HSE’s inspectors across Great Britain will be targeting construction firms to check that their health standards are up to scratch during a month-long inspection initiative, starting on Monday 4 October 2021. 

This year inspections will focus on respiratory risks and occupational lung disease, looking at the control measures businesses have in place to protect their workers’ lungs from construction dust including silica, asbestos and wood dust. This is part of HSE’s longer term health and work strategy to improve health within the construction industry. 

While the primary focus will be on health during this programme of inspections, if an inspector identifies any other areas of concern, including immediate safety risks, they will take the necessary action to deal with them.  

Inspectors will be looking for evidence of employers and workers knowing the risks, planning their work and using the right controls. If necessary, they will use enforcement to make sure people are protected. 

The initiative will be supported by HSE’s WorkRight campaign, aimed at influencing employer behaviour by encouraging builders to download free guidance and advice, increasing knowledge and capability to protect workers’ health.  

More than 3,500 builders die each year from cancers related to their work, with thousands more cases of ill-health and working days lost. 

HSE’s chief inspector of construction, Sarah Jardine, said: “Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are actually killed in construction accidents. 

“Our inspection initiatives ensure that inspectors are able to speak to duty holders and visit sites to look at the kind of action businesses in the construction industry are taking right now to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs. These are mature health challenges that the industry ought to be managing effectively. 

“There are a few simple things that everyone can do to make sure they are protecting their health and their future. Be aware of the risks associated with activities you do every day, recognise the dangers of hazardous dust and consider how it can affect your health. We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust by working in different ways to keep dust down and wear the right protective equipment.” 

HSE is being supported by the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) and Tier 1 industry contractors. Throughout October 2021, HCLG members will carry out more than 1,000 site visits to assess the effectiveness of measures in place to controls workers’ exposure to respiratory risks from dust. Findings from site visits and a survey will allow industry to feed into HSE’s broader commitment to improve the health of construction workers by providing HSE with a wider dataset to evaluate ongoing practices across industry. 

HSE and industry Insights will support HSE’s strategic plan to broaden the range and depth of future regulatory health interventions. 

For more information on the programme of inspections visit the Work Right campaign website: https://workright.campaign.gov.uk/campaigns/construction-dust/ 

As reported in: HSE Media

It’s been claimed that computer systems controlling signs on smart motorways crashed three times in four days, meaning signs across hundreds of miles of motorway could not be changed.

A whistleblower has claimed staff operating England’s smart motorways are ‘petrified’ of road users being killed following a string of computer crashes.

Three system failures in April meant that across hundreds of miles of motorway, the digital signs which inform drivers of speed limits or lane closures were left ‘unusable’.

The signs, also called gantries, could not be changed along parts of the M1, M4, M5 and M62, leading an insider at National Highways (formerly England Highways) to warn that ‘someone is going to get killed.’

The Sunday Telegraph spoke to the member of staff at National Highways (formerly Highways England) who said the system failed in April and that a Freedom of Information request to National Highways, the Government-owned company, shows two control centres covering Yorkshire, the North East and South West of England were hit by a computer “bug” and server problem disabling digital control of signs for a total of eight hours.

The whistleblower told the Telegraph: ‘We have had enough.

‘The system keeps breaking down, meaning we can’t control our signs and signals on motorways, including smart motorways.

‘One day, we could not access signs and signals for up to seven hours. So, there was information telling drivers lanes were closed when they were actually open, and speed limits were in place when they actually were not.

‘Control room staff are petrified because it feels like the whole system is a ticking time bomb.

‘Some will quit and others will go off sick because we feel we can’t keep people on the network safe. The system is broken.’

Dynac, the computer system controlling the signs and gantries on the smart motorways, has been dubbed ‘Die Now’ by staff over fears that further system failures could cause fatal traffic accidents.

Reporter Steve Bird writes that Dynac, the software used to set signs and signals, including the red X on overhead gantries which closes lanes in which motorists have broken down, was rendered “unusable”, according to documents, however, he adds, it transpires that Dynac, the Austrian-made software programme, is not to blame and the problems were often found in the myriad of high-tech systems running alongside it.

One document classified “sensitive” records a manager stating how that April system crash “impacts on customer and traffic officer safety in not being able to set signs and signals to protect live lane incidents”.

The succession of computer crashes came as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was announcing the continued roll-out of the smart motorways – which see the removal of the hard shoulder in favour of a fourth lane.

National Highways regional director Andrew Page-Dove said:

“Our motorways are among the safest roads in the world, designed to be so even without the use of technology, while our traffic management systems provide an extra layer of support for road users, using a range of measures including CCTV and variable speed limits to keep traffic flowing safely.

“We also have well-rehearsed procedures to deal with technical issues and our traffic officers are always on hand to help drivers and deal with incidents safely. We also recognise the pressures our employees are under performing vital tasks, which is why support systems and a range of 24/7 employee assistance options are available to them.”

As reported on: Safe Highways

Health and safety in construction is one of the most popular guides to Construction Health and Safety with the firsts two editions selling in excess of 250,000 copies.

It has been updated and expanded in the light of new legislation, in particular the Work at Height Regulations 2005.  It also features new information on recent advances and examples of good practice in the construction industry.  The book is primarily aimed at the small contractor but equally applies to everyone involved in construction, employers & employees.

It provides help and assistance on how to work safely on most tasks you will encounter.  It will also help to identify the main causes of accidents and ill health and explains how to eliminate hazards and control risks. The guidance is simple but comprehensive and the solutions are straightforward and easy to adopt.  It is also an excellent source of revision!

Edition three of this popular book can be downloaded free from the HSE website – here.

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

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

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.”

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.”

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.”