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.”
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
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.”
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.”
With roadways becoming more congested, concern about the impact of diesel on the environment, roadworks that seem to go on and on, with risk based arrangements in place to calm traffic through road developments, the challenge for planning travel by road for companies, so they remain cost effective, whilst meeting their customer needs has never been so challenging and Occupational Road Risk should be high on your agenda.
In 2015, annual road deaths were reported at 1720 with serious injuries at 22,137 (UK Department of Transport figures).
We all have to consider ourselves being fit to drive at all times; our vehicles, road and weather conditions and the actions or reactions of other drivers. These factors are all subject to change and therefore we need to be dynamic in our risk assessment approach.
As drivers, our approach to our own use of the roads and other road users, can be influenced by our own past experiences.
Key controls that can reduce incidents and accidents include effective journey planning, to include; knowledge of road systems and types of road, assisted by information on the radio and Motorist Organisations which provide up to date information.
Apart from mandatory Insurance and MOT’s for vehicles over 3 years old, once on the road, your responsibility is check for defects and carry out vehicle checks to ensure your vehicle remains fit for the road. Checks include tyres, windscreens, fuel and oil levels, lights as well as screen wash (dealing with seasonal issues from summer dust to salt on the roads in winter months)
Where you are having to carry loads for work, ensure also that loads are secure to prevent losses of load or movement of load that may cause your vehicle to tip or swerve.
The blue light behind you
The fine for using a hand held mobile phone, for calls and texts whilst driving ( including being in stationery traffic) has recently increased. You can get 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you use a hand-held phone. You can also be taken to court where you can be banned from driving or riding or get a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a van or lorry). If you passed your driving test in the last 2 years, you’ll lose your licence.
Other offences to include driving dangerously or without due care and attention cannot be forgotten.
When you are driving; think safe distance; Can you see TYRES AND TARMAC. If not, you’re too close.
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;
Are roll bars always in the upright position – staff sometimes do not put them into place following delivery;
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;
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;
Some zones may not be suitable for dumpers and telehandlers – mark exclusions zones for soft ground and steeper slopes;
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.
You may recall a national story regarding a viewing which went horribly wrong when a lady fell into a well within the properties garden. The local estate agent, Strakers (Holdings) Ltd was showing the house to Mr and Mrs Driver and they were told to look around the grounds on arrival.
In the garden Mrs Driver stepped on a wooden board unaware that it was covering a deep well within the property, the board then gave way. The board gave way and she plunged 30 feet into water below, initially being submerged in water before neighbours found a hosepipe which she managed to secure around her waist.
It was an hour before the emergency services managed to effect a rescue and she was let with head injuries, concussion and post traumatic stress disorder.
It was found in court that viewers were not warned of the presence of the well and a previous buyer had lifted the board and discovered the presence of the well. An employee of the defendant had then visited the property and noted the wooden board but had assumed that a metal grill would had been beneath it but, crucially, had not checked this to be the case, in spite of the condition of the board which looked unsupportive.
Estate agent prosecuted
Strakers (Holdings) Limited pleaded guilty to breaching s.3 (1)Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 plus costs of £2,474. The size of the fine reflected the fact that the accident could have been fatal and that a number of staff and visitors had been put at risk.
Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.
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?
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.
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.
You are most probably aware of the duties you have as a client to select contractors which are competent and adequately resourced for safety Particularly when working at height using equipment such as a MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform). Sometimes you will also need to convince others within your supply chain or business of the need to complete a thorough assessment and the case below may offer assistance.
In this case a major company had employed a self employed contractor to carry out work installing updated fire detection equipment at its Yate factory site. Due to a failure to plan and supervise the work correctly an overhead conveyor was started which ultimately led to a fall of over 5 metres for from the Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) which the contractor was using.
Huge fine after MEWP overturns
Maintenance workers employed by Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd were unaware that starting the conveyor system would results in this tragedy as they had not been told that this work was taking place. An HSE investigation found that there were no effective controls or supervision in place to prevent these conflicting work tasks from being undertaken at the same time.
The company pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,466.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matt Tyler said:
“This is a tragic case where the incident could have been prevented if the company had planned and controlled the work properly.”
Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use our contact us page.
HSE now has a policy of ‘looking beyond the garden gate’ in construction accidents. in this particular case the directors of a roofing business, and also the director of the business which contracted this work out to them, have seen custodial sentences (see our earlier blog for another example of this type of prosecution: Directors Prosecuted).
HSE has made plain its intention to look further up the supply chain and drive home the message that contractors are responsible for decisions they make when subcontracting work. The duty to ensure that the subcontractor is competent and adequately resourced for safety is becoming a recurring theme and is one which deserves further consideration for any construction based business.
The cases which will begin to filter through which occurred after the CDM 2015 changes will likely see this intensify with HSE able to look even further up the supply chain to target clients and designers more effectively in the coming years.
Read the story below to find out more details as report in Safety & Health Practitioner (link) and if you need support please contact us
Three company bosses have been jailed following the death of 25-year-old father of one, Benjamin Edge, who fell from a roof he was working on, without safety equipment and in windy conditions.
Following the incident safety failings were covered up, a new risk assessment was written and an employee was “sent home to collect harnesses to make it look like the accident was Mr Edge’s fault, because he had not worn safety equipment” it was reported.
Credit: Greater Manchester Police
The fatal incident: Director Prosecuted
On 10 December 2014, Mr Edge, fell from the roof of a metal structure he was helping to dismantle in Ramsbottom, Bury.
He died hours later at Salford Royal Hospital, after suffering catastrophic head injuries.
At the time of the fall, Mr Edge was working for SR and RJ Brown and was working on a site run by Marshalls Mono.
A joint investigation by the Greater Manchester Police alongside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) looked into the circumstances surrounding Mr Edge’s death.
It was heard in court how MA Excavations Ltd, contracted out the work to brothers Christopher and Robert ‘James’ Brown, directors at SR and RJ Brown Limited.
Mark Aspin, director at MA Excavations Ltd said he believed the Browns were ‘competent’ and could complete the job safely, but the court heard he did not check their qualifications.
Manchester Evening News reported that Robert ‘James’ Brown composed a ‘grossly inadequate’ risk assessment before the job which he did not show to anyone.
After Mr Edge was rushed to hospital he then typed up another risk assessment, which should have been done beforehand.
Peter Heap, 34, who had been working alongside Mr Edge was asked by Christopher Brown, 25, to go home and collect harnesses to make it look like the accident was Mr Edge’s fault, because he had not worn safety equipment.
“Foolishly, weakly and criminally – as he now realises – Peter Heap went along with what he was told to do,” Mr Justice Openshaw said.
The Browns maintained that the harnesses had been there before the incident, although they did admit falsifying the risk assessment.
During sentencing, addressing Christopher Brown and Robert ‘James’ Brown Ben’s mother said that when she saw her son’s coffin at the funeral she wanted to drag those responsible to the coffin so they could see what they had done.
She said: “Ben’s death was totally avoidable. He had everything to live for, but his future was stolen from him.”
Mrs Edge added: “Benjamin Edge, known affectionately as Ben, was my son and his father, Tim’s, son. We are so proud of Ben, not just what he achieved, but who he was.”
SR and RJ Brown Limited, of which brothers Christopher and Robert Brown are directors, was fined £300,000 at Manchester Crown Court after admitting corporate manslaughter.
Christopher Brown and Robert Brown pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and two counts of health and safety breaches. They were jailed for 20 months. A count of manslaughter for the brothers is to lie on file.
Mark Aspin, 37, was sentenced to a year in jail after admitting health and safety offences.
MA Excavations Ltd, of Garden Street, Ramsbottom, which contracted out the work – was fined £75,000 after pleading guilty to two health and safety breaches.
Employee Peter Heap, 34, was spared jail after he followed orders to bring safety harnesses to the site after his colleague had fallen to try to conceal what had happened. His four-month sentence for perverting the course of justice, which he had admitted, was suspended for two years.
Ben’s family have issued a tribute to their son, who leaves behind a three year-old daughter, a loving mother and father, twin brother, and partner.
“Ben was taken from us in tragic circumstances aged only 25, and our family and all of his friends are totally grief stricken by his loss.
“We miss him so very, very much.
“He was a loving, caring son, twin brother and family man. Ben was a much loved partner and father and will always remain a huge part of everyone’s lives”.
Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.
Did you know that Outsource Safety can work with you to implement an effective and productive safety briefing programme through the use of toolbox talks that also serves to demonstrate the communication of key health & safety issues to employees within your company?
Although there is a time and a place for in-depth safety training, short safety briefings, otherwise known as toolbox talks are fast becoming an integral part of an employee’s training programme. It can be used flexibly on an ad-hoc or planned basis with employees across the construction, industrial and other sectors, as a means of communicating key Health & Safety messages.
At Outsource Safety, our toolbox talks have been developed to achieve maximum impact on the audience. We recommend a structured toolbox talk plan to ensure that the relevant key health & safety issues are addressed, communicated and documented.
The benefits of an effective Toolbox Talk programme
The benefits of a toolbox talk tailored programme as opposed to longer training sessions are as follows:
Short Safety meetings boost employee awareness of safety and its importance in the workplace;
Toolbox Talks presented by experts from an external company reinforces the importance of this type of training;
These sessions can be tailored to fit in with the working day without taking people out of the workplace for whole days or several days at a time;
Toolbox sessions are intended to focus attention on important safety issues, frequently reminding employees why procedures and other safeguards are in place and why it is important to follow them;
Less chance of information overload, boredom and dilution of important safety messages that commonly occur with longer sessions;
Can be used to communicate new issues but also as refresher sessions for older ones.
Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back above