Demolition health and safety – company and contractor sentenced for uncontrolled collapse of building on high street

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The owner of a building in Kent and the contractor employed to demolish it have been fined for safety failings after an uncontrolled collapse onto a high street.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the collapse, which occurred in November 2013, found that the contractor had failed to properly plan the work and then carried out unsafe demolition work.

The building owner did not make any enquiries into the suitability or competence of the contractor to undertake the demolition.

Neither the building owner nor the contractor applied for a road closure and members of the public were put at risk.

The building owner pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9128.89.

The contractor pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 25(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and has been sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years.

HSE inspector Andrew Cousins said after the hearing: “Lives were put at risk when this structure uncontrollably collapsed. Clients have a responsibility to appoint competent contractors to undertake hazardous work such as demolition.

“Those in control of demolition have a responsibility to plan demolition work and to devise a safe way of working that protects both the workers and members of the public.

“The job could have been safely carried out by simply undertaking the demolition behind a substantial hoarding.”

Demolition

What you need to do

The law says that all demolition, dismantling and structural alteration must be carefully planned and carried out in a way that prevents danger by practitioners with the relevant skills, knowledge and experience. Key issues are:

  • Falls from height
  • Injury from falling materials
  • Uncontrolled collapse
  • Risks from connected services
  • Traffic management
  • Hazardous materials
  • Noise and vibration
  • Fire
  • Worker involvement

What you need to know

A systematic approach to demolition projects is a team effort between many people, who all have responsibilities:

  • Clients must appoint dutyholders who have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience and where organisations, the organisational capability, and are adequately resourced.
  • Clients, with the help of the principal designer must provide those who need it (eg, designers, contractors) with pre-construction information that can reasonably be obtained. A range of surveys and reports will be needed – for example, to check for presence of asbestos; structural stability of site and nearby structures; the location of above and below ground live services in the work area; etc. These should be done before work begins and not be left for the principal contractor to organise once the demolition work has started.
  • Principal designers must plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety issues in the pre-construction phase (i.e. before demolition starts) to give principal contractors as much information as possible to allow the principal contractor to keep people (site workers and the public) as far as possible from the risks.
  • Principal contractors must plan, manage, monitor and coordinate health and safety issues during the demolition work.
  • Site managers must ensure workers are supervised and are following safe working practice.
  • Sub-contractors and site workers must follow the instructions and plans given to them by those in charge of the work and ensure that their colleagues do too.

Falls from height

During demolition and dismantling, workers can be injured falling from edges, through openings, fragile surfaces and partially demolished floors.

Dutyholders have a responsibility to assess, eliminate and control the risks of falls from height. Find out more about falls from height: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/workingatheight.htm.

Injury from falling materials

Workers and passers-by can be injured by the premature and uncontrolled collapse of structures, and by flying debris.

A safe system of work is one that keeps people as far as possible from the risks. This may include:

  • establishing exclusion zones and hard-hat areas, clearly marked and with barriers or hoardings if necessary
  • covered walkways
  • using high-reach machines
  • reinforcing machine cabs so that drivers are not injured
  • training and supervising site workers

Uncontrolled collapse

The structural survey should consider:

  • the age of the structure
  • its previous use
  • the type of construction
  • nearby buildings or structures
  • the weight of removed material or machinery on floors above ground level

The method statement for the demolition should identify the sequence required to prevent accidental collapse of the structure.

Risks from connected services

Gas, electricity, water and telecommunications services need to be isolated or disconnected before demolition work begins. If this is not possible, pipes and cables must be labelled clearly, to make sure they are not disturbed.

Traffic management

Effective traffic management systems are essential on site, to avoid putting workers at risk of being hit by vehicles turning, slewing, or reversing. Where possible, vision aids and zero tail swing machines should be used. Find out more about traffic management

Hazardous materials

Hazardous materials that should to be considered include dust, asbestos and respirable crystalline silica (RCS).There may also be material or contamination on site that has not been cleared, for example:

  • acids from industrial processes
  • paints
  • flammable liquids
  • unidentified drums
  • microbiological hazards (especially in old hospital buildings).

Find out more about the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH): http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/index.htm

Noise and vibration

Frequent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage a persons hearing. Noise can also create a safety risk if it makes it difficult for workers to communicate effectively or stops them hearing warning signals.

Vibrating hand tools used in demolition can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).Workers exposure to vibration must be managed and reduced as far as possible.

Fire

Fire is a risk where hot work (using any tools that generate spark, flame or heat) is being done. During structural alteration, the fire plan must be kept up to date as the escape routes and fire points may alter. There must be an effective way to raise the alarm.

Worker involvement

Everyone involved must to know what precautions are to be taken on site. Workplaces where employees are involved in taking decisions about health and safety are safer and healthier. Your employees are often the best people to understand the risks in their workplace. Find out more about involving your workers in health and safety: http://www.hse.gov.uk/involvement

Resources

Leaflets

Books

Useful links – other HSE sites

The law

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/demolition.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 19TH NOVEMBER 2015

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Chief Inspector challenges small construction sites to act now to manage workers health and safety

Crowd management – your duties as an event organiser

Managing risks from skin exposure at work

Introduction

This autumn saw the HSE’s 10th annual refurbishment inspection initiative, and after 46% of sites fell below standards, the Chief Inspector of Construction is challenging the refurbishment industry to act now and protect their workers. As well as serving 692 enforcement notices and 983 notifications of contravention, inspectors had to deal with immediate risks such as falls from height (the most common killer in the industry), and exposure to silica dust and asbestos. This week we open our update with HSE guidance on managing construction sites safely.

As the festive season rapidly approaches, we hear that this year’s Christmas lights switch-on in Solihull has been cancelled amid health and safety fears arising from the size of crowds expected to attend. In 2009 approximately 60 people were injured during a crowd-surge at such an event in Birmingham. So we’re also sharing HSE guidance this week on crowd management – specifically aimed at those responsible for organising events such as these.

And finally, we look at the risks from skin exposure at work – how many materials used can affect the skin or pass through the skin, causing diseases elsewhere in the body – and how these can be prevented.

We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Chief Inspector challenges small construction sites to act now to manage workers health and safety

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) Chief Inspector of Construction is challenging the refurbishment industry to act now and protect their workers, after 46 per cent of sites fell below standards during a recent inspection initiative.

HSE targeted small refurbishment sites during the month long drive and 692 enforcement notices and 983 notifications of contravention had to be served where there was a material breach of health and/or safety. Inspectors had to deal with immediate risks, such as work at height, and also to deal with sites where workers were being exposed to silica dust and asbestos, which cause long term health problems.

Health and safety breaches were also followed up with clients and designers, reinforcing their duties under the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) 2015 and help them understand their responsibilities.

Despite the high rate of enforcement action, the inspectors found a number of examples of good practice.

Peter Baker, Health and Safety Executive’s Chief Inspector of Construction said: “It is disappointing that some small refurbishment sites are still cutting corners and not properly protecting their workers. Falls from height are the most common killer in the industry but we still found workers put at risk to save minutes on the job – believing it wouldn’t happen to them.

“The mis-conception that health issues cannot be controlled is simply not true and ruining people’s lives. Harmful dust, whether silica or wood, is a serious issue and can be managed effectively with the right design, equipment and training. Health effects may not be immediate but the ultimate impact on workers and their families can be devastating. Each week 100 construction workers die from occupational disease.”

“HSE inspectors found lots of good examples of small sites carrying out work safely, proving it can be done. Larger construction sites accepted the challenge a few years ago and have made big improvements, which all of the industry can learn from. My message to smaller businesses is don’t wait for an accident or visit from an inspector before you make the change, but act now and learn from your colleagues’ example.”

How to manage your site safely (click on the links)

For more guidance on health and safety in the construction industry, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/ or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Crowd management – your duties as an event organiser

Solihull’s Christmas lights switch-on has been cancelled this year amid health and safety fears arising from the size of crowds expected to attend. In 2009 approximately 60 people were injured during a crowd-surge at such an event in Birmingham.

As an organiser you must as far as reasonably practicable ensure the safety of visiting crowds.

While certain aspects of crowd safety can be allocated to contractors, for example stewarding, you will retain overall responsibility for ensuring the safety of the public.

What you should know

Hazards presented by a crowd:

  • Crushing between people.
  • Crushing against fixed structures, such as barriers.
  • Trampling underfoot.
  • Surging, swaying or rushing.
  • Aggressive behaviour.
  • Dangerous behaviour, such as climbing on equipment or throwing objects.

Hazards presented by a venue:

  • Slipping or tripping due to inadequately lit areas or poorly maintained floors and the build-up of rubbish.
  • Moving vehicles sharing the same route as pedestrians.
  • Collapse of a structure, such as a fence or barrier, which falls onto the crowd.
  • People being pushed against objects, such as unguarded, hot cooking equipment on a food stall.
  • Objects, such as stalls, that obstruct movement and cause congestion during busy periods.
  • Crowd movements obstructed by people queuing at bars etc.
  • Cross flows as people cut through the crowd to get to other areas, such as toilets.
  • Failure of equipment, such as turnstiles.
  • Sources of fire, such as cooking equipment.

Assessing the risks and putting controls in place

Carry out an assessment of the risks arising from crowd movement and behaviour as they arrive, leave and move around the site.

Note: Whether health and safety law will apply on routes to and from the venue will largely depend on the circumstances (other legislation to do with Licensing and traffic law may take precedence). If health and safety law does apply, an organiser’s legal duty regarding crowd safety will depend on the extent of control they have, which should be judged on a case-by-case basis. These duties are likely to be shared with others, including the local authority, landowners and transport providers.

Find out more

To assist you in identifying measures to help keep people safe see Managing crowds safely: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg154.htm

Barriers

Barriers at events serve several purposes, eg:

  • as an aid to manage and influence the behaviour of the audience; to line routes; and to prevent the audience climbing on top of temporary structures and putting themselves at risk of falling
  • to relieve and prevent overcrowding and the build-up of audience pressure
  • to provide physical security, as in the case of a high-perimeter fence at an outdoor event
  • to shield hazards from people

If you decide to use barriers and fencing as a crowd management tool, then they should be risk assessed. Depending on the complexity of the risk and barrier/s, you may need a source of competent advice to help you.

The factors you should take into account include:

  • the planned use of barriers
  • layout
  • ground conditions and topography
  • the presence of underground services, eg water pipes, electric cables that could restrict the use of pins to secure barriers
  • weather
  • load on the barrier – wind and/or crowd pressure
  • audience numbers and behaviour

These and any other factors peculiar to the location will determine the type of barrier or fence you select. It is crucial that the type of barrier and fence does not present greater risks than those they are intended to control. In some cases, barriers have failed due to incorrect selection.

To install simple barriers like rope and posts is relatively straightforward. However, for more complex barrier arrangements like stage barriers you may need a competent contractor to do this for you.

Deploy barriers and fencing with proper crowd management procedures, eg use of stewards to help achieve an all-round effective management of the risk. If appropriate, consult with a crowd management director on the use of barriers.

Find out more (click on the links)

For clarification or more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Managing risks from skin exposure at work

Many materials used at work can affect the skin or can pass through the skin and cause diseases elsewhere in the body. If you are an employer, health and safety adviser, trainer or safety representative, this book (free to download by clicking on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg262.htm) provides guidance to help you prevent these disabling diseases.

It covers the protective role of the skin, ill health arising from skin exposure, recognising potential skin exposure in your workplace, and managing skin exposure to prevent disease.

There is guidance on assessing and managing risks, reducing contact with harmful materials, choosing the right protective equipment and skin care products, and checking for early signs of skin disease.

The document also contains a series of case studies drawn from a wide range of industries.

Related resources (click on the links)

See also

For clarification or more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence