Building owners could face unlimited fines following new measures being brought in to strengthen fire safety, the Home Office has announced today.

As part of the government’s work to ensure people are safe in their homes, these limitless fines will be handed out to anyone caught obstructing or impersonating a fire inspector as well as to those who breach fire safety regulations under the Fire Safety Order.

These new measures, announced as part of the government’s response to the Fire Safety Consultation, will come into force as part of the legislation in the Building Safety Bill.

The measures will amend the Fire Safety Order and will include a requirement for fire risk assessments to be recorded for each building and improve how fire safety information is handed over throughout the lifetime of a building.

The Home Office have also announced a further cash boost of £10 million for Fire and Rescue Authorities across England, on top of the £6 million already announced in the Fire Covid-19 Contingency Fund. This will help with additional tasks related to managing the pandemic – such as driving ambulances and assisting at testing and vaccination centres.

Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said:

Everyone should be safe in the buildings where they live, stay or work.

Our new measures will improve fire safety and help save lives, but will also take firm action against those who fail in their duty to keep people safe.

Our incredible Fire and Rescue Services have played a crucial role in our response to the pandemic, from assisting at vaccination centres to driving ambulances. That is why we are giving them this cash boost, so they can continue their life-saving efforts.

Roy Wilsher, National Fire Chiefs Council Chair, said:

The NFCC welcomes the extra funding to support Covid activities carried out by fire and rescue services across England. Firefighters are responsible for administering around 1 in 240 vaccinations to the public.

We also welcome the government’s response to its own fire safety consultation and the continued investment in fire and rescue services protection work.

Ultimately, we want to see safer buildings for residents and are committed to working constructively with the Home Office and other partners on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations and other key fire safety policy areas.

The new measures announced today will:

  • improve the quality of fire risk assessments and competence of those who complete them
  • ensure vital fire safety information is preserved over the lifespan of all regulated buildings
  • improve cooperation and coordination amongst people responsible for fire safety and making it easier to identify who they are
  • strengthen enforcement action, with anyone impersonating or obstructing a fire inspector facing unlimited fines
  • strengthen guidance issued under the Fire Safety Order so that failure to follow it may be considered in court proceedings as evidence of a breach or of compliance
  • improve the engagement between Building Control Bodies and Fire Authorities in reviewing plans for building work
  • require all new flats above 11 metres tall to install premises information boxes

The Fire Safety Consultation took place last year to inform government work on improving fire safety. The government received feedback from over 250 stakeholders with an interest in building and fire safety, including residents, Responsible Persons and enforcing authorities, which we have used to inform our response.

The government intends to launch a further consultation on personal emergency evacuation plans this spring to seek additional views on implementing the relevant Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations.

The Home Office intends, subject to the Fire Safety Bill receiving Royal Assent, to lay regulations before the second anniversary of the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 Report which will deliver on the Inquiry’s recommendations.

The Fire Safety Bill clarifies that the scope of the Fire Safety Order (FSO) and changes to the FSO outline above will be delivered through it. The Building Safety Bill will create the first national Building Safety Regulator and overhaul the way buildings in scope of the new regime are designed, built and managed when occupied.

As reported on: Gov.uk

DB Cargo has been fined £200,000 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act for failing to protect the safety of its workers following an incident at its Dollands Moor freight yard in 2018.

Terry Currie, then aged 43 and working as a shunter, suffered life changing injuries, including the amputation of his right arm, when a freight train collided with his vehicle on a level crossing at the yard on 4 September 2018.

The sentence was passed by District Judge Barron at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, following a prosecution by rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

ORR’s prior investigation found DB Cargo had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the movement of people and trains within the yard, and as a result a safe system of work was not implemented to protect workers as they moved around the yard.

Ian Prosser CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, ORR said: “These were serious failings by DB Cargo to protect its workers and ensure a safe practice of freight train movements.

“There were clear and obvious risks of serious injury due to the lack of appropriate ways of working. [This] sentence shows how important it is that operators have appropriate practices to ensure worker safety.

“Following the accident, DB Cargo has taken action to mitigate risks but had it properly assessed the risk of a collision beforehand, Mr Currie need not have suffered life changing injury.”

In his remarks, Judge Barron said there was an obvious risk of a collision between people and trains within the yard, which had been foreseen as long ago as 1991 when the yard was designed, before it became operational in 1994. At that time, between eight and 11 track workers or shunters were killed on the railway each year.

Until 2010, safety documentation included a requirement that buggies crossing the sidings should use one of the two subways that were provided at each end of the yard to allow staff access to individual sidings without crossing any tracks.

By 2012, this requirement was no longer included. By 2014, only one of the two subways remained open, but lighting in this subway had failed. Use of this subway was not enforced, so most workers chose to drive across the level crossings instead. There were no barriers, signs or written instructions indicating that vehicles were not allowed to use the level crossings unless signals were being used to stop any approaching trains.

DB Cargo were fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £33,768.61 in costs.

 

As reported on: SHP

Drayton Manor Park Ltd (in administration) has been sentenced following the death of a schoolgirl on its Splash Canyon water ride in 2017.

Stafford Crown Court heard how, on the 9 May 2017, 11-year-old Evha Jannath was on a school trip when she fell out of a raft on the Splash Canyon water ride into the ride’s water trough. She was able to wade to the conveyer belt at the end of the ride and climb onto it, but then fell into a section of deeper water and drowned.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the risk assessment in place was not suitable and sufficient as it did not properly assess or address the risk of passengers being ejected/falling from the raft, despite previous similar incidents. There were inadequate control measures in place to detect a person in the water as the CCTV covered only half the ride and the CCTV monitors were not suitable for observing passenger behaviour appropriately. In addition, there was no system at the park to rescue anyone who had fallen into the water.

Drayton Manor Park Ltd (in administration), Tamworth, Staffordshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1 million.

Drayton Manor Park has changed hands since the incident and is now owned and operated by Drayton Manor Resort Ltd.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Lyn Spooner said: “As a result of Drayton Manor’s failings 11-year-old Evha Jannath, died at the end of what should have been a fun day out.

“The risks from ejection from the raft had been evident to Drayton Manor for some time, yet they still failed to take the action that could have prevented Evha’s death.

“This tragic event should never have happened and my thoughts and the thoughts of HSE remain with Evha’s family and friends.”

As reported on: HSE Media

Specialist plant hire company, Ruislip Plant Ltd, has been fined after a worker was fatally injured whilst undertaking maintenance on a piling rig.

Reading Crown Court heard that, on 13 May 2014, Ben Wylie, was assisting the Ruislip Plant Ltd Director Mr Noel Kearney (since deceased) with the maintenance of a high-pressure grease track adjusting mechanism at a construction site in West Street, Maidenhead. During the process, the grease nipple assembly and a stream of high-pressure grease was forcibly ejected from the mechanism and struck Ben Wylie in the shoulder and chest causing fatal injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the components had been forcibly ejected on the previous day and had sustained damage in that event, reducing the pressure at which it would subsequently fail. Once the fitting had been ejected, it should not have been refitted. Despite the fittings having been previously ejected and damaged, Mr Kearney attempted to modify and refit the grease nipple and adaptor to the high-pressure system. He then began to re-pressurise the tracks by pumping in grease using a hand operated grease gun. The pressure built in the system and at a critical point the damaged and modified components were again ejected. A pressure test with all suitable safeguards was required in these circumstances but there was no safe system of work during which resulted in the modifications to the grease gun bringing Ben Wylie into the danger zone.

Ruislip Plant Ltd of Lea Crescent, Ruislip, Middlesex pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company has been fined £99,000 and ordered to pay costs of £116, 973.36.

After the hearing, HSE inspector John Glynn said: “HSE guidance is very specific on how this work should be undertaken and previously ejected or damaged parts must not be reused as they were in this case.
“This incident could have been avoided if Ruislip Plant Ltd had instead undertaken a risk assessment and devised a safe system of work. That safe system of work would necessarily have ensured that new parts were used, and that the safety procedure of a pressure test was performed. However, a new component was not used in this incident and the safety procedure was not adhered to.

“That failure to adhere to the correct procedure for pressure testing was directly causative of this incident. No control measures were put in place by Ruislip Plant Limited and that sadly led to the death of Ben Wylie.”

As reported on: HSE Media.

Walden Builders Ltd has been sentenced after a worker was struck by a heated sheet of tin.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard how on 18 September 2018, the company was demolishing an outbuilding in Littlethorpe, Ripon. During the demolition, the excavator being used struck a wall containing a 415v cable causing it to arc and ignite a fire. Efforts to put out the fire included holding a sheet of tin to shield the surroundings. The tin heated and dropped onto an operative who was working on the site causing burn injuries to the scalp, arm and hands.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had received a quote from Northern Power Grid for installation of new service termination equipment. The company failed to act on the quote and instruct the power company to terminate supply to the building.

Walden Builders Ltd of Green Croft, Pottery Lane, Littlethorpe, Ripon pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £42,000 and ordered to pay £4,707 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Thompson said: “The company should have ensured that there was no live power to the building prior to the start of demolition work. The company had failed to prepare a written plan for the demolition of the building or any site-specific risk assessments.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.”

The HSE publish a guide to undertaking such activities the right way here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/demolition.htm

Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK Limited, a large foundry in Telford, has been fined after a number of its workers were diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates’ Court heard how three employees, the earliest of which had used vibrating tools at the company since 1989, had developed and were subsequently diagnosed with HAVS in 2016. Despite the diagnosis, one of the workers continued working with vibrating tools, without effective measures to control the risk. The employees used tools such as hand grinders, air chisels, spindle grinders, and earlier on in their employment, jackhammers to finish cast iron drainage products.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that until 19 December 2017, the vibration risk assessment did not identify each employee’s daily exposure to vibration and did not measure cumulative exposures of using different vibrating tools throughout a shift. The investigation also found there was inadequate health surveillance in place and employees were not made aware of HAVS and its symptoms. Despite health surveillance notifying the company of a HAVS diagnosis, the company had failed to take effective action to adjust the affected worker’s job, meaning staff continued to be exposed to excessive vibration.

Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK Limited of Saint-Gobain House, East Leake, Loughborough, Leicestershire pleaded guilty to failing to discharge the duty imposed upon it by Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at work etc Act 1974. They were fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,453.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said: “This was an established multinational company that had the resources to protect its workers from the effects of excessive vibration, but failed to do so over a long period of time.

“All employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure the health of their staff is not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do.”

A construction company has been sentenced after a self-employed ground worker sustained life changing injuries in an incident involving a disc cutter.

Truro Crown Court heard how on 1 June 2017, self-employed ground worker Morgan Prosser, contracted by MJL Contractors Limited, was working to complete ground works at a new building site near Bodmin, Cornwall. Mr Prosser was using a petrol disc cutter to cut reinforced concrete beams to size. Whilst he was doing this the saw ‘kicked up’ and caused a severe laceration to his arm. Mr Prosser underwent months of operations following the incident to try to save his arm. However, it had to be amputated In October 2017, which has had a significant impact on his ability to work and his personal life.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that MJL Contractors Limited were responsible for the groundworks at the site, including providing and maintaining the disc cutter. Mr Prosser had not been sufficiently trained to use the petrol disc cutter and the system of work in use for cutting reinforced concrete beams had not been planned or assessed to ensure the risks were properly controlled.

MJL should have been aware that Mr Prosser had no previous experience of undertaking such a task and this should have been identified and addressed at his induction or at the time the work was allocated to him to complete.

 

MJL Contractors Limited of Hellys Court, Helston in Cornwall, were found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They have been fined £250,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Georgina Symons said: “The contractor’s injuries have been life changing. This serious incident could have easily been avoided if basic safeguards had been put in place.”

The legislation that allows the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to impose a levy on the industry requires that it undertakes wide consultation every three years.  This is to confirm that the construction industry is happy to continue putting  money into a collective pot and whether there is still a consensus in support of the CITB.  In the old days, the CITB focus was in providing industry related training where as now it is responsible for administering the money.

An initial consultation on levy proposals will run from 1st  March – 11th April 2021 and once feedback on the draft levy proposals has been gathered, the official consensus exercise will take place from 14th June until Sunday 15th August.

The triennial consensus was due in 2020. The process started and questionnaires went out but then came lockdown and necessary follow-up interviews were cancelled. Instead, emergency powers were invoked and the secretary of state renewed the levy order regardless.

CITB chief executive Sarah Beale said: “From your feedback we know now is the right time to proceed with running consensus. We’re looking forward to talking with businesses from across the sector to understand their views, and explaining how we’ll use their money to provide the training and the skills that the industry needs.”

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said: “We’ve been calling for consensus to go ahead for some time now and expressed our great dismay when it was postponed the first time. Now members will have the chance to hold CITB to account, examine their plans and proposals for levy in the future and have their say. The consensus process is an essential part of ensuring the industry has confidence in CITB’s ability to deliver the skills our industry so desperately needs. We welcome the confirmation that consensus will go ahead and will do all we can to ensure as many members engage in this process as possible.”

Levy registered employers can take part in the initial consultation from Monday 1st March to Sunday 11th April at www.citb.co.uk/levyconsultation.

Employers can register for virtual events at www.citb.co.uk/spring2021events.

For details of the consensus process itself, see: www.citb.co.uk/consensus2021.

As reported on: TheConstructionIndex.