A north west contractor has been sentenced after disturbing asbestos during demolition works and damaging underground cables that resulted in severe disruption to services.

Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard how Peter Walling’s company had been contracted to demolish a former medical centre in Blackburn and clear the land ready for development. Between 15 November and 6 December 2018, four separate incidents occurred on site when an excavator operated by Mr Walling, caused damage to underground cables and a sub-station which caused loss of electricity supplies to the local area and repair costs to the electricity supplier of £49,000. In addition to this, Mr Walling removed asbestos containing materials prior to an asbestos survey taking place, potentially exposing workers to asbestos.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Mr Walling did not ensure all services had been disconnected prior to starting work. He had ignored warnings from Electricity North West to stop work when low voltage cables were first dug up by the excavator, causing damage to the live substation, and only stopped working in a dangerous area when the police attended the scene. Mr Walling did not implement a safe system of work when operating near to underground cables and failed to ensure that workers on site were not exposed to asbestos.

Peter Andrew Walling of Arley Rise, Mellor, Blackburn pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to 200 hours unpaid work and received a ten-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and was ordered to pay costs of £7,000.

HSE inspector Christine McGlynn said after the hearing: “These incidents could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices. Mr Walling recklessly failed to heed warnings and advice and put not only himself but also others on site at risk of electrocution and risk of exposure to asbestos containing materials.

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

An article in the Guardian indicates that the 6500 figure is likely to be an underestimate, as preparations for 2022 world cup tournament continue.

More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the Guardian can reveal.

The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from these five south Asian nations have died each week since the night in December 2010 when the streets of Doha were filled with ecstatic crowds celebrating Qatar’s victory.

Data from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka revealed there were 5,927 deaths of migrant workers in the period 2011–2020. Separately, data from Pakistan’s embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers, between 2010 and 2020.

The total death toll is significantly higher, as these figures do not include deaths from a number of countries which send large numbers of workers to Qatar, including the Philippines and Kenya. Deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020 are also not included.

In the past 10 years, Qatar has embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the football tournament in 2022. In addition to seven new stadiums, dozens of major projects have been completed or are under way, including a new airport, roads, public transport systems, hotels and a new city, which will host the World Cup final.

While death records are not categorised by occupation or place of work, it is likely many workers who have died were employed on these World Cup infrastructure projects, says Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specialising in labour rights in the Gulf. “A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,” he said.

As reported in the Guardian.

Property partnership Alex Brewster and Sons has been fined £4,000 after an employee fell through a roof light.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how on 19 April 2016, two employees were removing roofing panels from a derelict shed in Midlothian. One of the workers stepped on to a roof light, which gave way causing him to fall to the floor below. He sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall including fractures to his pelvis, ribs, and elbow, which required surgery.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Alex Brewster and Sons, who own and let domestic properties, failed to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was, as far as reasonably practicable, safe. There were insufficient measures in place to prevent the risk of a fall from height.

Alex Brewster and Sons, of Bonnington Store, Wilkieston, Kirknewton pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 4 and Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They were fined £4,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Gillian Anderson said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the severe injuries sustained by this employee could have been prevented.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced the appointment of a Chief Inspector of Buildings to establish and lead the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR).

Peter Baker, HSE’s current Director of Building Safety and Construction, will take up the post with immediate effect.

The government asked HSE to establish a new building safety regulator in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster and following recommendations in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report by Dame Judith Hackitt.

In his role as the Chief Inspector of Buildings, Peter Baker will head up the Building Safety Regulator to deliver the new regime for high risk buildings, oversee work to increase competence of all professionals working on buildings and ensure effective oversight of the entire building safety environment.  Peter will also be the first head of the building control profession, and lead the work to provide independent, expert advice to industry, government, landlords and residents on building safety.

Peter said: “I am honoured to be appointed as the first Chief Inspector of Buildings and for the opportunity to play a lead role in bringing about the biggest change in building safety for a generation. I look forward to working with government, industry, partner regulators and residents to shape and deliver a world-class risk-based regulatory system for the safety and standards of buildings that residents can have confidence in and that we can all be proud of.”

Peter has over 30 years’ experience with HSE as an Inspector and in a number of senior operational posts dealing with a wide range of industry sectors, including the role of HSE’s Chief Inspector of Construction. Since 2017 Peter has led HSE’s involvement in the Government’s Building Safety Programme.

Sarah Newton, HSE’s Chair said: “I would like to congratulate Peter on his appointment as the new Chief Inspector of Buildings. Peter has a long track record of working in partnership with industry and other regulators to bring about behavioural and culture change that improves people’s safety.  His deep understanding of assessing and managing hazards and risk makes him ideally suited to shape and lead the implementation of the new building safety regime” 

Dame Judith Hackitt, Independent adviser to Government on Building Safety and Chair of the Transition Board said: “I am delighted to hear of Peter Baker’s appointment as the new Chief inspector of Buildings. With his impressive background experience in regulating both Major hazards Industries and Construction he brings a wealth of experience to this important new role. I very much look forward to working with Peter as the new Building Safety Regulator is established as we move to establish a new regime where people can be confident that their homes are safe and fit for purpose”

Minister for Building Safety, Lord Greenhalgh said:  “I  welcome the appointment of Peter Baker as the first national Chief  Inspector of Buildings. Peter will use his and HSE’s wealth of experience to implement a tougher regulatory regime.  I look forward to working with Peter and his team to ramp up engagement with residents and the sector as part of the biggest changes to building safety in a generation, backed by our £5 billion investment to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England. We have a comprehensive plan to remove unsafe cladding, support leaseholders, restore confidence to this part of the housing market and ensure this situation never arises again.”

While there are challenges ahead for the sector, which is set to grow by a quarter of million workers in the next four years, the construction industry will provide more opportunities for British workers, as the number of migrant workers falls, CITB’s annual Migration Survey showed.

Among the findings, 41% of employers will look to increase the skills of British workers, almost a third (30%) will provide more permanent jobs for Brits, a quarter (24%) will increase minimum salaries, and 16% will look to take on more local apprentices.

While employers reported a fall in the number of migrant employees, there was a rise in the number of self-employed migrants working for the industry.

While only 16% of companies expect that issues with migrant workers not remaining in the UK will impact their firm, almost three-quarters (72%) expect it to impact on the sector, with a quarter (27%) anticipating a serious impact.

Supporting the sector

CITB will support the sector in meeting the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit with investments over the next five years including 28,000 taster experiences of construction, 19,000 on-site experiences to help prepare students, working with Government on a new construction traineeship to get more FE learners into jobs and apprenticeships and increasing the number of apprentices completing their training.

While the report showed that most employers reported no change in their number of migrant workers over the last year, 13% reported a fall in employing them, and only 2% a rise.

The largest fall (41%) was among those employing non-UK workers indirectly (ie. self-employed). Just over a tenth of the construction workforce are migrants, with the proportion falling from 10.7% in 2018 to 10.2% – a drop of about 5% in two years – with most coming from the EU.

The number of employers dependent on migrant workers has fallen slightly (from 15% in 2019 to 13%). While those directly employing migrants (ie. as staff) fell by 11%, the number of firms indirectly employing migrants rose by the same number.

One concerning trend was the lack of understanding among companies of how post-Brexit settlement empowers them to retain staff, with less than one in ten (9%) saying they understood it well.

The chief reasons for this included a primary focus on Covid-19, the belief that their firm will not suffer due to a low number of migrant workers, and waiting for further clarity on Brexit and preparing to act afterwards.

A ‘critical time’

Steve Radley, director of strategy and policy at CITB, said: “Construction faces a number of challenges over the next few years, among them declining numbers of migrant workers, as Covid has seen more workers leave the country and with a new tighter migration system.

“Employers expect to provide more jobs for British workers but for some occupations and employers, this is already proving challenging with order books growing, particularly in housing and infrastructure.

“The government has made some important commitments such as reforming FE, introducing construction traineeships and increasing access to unused apprenticeship levy funding.

“It’s vital that we work together to ensure these deliver the skills construction needs. It’s also critical that employers understand the new points-based system and have confidence it will respond quickly where there are pressures on key skills.”

As reported on PCBToday

A carpet sample book manufacturer has been fined after two workers were seriously injured in an incident where a forklift truck crashed into an onsite refuse skip.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how on 29 July 2019, three workers at Profile Patterns Limited had been emptying waste from plastic bins at their site in Wigan. They were using a forklift truck to raise the bins to a height that enabled a worker at either side of the truck to manually tip the bins into a skip. When one of the bins became trapped between the side of the skip and the forks, the driver of the forklift truck climbed on top of the skip to free the bin whilst the other two employees remained standing at either side of the forklift truck. Another employee was asked to reverse the forklift truck to aid the release of the bin.

However, after reversing, the forklift truck then moved forward crashing into the skip causing the employee on top of the skip to fall. One of the workers standing at the side of the truck became impaled by her right arm by the fork. The two workers sustained serious fractures that required hospital treatment.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Profile Patterns Limited did not take effective measures to ensure the health and safety of employees in relation to the risks arising from the use and operation of forklift trucks. The company failed to implement a safe system of work and provide adequate instruction and training to employees. It was established that tipping bins into the skip in this way was normal working practice that had taken place over a considerable length of time, throughout which employees were placed at significant risk.

Profile Patterns Limited of Makerfield Way, Ince Wigan, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,435.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emily Osborne said: “The risk of injury from this unsafe working practice was foreseeable and the incident could so easily have been avoided.

“Profile Patterns Limited should have put in place a number of safety measures including appropriate segregation of vehicles and pedestrians and a safe system of work for emptying the bins.

“Those in control of work also have a responsibility to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in order to carry out work safely.”

As reported in HSE Media Centre

National Grid Gas plc has been fined for failing to ensure its records relating to gas risers in some high-rise multi occupancy building were up to date.

Liverpool Crown Court previous heard that in June 2017 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requested information from gas distribution network (GDN) companies about their management of gas networks in high rise multiple occupancy buildings (HRMOBs).

At the time of the offence National Grid Gas operated the nationwide gas transmission system and the gas distribution systems supplying gas to approximately half of the UK domestic and industrial gas customers, including the gas pipes in HRMOBs.

However, in 2016 National Grid Gas sold part of its operations to Cadent Gas Ltd, this included the activities which the failings relate to. HSE’s investigation revealed the incomplete records were transferred to Cadent by National Grid Gas when they sold their gas networks to Cadent. The system had not been subject to any audits or reviews when the records issue came to light in December 2017. As such Cadent were continuing to inspect only the buildings on the existing database.

After HSE had requested the information, it found that Cadent’s management records were incomplete and found that records on 769 buildings were missing, meaning gas risers in these HRMOBs had not been subject to a condition survey, inspection or routine maintenance for a number of years.

Additionally, the investigation found that National Grid Gas had failed to ensure that 112 HRMOBs had Pipeline Isolation Valves (PIVs) so that gas to these buildings could be isolated in the event of an incident.

As a result of this, HSE undertook a criminal investigation that considered the risk that residents and members of the public were exposed to as a result of breaches to Health and Safety legislation. Enforcement notices were issued in April 2018 requiring Cadent to take remedial action. Cadent took appropriate action and complied with the notices by September 2018.

National Grid Gas plc of 1-3 Strand, London, WC2N 5EH pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 06 November 2020. Today they were fined £4 million with £91,805 costs at Liverpool Crown Court.

After the hearing, HM principal inspector for HSE, Julie Voce said: “This case had wide ranging implications. Our investigations found that people living and working in the high-rise buildings where the failings took place were not protected from the risk of gas leaks.

“National Grid Gas did not have a robust system for recording the details of the gas pipes within these buildings. Opportunities arose where National Grid Gas identified data errors, but these were never satisfactorily acted upon, and opportunities to correct the situation were missed.

“This sentence reflects how important it is when companies are charged with ensuring records that could keep people safe and well are up to date, that they make that task a priority.”

The UK’s Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has promised an extra £3.5bn from the Government to help remove the unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings over 18m – an issue that is estimated to be affecting 700,000 people.

The move comes as calls from residents, leaseholders, campaigners and other stakeholders have grown increasingly prominent in recent months. Hundreds of thousands of residents have felt unsafe and trapped in their flats since findings from the Grenfell Inquiry highlighted that unsafe cladding was the ‘primary cause of the fire spread’ of the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 in which 72 people died.

While Mr Jenrick noted that 95% of the buildings first identified with unsafe ACM cladding – the type used on the Grenfell facade – have been remediated or are currently being worked on, it has been widely recognised that there are thousands of other buildings with similarly unsafe cladding still in existence, with significant costs being directed to leaseholders and residents.

The £3.5bn is an addition to the original pot of £1.6bn released for the Building Safety Fund, announced last year by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Mr Jenrick told the Commons that leaseholders in these high-rise buildings over 18m (or with six storeys or more), would face no extra cost to themselves for the cladding remediation works in England, and that this investment was an “unprecedented intervention” by government to “remove unsafe cladding and provide certainty to leaseholders… and to reject confidence and certainty back into this part of the housing market”.

The funding will focus on the “higher rise buildings” above 18 metres, which Mr Jenrick explained was based on the advice from the independent expert advisory panel that these are where the “overwhelming majority” of the risks lie. For lower and medium-rise blocks, the Government is promising a long-term scheme to protect leaseholders facing costs with financial support for cladding remediation on blocks between four and six storeys. In the low-interest scheme, leaseholders will be required to pay “no more than £50 a month”, and that this scheme will be available for “many years to come”.

Mr Jenrick also noted that he believes the extra investment will help to reduce insurance premiums, which have rocketed in some cases due to the assessment of risk on cladding and buildings that have been deemed unsafe, and that building owners and developers should step up to meet the costs of the work. A new levy will therefore be put in place on future development of certain high-rise buildings in England, as well as a new tax for the UK residential property sector that is set to be introduced in 2022 to help raise the money for the removal of cladding and reduce pressure on taxpayers.

“Proposals don’t go far enough”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Conservative MP Stephen McPartland commented that the announcement did not go far enough: “The support he has offered does not help most people because people who’ve got excessive insurance premiums, fire safety defects – that’s where the real costs are”.

In a similar vein, many responses to the news highlighted that the announcement left many questions unanswered, such as the immediate issue of the extraordinary rise in insurance premiums, homes remaining unsellable, the fact that leaseholders in flats under 18m are not being supported enough and would still have to pay, why the construction industry and cladding manufacturers aren’t being required to pay more, and that the government funding has not been easy to access.

On Twitter, the End Our Cladding Scandal released a statement, saying they felt “betrayed” by the announcement, with loans that could potentially be “longer than mortgage terms for millions” a result of the low-interest scheme for blocks under 18m.

Jonathan O’Neill OBE, Managing Director of the Fire Protection Association (FPA), also believes that the measures should apply to all affected buildings – regardless of their height: “It has now been more than three and a half years since the issue of combustible cladding surfaced as an issue for leaseholders. Whether the problems arose due to ambiguous and confusing legislation, a broken regulatory system, ignorance or incompetence in the construction sector, or suppliers of building products gaming the system; what is abundantly clear is that it was of no fault of the leaseholders who continue to face uncertainty despite today’s announcement.

“The Government must act now and support all leaseholders, in all affected buildings regardless of their height, with grants to bring this debacle to a close. It should then be on the Government to pursue those responsible through the courts to ensure the money is fully repaid. This has been going on for too long, it is completely unacceptable that we continue to have people living in buildings which are fundamentally unsafe and leaseholders facing financial ruin for believing that we had a regulatory system that was fit for purpose and robust. The FPA has made repeated requests for the Government to ban the use of combustible materials on all high-risk buildings; this situation is clearly of its own making and they must act now to bring this debacle to a close.”

As reported on:  IFSEC GLOBAL

A roofer was fatally injured when he fell six metres whilst working on a replacement roof at a property in Kirkdale, Liverpool.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how on 22 May 2017, the roofer was completing snagging work on a replacement roof. The worker had accessed a part of the old roof made of fragile asbestos cement sheets, which gave way. He fell through the sheets to the ground below sustaining fatal injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the area accessed did not have safety nets fitted and the building occupier failed to take reasonably practicable measures to reduce the risk to those working on the roof.

Owners of the building Pearsons Glass, of Maddrell Street, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, sections 3. The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,656.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew McGrory said: “The risks from working on fragile surfaces are well known.

“Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the contractor they select to undertake any construction work devise safe methods of doing so, which should include providing the necessary information to their workers and ensuring that they are adequately supervised.”

The prosecution of the roofing contractor is ongoing.

As reported by the HSE Media Centre.

In many respects this should serve as yet another ‘wake up’ call to business that they simply cannot delegate their responsibilities and hide behind contractors in the belief that they have paid them to do a job and it is of no concern to them how the end result is achieved.

It is tragic that such incidents are still occurring with regularity and as recognised by the Court, businesses and organisations must not only understand but also fulfil their obligations with regard to health and safety legislation.

The provision of appropriate training is key in this area both in understanding your obligations and in the development/implementation of the necessary systems that need to be put in place to provide for them.

The IOSH Managing Safely course is an excellent first step in understanding business/organisational responsibility with regard to health and safety, for managers at all levels.  We would recommend that businesses of all sizes consider it as a stepping stone in providing for their responsibilities and the development of their staff.

Goldcross are specialist providers of the IOSH Managing Safely course and our course schedule can be viewed here.

 

Two companies have been fined after a worker sustained serious injuries by falling approximately three metres through a hole cut into a floor during the refurbishment of a property at in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard how on 27 July 2017, an employee was working as a dry liner for R&B Plastering Limited, who were contracted on the site to Robert Norman Construction Limited, the Principal Contractor (PC).

The employee was working on the second floor of the property, near to a hole that had been cut into the floor to facilitate plaster board being passed up from the level below. The employee fell approximately three metres through the hole, causing him to sustain fractures to his vertebrae and ribs, and severe bruising.

He required hospitalisation for nineteen days and had to wear a back brace for six months. He also suffers ongoing physical and psychological issues as a result of the incident.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the hole was not adequately protected via covering or access. R&B Plastering Limited had put a risk assessment in place for the work, but it was not adequate, and was not provided to the PC prior to work commencing.

The PC’s own policy outlined the need to review any sub-contractors’ risk assessments prior to them starting work; and by failing to follow this policy the PC missed any opportunity to review R&B Plastering’s risk assessment.

Robert Norman Construction Limited of Framlingham, Suffolk were found guilty in their absence to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and have been fined £140,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,426.

R&B Plastering Limited of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and have been fined £26,700 and ordered to pay costs of £8,426.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Prentiss Clarke-Jones said: “The employee’s injuries are life-changing and he could have easily been killed. The incident could have been avoided if both companies had fully implemented safe systems of work and identified, during the planning stages, that materials would need to be safely transported between floors.

“Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related injuries in this country, and the controls needed to prevent the associated risks are well known. Dutyholders should follow the guidance on planning works to ensure that risks such as this work at height can be eliminated in the first instance by allowing safe means of access.”

As reported on the HSE Media Centre.

The importance of undertaking appropriate risk assessments and having the appropriate knowledge of the Working at Height Regulations can not be understated and should be fully understood by both employers and employees.  Here at Goldcross Training we provide a full range of training that covers risk assessment requirements and working at height including: CITB Site Safety Plus, IOSH and NEBOSH courses, so why not take a look at what we have to offer.