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.”

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.

 

An unregistered self-employed kitchen fitter has been sentenced after carrying out illegal gas work.

Exeter Crown Court heard how Brian Squibb, trading as BKS Kitchens and Bathrooms, was contracted to fit kitchens and signed an installer agreement giving the name of a Gas Safe member as the engineer he would use for gas work. However, in the summer of 2019, Brian Squibb carried out gas work at two properties in Exeter himself, falsely using another person’s name and registration number.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Mr Squibb has never had any competencies in gas work or been a member of the Gas Safe Register. However, he had removed an existing natural gas hob and capped off a live gas supply failing to check for gas tightness.

On completion of this work Mr Squibb produced documentation for the homeowners falsely using a registered gas engineer’s name and Gas Safe Register details in an attempt to hide his unregistered gas work

Brian Squibb of Elizabeth Avenue, Exeter, Devon pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1), 3(3) and 3(7) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 24 months and ordered to undertake 120 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay costs of £4,250.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Simon Jones said: “Brian Squibb undertook gas work, which he knew he was not registered to do. He then tried to cover up his unregistered and incompetent gas work by producing fraudulent documentation.

“All gas work must be done by registered Gas Safe engineers to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life”

As reported by the HSE Media Centre.

You can get your guide to: Gas Safety in the Home here – and check the suitability of gas engineers here at the: Gas Safe Register.