Bristol Construction firm receives £145,000 fine without an incident occurring

This recent case involving a Bristol construction firm highlights two common misconceptions;

  1. You have to have an accident to get prosecuted and fined by the HSE;
  2. Most inspections come through random HSE visits.

This case disproves both of these assumptions.  Firstly, the case was prosecuted based on the risk of the breach rather than based on any accident or incident which occurred.  Secondly, the visit was prompted by the concerns of a member of the public communicated to HSE through their website which can be accessed here; HSE: raise a concern

Bristol construction firm Ikon Construction fined

Ikon construction had received previous warnings relating to the correct planning and management of construction work but these had not been acted upon.  The fine related to risk without injury during the construction of nine timber framed town houses and resulted in a significant fine of £145,000 plus £2191.20 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Kate Leftly said:

“By failing to comply with the law, Ikon Construction endangered the lives of workers at the site, and neighbouring residents of the complex being developed.

Thankfully, a complaint was made by the public which we acted on very quickly and subsequently thoroughly investigated.”

If you need help, advice and support on any aspect of construction site safety or application of the CDM Regulations as a Designer, Contractor or Principal Contractor please contact us using the links above and below to see how we can help.

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Posted by Roger Hart

France launches ‘tick alert app’ in frantic bid to map Lyme disease explosion as blight ‘moves North’

Lyme disease and the danger from tick bites is something which we’ve been communicating for almost 10 years now.

Each month we come across another news story which reminds us that the message still needs a lot more promotion.  This month alone we’ve seen two important stories.

If you’re a fan of rugby you might well have seen the first one in which former England Captain Matt Dawson tells his story of what he though was simply a bite from a flea turning into a major health issue and ending in heart surgery, read more here

A second story relates to the launch in France of a ‘tick alert app’ in an attempt to map Lyme disease as it moves North through Europe
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/17/france-launches-tick-alert-app-frantic-bid-map-lyme-disease/

What we can say is make sure that you, your friends and all of your staff are aware of the risk, you can find more information on our earlier blog entry; https://www.outsource-safety.co.uk/safety-news/lyme-disease-and-the-risk-to-landscapers-and-construction-workers/

Background information on Lyme disease

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type which is spread by ticks. The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin, known as erythema migrans, that begins at the site of a tick bite about a week after it has occurred.

Posted by Roger Hart

Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) – are you really managing the risk?

Hand arm vibration syndromeAll of us have our pet subjects.  Some of us do tend to bury our heads in the sand for areas in which we’re not as competent and Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is all too common an example.  You may, if you are honest with yourself, have a hit list of subjects which you mean to ‘review’ at some stage.

Local IOSH groups or similar can be a really good place to start in tackling these issues.  Other professionals will have been there before and will have found out its really not as bad as you might think, see our video below for more information..

One area we think you should look at afresh is controlling your risk from vibration.  We’ve been involved in assessments for many years now so if you need some help and advice just let us know.  If you’re still looking for that ‘good reason’ to make a start read the case below and if you have health surveillance in place please check our other blog post on competency requirements for these assessments: Hand Arm Vibration: Competency for HAVS Health Surveillance

Company fined for failing to manage Hand arm vibration syndrome risks

Newfield Fabrications Company, a manufacturer of steel components based in Cheshire, was fined £120,000 for failing to ensure that the risks to employees were adequately controlled.

Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court heard that in late 2015 the welder, who had worked at the company for several years, was given a job that involved a large amount of grinding and polishing.

After a few hours on the job, he began to experience numbness and tingling, commonly an indicator of exposure to high levels of vibration.  He asked to swap with another worker but he was told by his supervisor to carry on with the work.

A few weeks later, a 20 year old apprentice welder also began to suffer from vibration-related symptoms after using similar equipment.

An HSE investigation found that Newfield Fabrications failed to control employees’ exposure to hand arm vibration. The firm also failed to give its employees sufficient information, instruction and training on the effects of working with vibrating hand tools.

Newfield Fabrications pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6(1) and 8(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations.

According to the company’s accounts, it had a turnover of £7.7m in 2016 and made a pre-tax profit of £118,826.00 and so the £120,000.00 fine plus the £7241.00 costs is a significant sum for its Directors to find.

HSE inspector Helen Jones said:

“This is a case of the company failing to protect workers using vibrating tools. Exposure to hand arm vibration is a well-known risk which the company failed to adequately control.

“The company also failed to ensure workers were looked after when symptoms did arise leading to further exposure. This was wholly inadequate, and led to two employees suffering significant health effects.”

Posted by Roger Hart

Construction deaths hit a record low

HSEIt’s great to be able to report some good news and I’m happy to be able to call it that.  We all qualify each improvement with an immediate caveat of ‘but many others still suffered death or injury which could have been avoided.  Lets not be afraid to say well done to everyone which helped drive these construction deaths down.

Its a very hard task to reach further improvements and yes, we do still have some way to go and we will get there.  For everyone which has put their time and trouble and resources behind driving down these risks – well done.

Construction deaths  statistics updated for 2017

Provisional data released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveals that 133 workers were fatally injured between April 2013 and March 2014, compared with 150 in 2012/13.

The overall rate of fatal injury has now dropped to 0.44 per 100,000 workers, compared to 0.51 in 2012/13.

Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair, commented;

“The release of the annual statistics always leads to mixed emotions. Sadness for the loss of 133 lives, and sympathy for their families, friends and workmates, but also a sense of encouragement that we continue to make progress in reducing the toll of suffering.

“Whilst these are only provisional figures, they confirm Britain’s performance in health and safety as world class. For the last eight years we have consistently recorded one of the lowest rates of fatal injuries to workers among the leading industrial nations in Europe.”

Minister of State for Health and Safety, Mike Penning, said

“Any death at work is a death too many. But these statistics show that workplaces are getting safer.

“The Health and Safety Executive do an excellent job in making sure each and every one of us can go out to do an honest day’s work in the knowledge that our safety is being taken seriously.”

The new figures also show the rate of fatal injuries in several key industrial sectors:

  • There were 42 fatal injuries to workers in construction, lower than the average figure of 46. The latest rate of fatal injury is 1.98 per 100, 000 workers, compared to a five-year average of 2.07.
  • There were 27 fatal injuries to workers in agriculture, lower than the average of 33 for the previous five years. The rate of fatal injury in 2013/14 is 8.77, compared to the five-year average rate of 9.89.
  • There were 4 fatal injuries to workers in waste and recycling, lower than the average count of 7 over the last five years. The latest rate of 3.33 deaths per 100, 000 compares to an average rate of 5.48

In the last five years, the number of fatal injuries has fallen overall from 179 in 2009, to 147, 175, 171 to 150 in 2013.

Based on the latest available data, from 2011, Britain continues to have the lowest rate of fatal injuries to workers among the five leading industrial nations in Europe – Germany, France, Spain and Italy for the eighth year. Across Great Britain:

  • 106 fatal injuries in England were recorded – a rate of 0.41 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 134 deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the 119 deaths (and rate of 0.47) recorded in 2012/13
  • 20 fatal injuries in Scotland were recorded – a rate of 0.78 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 21 deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the 23 deaths (and rate of 0.90) recorded in 2012/13
  • 7 fatal injuries in Wales were recorded – a rate of 0.52 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 10 deaths in the past five years and a decrease from the 8 deaths (and rate of 0.61) recorded in 2012/13

HSE has also today released the latest number of deaths from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. These show that 2,535 people died in 2012, which is an increased from 2,291 in 2011.

Judith Hackitt said

“The high numbers of deaths relating to mesothelioma are a reminder of historically poor standards of workplace health and safety, which decades later are causing thousands of painful, untimely deaths each year. While we now recognise and are better positioned to manage such health risks, these statistics are a stark reminder of the importance of keeping health standards in the workplace on a par with those we apply to safety.”

HSE is due to launch an asbestos campaign in Autumn 2014 that aims to help at-risk tradespeople, such as roofers and builders, work more safely with asbestos to protect themselves from harm.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Highly flammable liquids miss-management leads to spray booth fire

We have to be truthful and admit that we sometimes carry out tasks which in hindsight we could have done with far less risk.  It could be driving to work or what we do at home at the weekend away from the eyes of our colleagues and managers.  The spray booth fire cited below is a very good example of this

The case below highlights how susceptible we are to complacency.  We work with items everyday which carry with them great risks but we rarely suffer consequences for taking shortcuts. That in turn leads to greater and greater risk taking until an accident finally occurs.  Read the case below to find out what happened in this instance.

Spray booth fire

A paint manufacturing company in Manchester has been fined for health and safety failings after a worker suffered burns while trying to clean the floor of a spray booth.

Manchester Crown Court heard how an employee of HMG Paints Ltd was using a highly flammable solvent to clean the floor of a spray booth on site, a job he had done several times since the spray booth was installed.

After complaints about how difficult it was to remove the dried paint he was allowed to purchase an industrial floor scrubber to carry out the task. On 18 November 2014 electric motor on the floor scrubber ignited the cloud of flammable vapour that had built up in the spray booth.

The employee was seriously injured, receiving 26% burns, and was treated at the specialist burns unit at Wythenshawe Hospital.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the planning for cleaning floors using solvent failed to recognise the hazards and level of risk associated with the use of highly flammable solvents to clean floors. The employee who was injured had not been trained to clean floors and was not adequately supervised when carrying out the cleaning activity.

HMG Paints Limited, of Collyhurst Road, Manchester, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £39,669.40.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector David Myrtle said:

“This is a company that handles large quantities of flammable solvent, the hazards are well known and the company has a duty to control the risks arising from the hazards.

“It was custom and practice to clean floors using highly flammable solvents applied using a mop and bucket. In this instance the company failed to adequately control the risks and an employee was seriously injured.” [source HSE]

Posted by Roger Hart

Could Health and Safety Fines rise even higher? Probably….

We have seen health and safety fines rise by 10-15 x  over their former levels since the Sentencing Guidelines were introduced in 2016 (see our earlier article for more information).

In the past few months alone there have been a number of high value, high profile fines, including:

Health and Safety Fines rise for individualsHSE

A recent article by Dr Simon Joyston-Bechal of Turnstone Law discusses sentences applying to individuals who have put cost cutting before safety being increased to 8 or more years in prison.  More worryingly, where the two aspects for consideration under the existing sentencing guidelines are triggered you could also be moved into the very high category with a starting point of 12 years in jail (and a range of 10-18 years).

These are in consultation at present on the Sentencing Councils website and it seems from the examples used that the Council would wish to see higher fines introduced in the case of health and safety offences.  They are not law yet but it does look increasingly likely that these revisions will make it through to becoming law.

You can read the article in more detail on the SHP website here; Gross negligence manslaughter: ‘Sit up & take note’ as jail terms increase

Posted by Roger Hart

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.”

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Posted by Roger Hart

What’s the best advice for moving gas cylinders?

Moving gas cylinders in your workplace – the hazards

We see gas cylinders in use across the wide range of clients we visit.  Some will use cylinders to power their MHE (Materials Handling Equipment) and some will be using gases to complete welding and cutting operations as part of their production process.

We’ve written blogs in the past about cylinders and safety measures but not about their actual handling (see here for an accident linked to this post).

Moving gas cylinders To lift or not to lift; that is the question

The key issue with cylinders and their movement relates to handling and lifting.  Many workplaces are equipped with various handling equipment and it’s tempting to use one of a number of means to lift cylinders.  It’s also quite tempting to manually handle cylinders into position when the distances aren’t too great.

The risks of moving gas cylinders

We’ve seen in real life a number of situations where a high risk method has been used to move cylinders, check through the examples below and see if you recognise any of these from your past experience of perhaps even your own site;

  1. Manual handling by churning (rolling on the base);
    1. This is a valid method but what about tall and heavy cylinders and moving them through a cluttered and busy workplace? One drop can cause significant damage to the cylinder, or even the valve, creating a ballistic missile capable of passing through walls!  The is suitable for short movements of easily handled cylinders only (<5m).
  2. Lifting using fork lift truck attachments;
    1. This is fine if the cylinders are safely stored on a pallet or cradle but using attachments such as barrel clamps, scissor clamps or magnets – this can damage the cylinder walls with catastrophic consequences.
  3. Lifting using the valve shroud or valve itself;
    1. Lifting on the valve shroud can cause it to detach from the cylinder, it’s just not designed for a suspension lift.
    2. Lifting on the valve it certainly a very bad idea – again, it’s not designed for this and could lead to leaks, sudden failure and may of course slip from the lifting sling – this is the highest risk and must always be avoided.

What should you do?

In simple terms follow the guidance  issued by the BCGA, which you can download here; BCGA TIS 28

If you still have questions perhaps now is a good time to ask an experienced consultant from Outsource Safety to review your current procedures.  We can visit and carry out specific risk assessments or even a comprehensive Gap Analysis in line with the requirements of the internationally recognised Management Standard OHSAS18001, contact us for more information.

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.

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Posted by Roger Hart

Occupational Health Risks of Working in the Sun (UV) Rays

What are your legal obligations as an employer when staff are exposed to UV radiation?

The Health and Safety at Work Act makes it clear that there is a legal duty on every employer to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, the health of their employees.

It also says that employers must provide “information, instruction, training and supervision” to ensure their safety.

The management of Health and Work Regulations also require the employer to conduct a suitable risk assessment of the risks to the health of their workforce. This includes the risks from UV radiation.

Did you know?

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world
  • Rates of skin cancer are increasing faster than any other cancer in the UK
  • 90% of skin cancer deaths could be prevented
  • 2/3 of construction workers are outside for 7 hours per day
  • Outdoor workers have a higher than average risk of developing skin cancer
  • 100% of UVA rays pass through clouds so sun protection is essential, even on cloudy days

How can you reduce the risks associated with Ultraviolet (UV) Rays in your workforce?

  • Conduct a risk assessment and communicate that risk assessment and the control measures to the workforce;
  • Issue guidance on those control measures which will include using sunblock, re-hydrating and appropriate clothing;
  • Carry out a safety briefing/toolbox talk with all staff explaining the health risks associated with exposure to UV Rays;
  • Don’t forget the sign-off sheet to demonstrate understanding from the workforce and evidence that you have communicated health risks to the workforce

Don’t forget the drivers!

Most glass used for windows in vehicles block UVB but not UVA rays.

A person sitting in a vehicle can still receive significant exposure to solar UVR. There are many different types of glass: each provides very different levels of sun protection. Therefore drivers may also be at risk as glass do not block all UV radiation.

For information on how Outsource Safety can help you implement a more robust Health and Safety Management System encompassing the Occupational Hazards associated with your profession, please get in touch using our contact forms or by calling 01453 800100

Posted by Roger Hart