HSE more than trebles the number of Directors prosecuted for safety offences

Research by law firm Clyde & Co. has shown that the number of HSEcompany directors prosecuted by HSE in the year to 31 March 2016 more than trebled from 15 to 46 persons.  In the same period the number of employees prosecuted has fallen from 10 persons to just 1.

According to the research of these 46 prosecutions 34 were found guilty and 12 were given prison sentences, the longest of which was 2 years.

We can only reach one conclusion from the data above and it confirms what we have seen from assisting the thousands of clients across the UK in both construction and industry, and that is that HSE are pursuing clients with a zeal not seen in the past 20 years.

A second conclusion seems to be that prosecutions against employees are becoming less likely, and perhaps less attractive to the enforcer.  Prosecutions against corporate bodies and directors bring with them valuable income from FFI at a time when the regulator is facing budget cuts. Its seems unlikely that the situation will change in the near future and change which could see all businesses covered by HSE from next year to increase the number of fines and prosecutions still further (see our post on this here).

If you’d like to know more about Directors responsibilities please read the HSE guidance pages.  You may also want to look at the advice provided by the Institute of Directors and also IOSH.

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

 

Posted by Roger Hart

Dusts in construction (RCS), their risks and how to manage them

dust RCS crystalline silicaHealth in construction is a big issue and HSE are pushing hard to get the message out to clients of all sizes that health in construction is a very high risk.  The latest figures show that as many as 100 staff per week die from ill health causes through their job – and that’s just the construction sector!

With this in mind we are working with our clients to address these risks, educate their staff through training courses and toolbox talks and also running free sessions on the risks associated with construction dusts and how to manage them – the next of which is running in November 2016 at our offices in Stroud.  Check out this link for the talk which we gave to WWT (an HSE and Construction industry partnership organisation)

Dusts in construction (RCS), their risks and how to manage them

These talks won’t just give you an understanding of the risk present, they’ll give you clear and workable advice on how to manage them through changes in working practices and tool selection, we’ll also have expert advice from Dust Control UK on what equipment you can use to clean up dusts without exposing your staff and your clients to cancer causing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).

We’ll update you on the free course and also put a booking link here as soon as its live on our Eventbrite page, in the meantime feel free to look at these Workers Stories from HSE to give you some useful resources to raise the issue of construction dusts with your staff and click here to see HSE’s latest Health in Construction – The Facts poster HSE;

 

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE enforcement under review, could HSE cover offices, shops and small business?

HSEIn a move which we suspected might come to pass some years ago it has been announced that health and safety enforcement may change for smaller businesses.

During July 2016 the HSE ran a consultation on health and safety enforcement allocation.  Chiefly, it looked at the role of the local authorities.  A range of options were considered, ranging from completely absorbing the LAs’ regulatory powers for health and safety, to allocating them greater duties.

This is something which we discussed on our Breakfast Club sessions for clients and on this blog some years ago.  We believe that this is likely to come to pass and the reason will be to bring the lucrative Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme into play for smaller businesses.

Passing the enforcement role to HSE from overworked EHO’s achieves three goals of the government as we see it;

  1. It eases the burden on councils at a time when their budgets are under stress from central government funding;
  2. It enables the introduction of Fee for Intervention (fee based enforcement) for the remainder of UK workplaces enabling it to reach smaller businesses and drive in additional revenue;
  3. The current situation for sectors such as the motor trade / motor vehicle repair are split untidily between HSE and the LA’s, this change would enable a simpler co-ordinated approach to this type of business which currently falls between HSE and FFI fines and the LA EHO’s and no FFI.

Likely timescales

So, when is this likely to happen?  Well, nothing in government moves quickly and so we won’t see any update on the consultation until 2017 with any changes happening in late 2017.  However, we do think a change is on the way and HSE are recruiting, watch this space…

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart

Occupational Health: Styrene Vapour Prosecution, Templetown Canopies Ltd

We’ve carried out many monitoring programmes which have involved exposure to styrene vapour over the past 20 or so years.  The substance is in common use and because of this businesses and their staff can sometimes become too familiar with the substance and fail to take adequate precautions.

We also have heard staff assuring us that they don’t need to use protective equipment as they have developed a tolerance or even an immunity to styrene’s effects – wouldn’t it be good if that could ever be the case…

In the case below styrene exposure simply wasn’t guarded against and although HSE Inspectors know that small businesses have pressures on them they quite rightly won’t allow this as an excuse to endanger the health of their employees.

If you need occupation health advice, air monitoring for styrene or any other safety support please speak to your retained advisor or contact us on 01453 800100 to get some sound advice.

Solar panel installer falls through fragile asbestos roof, company fined more than £20,000

Templetown Canopies Limited from Tyneside has been prosecuted over the lack of controls regarding the use of the hazardous substance styrene during the production of fibre glass door and window canopies.

Styrene exposure causes irritation to the nose, throat and lungs and neurological effect including difficulty in concentrating, drowsiness, headaches and nausea.

HSE inspected the company premises in May 2013 issued an Improvement Notice. However, the company did not take action to comply with the Notice until they moved premises in March 2015 failing to adequately control exposure of their employees to styrene.

An extraction system should also have been in place to remove the heavier than air vapours and RPE provided with the correct filters (FFP3) to protect operators.

Employees exposed to styrene vapour for almost 2 years

Templetown Canopies Limited, of Shaftsbury Avenue, South Shields, Tyne and Wear, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and was fined £8,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,500.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Fiona McGarry said:

“Workers’ health was put at risk from exposure to styrene for a period of 22 months, even after the company had been made aware of the actions it needed to take.

Whilst HSE is sympathetic to the pressures faced by small businesses, this is simply not acceptable. Employers need to take action to ensure they are providing adequate control to protect the health of their employees.”

Posted by Roger Hart

Socket protectors – are they a danger?

socket protectorsMany clients who have members of the public visiting their premises have acted in good faith to put in place socket protectors (think schools, medical practices, car showrooms and similar).

You’re probably thinking that its a good idea and we would have been inclined to agree but research findings over recent years have led to their withdrawal, culminating in a Dept of Health Alert issued today which advises their removal in all NHS premises.

Why should I remove my socket protectors?

Children will be children and many games are based inserting blocks, sticks and cylinders into various sized holes. We’re all aware of the risk of a child picking up a pen, screwdriver, hair clip or similar and then inserting it into a socket – that’s probably why you purchased socket inserts in the first place.

However, were you aware that sockets produced since 1947 should have an internal shutter mechanism which prevents access to the live and neutral pins until the earth pin (top centre) activates the shutter to expose them.  IET members have argued that there have been no cases of children being harmed from sockets that have been left uncovered since a new generation of sockets were introduced in 1990.

Now consider this scenario, a child picks up a socket insert and places it in the socket upside down – both live and neutral are now exposed.  Also consider the fact that there is no British Standard for these inserts and their manufacturing tolerance is not always suitable – this leads to broken / damaged sockets and an even higher risk.

What should I do?

We have to agree with the findings of the safety alert, these inserts can cause more harm than good, our advice is that if you have them you remove them today.

Notes; don’t forget to still manage your risk but checking on the location and condition of your sockets and removing any appliance plugged into sockets which isn’t in use.

IET Wiring Matters 2012 number 44
http://electrical.theiet.org/wiring-matters/44/wall-socket-protectors.cfm?type=pdf
Fatally flawed:
www.fatallyflawed.org.uk

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Posted by Roger Hart

Supervision: How much is enough?

fork lift truckOne of the key things people learn on their first safety courses are key phrases used in health and safety.  We, like all professions, are awash with different phrases and acronyms and one of those is ITIS (as in healthandsafetyitis – a condition which can affect us all as some point on another).

However, the phrases behind this is important; Information, Training, Instruction, Supervision.  We are told in the classroom that no matter what, we never loose that responsibility to keep pushing the safety and health messages out to our staff.  But, the law often sees things in a different and generally quite stark light where things are either OK or not, adequate or simply inadequate.

The case below can therefore be helpful to shed a little more of this light on what a judge might think is appropriate, our only caveat is that this is one case and represents a specific set of circumstances.

A case has recently been heard by the Court of Appeal involving Dean Quantrell and TWA Logistics Ltd.  Quantrell was operating a gas powered lift truck to unload vehicles but somehow managed to end up underneath the truck and sustained leg injuries, exactly how this happened is unclear.

Quantrell asserted that he was travelling at low speed when his left foot slipped from the pedal causing him to overbalance and fall.  However, the judge at the first hearing in Liverpool was seemingly unconvinced by Quantrells version of events and noted that he had been inconsistent in his story during questioning. In addition, a reconstruction showed the events described to be all but impossible when moving at slow speeds.

The judge concluded that it was more likely that the accident occurred due to a sharp turn at high speed which caused it to tip and the case was dismissed.

The case was taken to the Court of Appeal where Quantrell argued that the accident had happened at low speed and confirmed story he had recounted was broadly correct. He alleged that there were several areas in which TWA Logistics had failed including inadequate training as it had not included specific instruction in driving gas-powered FLTs or familiarisation training at the workplace as required by the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) for lift trucks. He also felt that insufficient weight had been placed on the lack of enforcement over wearing a seat belt.

The court of appeal disagreed with both arguments and then dismissed Quantrells claim. It found that although the training was not fully compliant with HSE ACoP it had covered the “basic” element just not the required “specific” and “familiarisation” parts. HThe Court felt that there was no link between the accident and any inadequacy of training. The question of seat belt usage was also found to have been given sufficient consideration by the business and although enforcement was not rigorous, it had been reasonable.  Evidence being the business supplying buzzers to alert drivers when the seat belt was not used and notices being displayed to remind drivers to use seat belts.

So an interesting conclusion and one which will serve to give some assurance to safety managers and directors alike.  Our advice?  Make sure you keep records of any reminders, toolbox talks or disciplinary action take relating to safety, it great evidence when you need it.

Posted by Roger Hart

CDM Regulations 2015; Principal Designers Training Awareness Day

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations are still raising a huge amount of questions, especially amongst those with new safety duties – designers / architects / structural engineers. We would strongly encourage you to take the time to get some solid guidance which comes (in part) right from the HSE themselves through our Principal Designers Training Day.

We’ve run several of these events and they are always sold out so please book your place soon.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/designers-awareness-day-plymouth-tickets-25669464058

CDM Regulations 2015; Principal Designers Training Awareness Day

Designer Awareness Day CDM 2015:

  • – prevention through design
  • – risk appreciation
  • – supporting small contractors

The South West Working Well Together (WWT) group and the Health and Safety Executive are inviting you to a Designer Awareness Day.

This is a seminar which will include presentations by the Health and Safety Executive and other experienced Construction industry safety Professionals.

WWT is a construction industry led partnership aiming to improve the standards of health and safety. The goal is to achieve a meaningful and sustained reduction in injury and ill-health in the construction industry.

Many people with design responsibilities are not clear how to address, mitigate or eliminate risk at the design stage and are therefore unable to meet the standards expected of them. Designers have a crucial role in improving the performance of the industry.

This event is supported by the professional institutions and HSE. You will gain valuable information about the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) which spells out your duty of care – certificates will be provided.

I look forward to meeting you at this seminar.

Pete Creese, Chair Working Well Together South West

Event Programme:

09:00- 09:15 REGISTRATION TEA/COFFEE AND BREAKFAST ROLL

09:15 – 09:30 Welcome and introduction Pete Creese, Chair WWT South West

09:30 – 12:30

  • CDM 2015 overview and your role PD
  • Designing in Fire Safety
  • Pre-Construction Information
  • Preparation health and safety File
  • Red, Amber, Green (RAG) lists and their purpose

During the event industry champions will be on hand to answer questions.  Refreshments provided.

PARKING

There is plenty of free parking at Plymouth Training Centre. Please park in the car park provided to the left as you enter for the Training Centre.

Do you have questions about Designers Awareness Day – Plymouth? Contact Working Well Together Southwest
Posted by Roger Hart

Mock trial event, Exeter Guild Hall 29 June 2016, R v Scott Painters Limited

Have you ever wondered what actually goes on behind those locked doors at a trial for health and safety offences?

HSENow is your chance to see who gets blamed for what and why and how they get sentenced – a real eye opener for all of us and something worth seeing or perhaps encouraging your Managing Director to attend.

This is an event which is run by Working Well Together Southwest, a partnership between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and a group of construction and safety professionals, including ourselves.

Even better, our MD, Roger Hart, is the person in the dock!  So if you’d like to see him sweating under the glare of the lights and the scrutiny of Pinsent Masons please read more and book your place using the link below.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hs-mock-trial-tickets-25168984109

 R v Scott Painters Limited

The health and safety team at Pinsent Masons will present a half day mock trial based on a fictional construction based scenario.

This event will follow the legal process of a criminal trial through to the passing of a verdict and will help provide delegates with an idea of what it feels like to “have your day in court”. This is a hugely informative and a must-see event, providing a valuable and sometimes chilling insight into the legal responsibilities of all decision-makers who arrange and carry out construction work, especially Clients and their Contractors.The event is essential viewing for:

  • Client decision-makers at all levels
  • Construction Contract managers
  • Construction Site managers

The charge for the event is
£35 WWT Members
£45 Non WWT Members
BOOK NOW as places are limited.

Event Programme

9.00 – 9.30 Welcome and introduction to the court
9.30 – 12.00 The Trial
12.00 – 12.15 The Verdict
12.15 – 12.30 Discussion on the verdict and questions
12.30 – 13.30 LUNCH

Due to the restricted size of the Guild Hall, places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Exeter Guild Hall
High Street
EX4 3EB Exeter
United Kingdom

Wednesday, 29 June 2016 from 08:30 to 13:30 (BST)

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart

Lyme disease and the risk to landscapers and construction workers

In May 2013 a petition was handed to the Department of Health demanding better diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.  You may be aware of its existence but many are not but it can present an occupational risk which affects a range of professions and trades with up to 3,000 new cases being reported each year in the UK.  Lyme disease has no vaccination and can be very damaging if left untreated severe fatigue, heart problems, nerve damage and headaches.

  1. Architects
  2. Landscapers
  3. Landscape architects
  4. Environmental professionals
  5. Highways specialists
  6. Structural engineers
  7. Ground workers
  8. Arboriculture workers
  9. Forestry workers
  10. Farm workers
  11. plus foragers, hikers, mountain bikers and so on

Lyme disease is spread to humans via ticks with heathland, rough grassland and woodland being the primary sources but you can still catch ticks whilst being in a garden – I removed one from my 4 year old boy just last week!

As we said, a vaccine doesn’t exist but you can reduce your chances of being bitten;

  1. wear long sleeved trousers and shirts – even in warm weather;
  2. If clothes are light in colour ticks can be more easily spotted and removed before they bite;
  3. Give workers information so they can identify ticks, before they’ve fed they can be no bigger than poppy seeds, they don’t fly but they do crawl quickly after jumping onto you from a nearby branch or plant;
  4. Get workers to check themselves after working in known tick zones (even in the harder to reach areas!);
  5. If you are working in a known tick zone then clothes can be treated with permethrin based repellents which can kill ticks on contact.  But, check first with staff and give them a choice allowing them to refer to their GP or pharmacist if required.

Tick removal

To minimize tick exposure, wear rubber boots and tuck pant legs into the boots so ticks have a hard time grabbing on, advise Mississippi State University experts. (Photo courtesy of Jerome Goddard. Used with permission.)

Perhaps the most important element of protecting your self is removing a tick correctly, we’ve summarised this below but you can also see this link for more information and to purchase a specialist tool if your staff are working in high risk areas; http://www.bada-uk.org/defence/removal/indextickremoval.php

  1. Grasp the tick as close to the  skin as possible and pull upwards with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may leave the mouth parts embedded or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
  2. Remove any embedded mouth parts with tweezers or a sterilised needle.
  3. Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids (saliva and gut contents) may contain infective organisms.
  4. Do not handle the tick with bare hands, because infective agents may enter through breaks in the skin, or through mucous membranes (if you touch eyes, nostrils or mouth).
  5. After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
  6. Save the tick for identification in case you become ill within several weeks. Write the date of the bite in pencil on a piece of paper and put it with the tick in a sealed plastic bag and store it in a freezer.
    1. DO NOT use petroleum jelly, any liquid solutions, or freeze / burn the tick, as this will stimulate it to regurgitate its stomach contents, increasing the chance of infection.tick-bite-lyme-disease-risk-assessment

Ensure that your staff are aware of the potential risk and know what to do.  Not all ticks will carry the disease but these simple precautions (and a pair of special tweezers) will protect your staff from harm.

Posted by Roger Hart