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

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.”

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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

Health and Safety Vs the Hipsters – having a beard to be outlawed on site?

We’ve been carrying out face fit tests and advising our clients on the selection and use of RPE (face masks and similar) for many years now and often come across staff sporting a beard.

Our position as occupational hygiene specialists means that we have been more exposed to this issue more than many of our peers and it has always been a difficult one to address.

The issue surrounding beards lies in both their current popularity and the incompatibility of having a beard with good practice when it comes to protecting workers from dusts.  A simple mantra we keep returning to in our toolbox talks and support work for clients across the UK is that you won’t see a fire fighter with a beard.

We’ve been reading about the case of  Mears and the response from Unite (the Union) recently and whilst we do have sympathy with each party, overall we have to side with Mears rather than Unite on the beard and face fit issue.  The simple truth is that beards and RPE don’t mix well, and whilst you can use air fed helmets they’re not always the right choice.

See below for comments from both Mears and from Unite.  If you have your own questions please contact us to discuss what you can do.

Unite National Health and Safety Adviser Susan Murray said:

“An employer should first assess the risks presented by exposure to hazardous substances, then identify the steps needed to adequately control the risks; put them into operation and ensure they remain effective.

The use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) may be one of the control measures, but the wearing of face masks should be a last resort and priority should always be given to eliminating the risk.

Before any policy is introduced there should be full and proper consultation. It is crucial that the policy recognises the diversity of the workforce and the principle that workers should be consulted and given a choice of several correctly specified types of RPE so they can choose the one they like.”

 

Seal not possible with beard or heavy stubble

Mark Elkington, Group Health and Safety Director of Mears Group responded as follow:

“We are pretty surprised that Unite, who claim to have the safety of workers at heart have taken this disappointing stance.

Every employer in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that employees working in dusty or otherwise potentially hazardous environments are properly protected and in recent years employers have been prosecuted for failing to fulfil this duty.

The simple fact is that no dust mask can work effectively unless it forms a seal against the skin. That is not possible with a beard or even heavy stubble. If the Health and Safety Executive did a spot site visit and found workers wearing dust masks that were not sealed against the face then we would be liable to prosecution.

The alternative to a dust mask is a full hood over the head, which brings its own risks. For example many of our operatives do not like wearing a full hood and it can affect hearing and line of sight. It can also be uncomfortable to wear and can raise concerns with our clients who do not like to see workers in such hoods because of how it looks to customers.

It is vital to note, however, that if a risk assessment shows that the hood is a better option for a job or a worker insisted on having one, then we will supply that hood so Unite’s reference to cost saving is absolute nonsense.

If one of our workers suffers respiratory illness as a result of a poor fitting mask then that is our responsibility and we place the safety of our workers at the top of the priority list. Finally it is worthy of note that this affects a very small percentage of our workers who would be in that environment.”

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Posted by Roger Hart

Occupational Road Risk – Awareness for your business

Occupational Road Risk – The Journey

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.

The driver

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.

The Vehicle

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.

Summary – Think Driver; Think vehicle; Think Road

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

Estate agent fined £200,000 after house viewing fall

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.

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

Clients receives huge fine after self employed contractor falls from MEWP

falls from heightYou 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.

Posted by Roger Hart