge protection were sadly lacking.  Malik Contractors and Engineers Ltd were fined a total of £52,000  plus £4,415 costs after pleading guilty under Reg 13(1) of The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.

In response to concerns from members of the public HSE carried out three separate inspections and each time found numerous breaches of health and safety legislation. These included electrical systems, unsafe work at height and no fire detection of fire fighting equipment despite workers sleeping on site.

HSE inspector David King commented:

“This case highlights the importance complying with enforcement action. Duty holders have the responsibility to provide their workers with appropriate training and equipment so they can work safely. In this case Malik Contractors failed to do so.

It is essential those responsible for construction work understand they are also responsible for the health and safety of those on and around the construction site, and ensure

suitable and sufficient arrangements are in place to plan.”

Guidance on protecting the public from construction risks

The project client should provide information about:

  • boundaries
  • adjacent land usage
  • access; and
  • measures to exclude unauthorized persons

This will influence the measures contractors take.

Key issues are:

  • Managing site access
  • Hazards causing risk to the public
  • Vulnerable groups

Check out the HSE guidance page for more information on public safety with construction sites and contact us on 01453 800100 if you need help and advice on protecting the public at your construction site.

Posted by Roger Hart

Site Managers negligence leads to death of person passing construction site

Many construction site managers may remember hearing a statistic being talked about on past training courses that one person a month dies just walking past a  construction site, it often forms part of the CITB Site Managers Safety Training Course

This statistic has been brought tragically to life by an accident which occurred in Hanover Square London on August 2012 when 3 large unglazed windows weighing 655kg fell  to the pavement killing Amanda Telfer.

Site Managers negligence leads to HSE Fine

The frames had been delivered the previous day in line with the schedule but could not be fitted that day due to other programme delays.  The frames were left on the pavement overnight leaning against the building.  No effort was made to secure the frames and no barrier was placed around them.

As Ms Telfer walked past it is believed that a gust of wind blew a door on the building open, hitting the frames and causing them to topple, crushing Ms Telfer.

Several members of the public worked to remove the frames from her but she was unconscious and not breathing she later died as a result of her injuries.

Mr Damian Lakin-Hall (one of the men prosecuted) told officers at the scene that the frames had been secured with a ratchet strap but evidence showed that this had never been the case.

The following were convicted for offences arising from the death of Ms Telfer:

  • Kelvin Adsett – of New Road, Slough, Berkshire was convicted at the Old Bailey on Thursday, 23 March, of manslaughter by gross negligence and offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Mr Adsett was the on-site construction site manager for IS Europe Ltd.
  • Damian Lakin-Hall – of Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey was convicted of offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was acquitted of manslaughter.
  • IS Europe Ltd – of Slough, Berkshire  was convicted of offences under Section 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Chalmers said:

“The individuals and company who were convicted in this tragic case had a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety and did not take their obligations seriously.

Each had a responsibility for the safety of the construction site but failed to deal with a basic task that very obviously then presented a serious hazard.

Amanda died four-and-a-half years ago and this has been an incredibly long and complex case to bring before the courts with many many hours of enquiries carried out by my team.

 

Her death was completely avoidable and it is satisfying for all involved in this case – and especially Amanda’s family – that the jury have convicted these people and companies today.

 

Prosecutions such as this are so important in enforcing adherence to health and safety laws. This tragic case proves just why employers and employees should take their obligations to safeguard workers and the public seriously.”

Barry and Ann Telfer, Amanda’s parents, said following the verdict:

“Amanda was a bright lovely professional woman living her life to the full and making plans for the future. Her future was taken from her when she was crushed to death by half ton window frames which took two seconds to fall on her. The frames had been left standing, almost vertically, at the side of a public pavement, unsecured to anything, unattended and with no safety barriers around them.

 

If construction companies and the people who work for them are not held to account for such high levels of negligence and incompetence then none of us is safe walking the streets next to construction sites. The Health and Safety training being given is totally inadequate, if risk of death to passers-by is ignored.

It is nearly five years since Amanda died. We would like to thank the police, health and safety officers and prosecution who worked on behalf of Amanda for their persistence and patience. We and all Amanda’s family and friends will always miss her. Nothing will change that.”

In an impact statement for the court they added:

“Every parent who has lost a child to a violent and sudden death knows the overwhelming shock and disbelief which is impossible to describe. We saw our daughter on the morning of the day she died. An hour before she was killed she was with us, telling us about her social plans with friends for that evening and for the weekend, looking forward to some interesting legal work that she was going to be starting that afternoon, planning a weekend in France to see her brother and his family. She was very cheerful, making plans and looking forward.

 

An hour later she was dead, killed whilst walking along the public pavement in central London. We’ll never see her again or hug her again. We’ll never hear her laugh again or enjoy her company again. Amanda was the best company, funny and interesting herself and always interested in and fully engaged with whoever she was talking to. She was very loving, generous and supportive to us and to all her family and friends. We spoke together regularly and she would contribute enthusiastically to every family event, birthdays, anniversaries, full of ideas and energy, however busy she was. We looked forward to her companionship and interest in us. Our lives were enriched by her and our old age will be diminished by her absence. She had so many plans for the future, ever improving her professional skills and for travelling. She was so full of life. It’s still almost impossible for us to believe that she really has gone or to come to terms with the random carelessness of how she was killed.

 

We don’t want retribution for our loss of Amanda, though we will never recover from it. We want accountability established, responsibility acknowledged. Her death was avoidable. She was killed by two half-ton window frames which had been left standing at the side of a busy public pavement unsecured, unbalanced and unattended with no safety barriers round them. The risk to passers-by is obvious. Yet the risk was ignored and our daughter, a bright, beautiful woman with so much to live for, so much she wanted to do with her life, was killed.”

Posted by Roger Hart

Routine HSE inspection leads directly to prosecution

We are all used to HSE visiting site and reviewing our arrangements on safety.  If these fall below expected standards we typically see Fee for Intervention costs (FFI) and the possibility of the serving of Improvement or even Prohibition notices.  What’s unusual is when a HSE Inspection results directly in prosecution.

HSE launches several campaigns each year across the different regions of the UK to check on site safety and hundreds of sites are visited.  We know that the April visits in our own region resulted in more than 50% of sites receiving FFI and/or enforcement action.

HSE Inspection leads directly to prosecution

One site visited in Wilmslow led directly to a court case, an unusual step for HSE.  Read on to find out why these steps were taken.

Despite no specific injury having occurred the site was so poorly organized that the inspector decided that a prosecution was the best course of action. Reference to the photographs above show the poor state of the site and it was felt that a death or serious injury was a real possibility.

Key failings were the missing and removed edge protection and general site debris – this was not removed from site but was tipped to the rear of the plot burying the footings of the scaffolding and making access hazardous.

A prohibition and Improvement Notice were served and the subsequent prosecution saw Skyline Building Services Ltd  fined £20,000 with £4095.60 costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Ian Betley said:

“Numerous failings were found on this site, including serious risks of falls from height and site tidiness that could have resulted in major injuries or even death.

Skyline Building Services Limited showed scant regard for the safety of the workers they were responsible for and it was fortunate that nobody was seriously injured or killed.”

[sform id=’3220′]

 

Posted by Roger Hart

Temporary works: Deaths of four workers illustrate need for careful planning

Temporary works are an area where greater focus on safety is required.  Some confusion can still exist over who takes responsibility for these areas and risks can sometimes be underestimated.

The case above involved the construction of a foundation for a large steel structure as part of the foundation for a pressure test facility at Claxton Engineering in Great Yarmouth.

An excavation 23 metres long, 3 metres wide and 2 metres deep was filled with a horizontal steel cage estimated to have weighed around 32 tonnes when it was completed.  The picture below show the structure before and after its collapse;

 

 

 

 

A large-scale emergency response was undertaken to rescue the trapped workers. However, Adam Taylor, 28, 41-year-old Peter Johnson and brothers Thomas Hazelton, 26 and Daniel Hazelton, 30, were all pronounced dead at the scene. All of the men were working for Hazegood Construction

If you’d like to find out more about safely managing temporary works then please following this link; https://www.twforum.org.uk/media/70138/tw15.116_rebar_stability_safety_bulletin.pdf  or visit the website for more information on safety with temporary works.

HSE Construction Division Head of Operations Annette Hall said:

“Those sentenced today failed the four workers who died. They didn’t carry out their legal duties, leading to the events which caused their deaths.

This was a long term, large scale and complex civil engineering project which needed to be planned, designed, managed and monitored effectively. The tragedy here is that, in the months leading up to the accident, any one of these parties could and should have asked basic questions about building the structure safely.

Such an intervention could have avoided the tragic outcome of this entirely preventable accident.”

[sform id=’3220′]

Posted by Roger Hart

CDM Client fined £160,000 after failure to appoint competent contractor

Both the building owner and the contractor they employed to demolish a structure have received heavy fines following safety failings which led to an uncontrolled collapse onto a high street in November 2013 and the CDM Client fined £160,000.

It is a requirement of CDM 2007 (now replaced by CDM 2015) that a construction CDM client must not engage a contractor unless reasonable steps have been to ensure that the contractor is competent.

CDM Client fined

Contractor Michael Elmes was engaged to undertake demolition work by Panther AL (VAT) Ltd but HSE found in its investigation that Marton Elmes had failed to properly plan the works.  The client did not make any enquiries as to the suitability or competence of Marton Elmes to undertake the demolition work. The lack of a road closure put the general public at risk of injury.

  • Martin Elmes – of Barnacres Road, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 25(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and has been sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years.
  • Panther AL (VAT) Limited – of Deneway House, Darkes Lane, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9128.89.

HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said after the hearing:

“Lives were put at risk when this structure uncontrollably collapsed. Clients have a responsibility to appoint competent contractors to undertake hazardous work such as demolition.

Those in control of demolition have a responsibility to plan demolition work and to devise a safe way of working that protects both the workers and members of the public.

The job could have been safely carried out by simply undertaking the demolition behind a substantial hoarding.”

 

Posted by Roger Hart

Use of Plant on Construction Sites – New HSE guidance on Overturning

There have been more instances of tele-handlers and dumpers overturning on construction sites with often tragic consequences. These days we have trained operators and good site traffic management on most sites we see but in spite of this we are still seeing too many overturns.

This gave use cause to think and discuss this in the office and we have the following thoughts for you to consider which will be helpful when seeking to manage these risks;

  1. Are roll bars always in the upright position – staff sometimes do not put them into place following delivery;
  2. Seat belts are still not being worn and warning systems are being defeated as operators are still under the impression that they could somehow ‘jump free’ of the vehicle if it should overturn  this just isn’t the case;
  3. Training often does not teach good practice for using this machinery (in particular dumpers) on slopes, this is essential and should make up a toolbox talk and really should be part of any operators training – check your training satisfies this area;
  4. Some zones may not be suitable for dumpers and telehandlers – mark exclusions zones for soft ground and steeper slopes;
  5. Tyre pressures are crucial – make sure staff check pressures daily as a small change in pressure (as little as 5 psi) can have an enormous effect on load capacity.  Tyres must be check when cold at the start of each day.

Find out more about the safety of telehandlers here by reading the latest research report from HSE.  General information about plant safety can be found on the HSE website here.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or our contact us page.

Posted by Roger Hart

Risk Assessments: A joint venture

As an employer you have the duty to assess the risks to Health, Safety and Welfare of all persons in your employment and also to those not actually in your employment but entering your premises – members of the public or visitors to your site.

You have diligently carried out your work place risk assessments, but is this enough?   Have you considered who has been involved in the process of creating the risk assessments and how have these been communicated?

Staff engagement

This is where involvement from your employees and contractors is not only important, it can be critical as a recent case involving a major manufacturer shows (see our blog for more details).

As the person responsible for risk assessment you should consider that fact that your employees may be the ones best placed to identify the key hazards and risks from machinery and equipment, after all, they are the ones operating these machines on a daily basis.

As part of this they know the capability of equipment, the process of handling any raw materials, as well the short cuts which operators might be tempted to take to get the job done faster.  Their involvement gives added value and an insight which would otherwise be missing.

Contractor safety

Contractors attending your premises should provide their own risk assessments before they carry out non-standard and higher risk tasks such as electrical or mechanical maintenance, work at height or confined space operations.  This is typically submitted for review as method statements and risk assessments RAMS.

Don’t forget that you must then also play your role, particularly when the work site is not a segregated area but within your normal operating areas.  You should be checking these documents before they arrive and also making sure that they comply with what they have written down when on site.  You may also need to issue permits to work to ensure that the task can be carried out safely.

Plan Do Check Act

Ensuring you get “buy in“ to your risk assessment process, shows that as far as reasonably practicable, you are working towards best practice.  Your aim, whether for work by your in house team or external contractors, is to monitor and review activities to ensure effective requirements and standards continue to be met

Through keeping health and safety high on the agenda, your staff, shareholders and customers will all see a business which is safe, controlled and thoroughly professional – a benefit for all.

Posted by Roger Hart