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 – 24TH SEPTEMBER 2015

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Provision of welfare facilities during construction work

Excavation and underground services

Asbestos information, instruction and training

Why is machinery safety important?

Introduction

As highlighted in our previous updates, HSE Inspectors are currently visiting refurbishment sites across the country until 9th October, to challenge the poor standards that are putting the health and safety of workers at risk. With this in mind, if you are a client or contractor, are you aware of your responsibilities regarding welfare facilities on construction projects? Last week, a Cheshire building contractor was fined £4,000 with costs of £2,495 after failing to fulfil these responsibilities so we open this week’s update with what you need to do to comply with the law.

Did you know that replacing a wooden garden fence around a domestic property could result in a potentially fatal electric shock? A Barnsley housing services provider has been fined £7,500 with £8,562 costs after exactly this happened to one of its employees who struck an underground electric cable with a metal spade whilst excavating a fence post hole. HSE guidance below explains what you need to know, and do, before digging or disturbing earth where underground services may be located.

It’s almost a year now since the HSE launched the “Beware Asbestos” campaign, but awareness is still very much lacking amongst trades people likely to come into contact with the potentially deadly substance. In response to reports of a Middlesex self employed heating engineer being fined £5,000 with £3,000 costs after removing asbestos lagged pipework in a domestic property with no precautions to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres, we share HSE guidance this week on exactly what type of information, instruction and training is necessary to provide a sufficient level of awareness.

And finally, after reports of a meat processing company being fined £28,000 after an employee suffered severe injuries to the fingers of his left hand when they came into contact with a band saw, we ask why machinery safety is important, and share HSE guidance on what workers using moving machinery should and should not do to prevent injury.

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

Provision of welfare facilities during construction work

Last week a Cheshire building contractor was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,495, for serious health breaches and lack of welfare facilities on a Culcheth building site.

Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received a complaint from a member of the public in May 2014 about the conditions on the site where work was being carried out to convert a disused NHS premises.

The HSE investigation found access to the construction site was restricted and a lack of both health and safety provisions and welfare facilities. Workers were entering the building via ladders and planks. Work was stopped whilst scaffolding was erected to make access to the building safe.

Dust from sandblasting activities was found to be affecting other workers on the site and inadequate protection had been provided. Workers were expected to carry out tasks such as groundworks and bricklaying but were unable to wash their hands to remove any contamination.

Organising site welfare

What you need to do

The law says that clients and contractors have responsibilities regarding welfare facilities on construction projects.

Contractors provide welfare facilities and clients must ensure this happens.

The pre-construction information prepared by the client should include the arrangements for welfare provision. On notifiable projects (longer than 30 days or 500 person days), the client must ensure the construction phase does not start unless they are satisfied that there are arrangements for welfare facilities to be provided.

Contractors must maintain the facilities throughout the life of the project.

The nature and scale of facilities required will depend on the size, location and type of project. Facilities include:

  • Toilets
  • Washing facilities
  • Drinking water
  • Changing rooms and lockers
  • Facilities for rest

What you need to know

Everyone who works on any site must have:

  • access to adequate toilet and washing facilities;
  • a place for preparing and consuming refreshments; and
  • somewhere for storing and drying clothing and personal protective equipment.

If mobile teams work at a number of locations over a few days (eg road repair and cable-laying gangs), these facilities can be provided at a central location accessible within a reasonable distance or time.

Decisions and action on welfare facilities need to be taken at an early stage of project planning.

Toilets

Toilets should be suitable and sufficient, ventilated, lit and kept in a clean and orderly condition.

Washing facilities must be provided so that workers can use them immediately after using the toilet or urinal, even if they are provided elsewhere.

Washing facilities

General washing facilities must be suitable and sufficient, kept clean and orderly and with basins or sinks large enough for people to wash their face, hands and forearms.

The facilities should include:

  • clean hot and cold, or warm, running water;
  • soap or other suitable means of cleaning;
  • towels or other suitable means of drying; and
  • showers where the nature of work is particularly dirty or there is a need to decontaminate.

Drinking water

Drinking water must be provided or made available at readily accessible and suitable places.

Cups are required unless the supply is in a jet from which people can drink easily.

Changing rooms and lockers

Changing rooms are needed where workers have to wear special clothing for the purposes of their work and cannot be expected to change elsewhere.

The rooms must be provided with seating, means of drying and keeping clothing and personal effects secure.

Facilities for rest

Rest rooms or rest areas are required equipped with tables and seating (with backs) sufficient for the number of persons likely to use them at any one time.

There should be arrangements for meals to be prepared and eaten, plus means for boiling water. In cold weather, heating should be provided.

For more information, HSE’s Construction Information Sheet No 59 can be downloaded free by clicking on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/cis59.pdf or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Excavation and underground services

Last week a Barnsley housing services provider was fined £7,500 with £8,562 in costs after an employee received an electric shock while replacing a wooden garden fence around a domestic property.

Barnsley Magistrates Court heard how the injured person struck an underground electric cable with a metal spade while excavating a post hole and received an electric shock. The shock did not cause any lasting injury to the joiner, though the court was told that such incidents do pose a risk of fatal injury.

The court found that the Company had failed to ensure the safety of their employee, in that work carried out near an electrical system was not planned in order to minimise the risk of a cable strike.

HSE and other organisations have produced guidance on electrical safety that is suitable for a wide range of industries and technical competencies. Most of the information produced by the HSE is available for immediate download.

What you need to know

When underground cables are damaged, people can be killed and injured by electric shock, electrical arcs (causing an explosion), and flames. This often results in severe burns to hands, face and body, even if protective clothing is being worn.

Damage can be caused when a cable is:

  • cut through by a sharp object such as the point of a tool; or
  • crushed by a heavy object or powerful machine.

Cables that have been previously damaged but left unreported and unrepaired can cause incidents.

The HSE booklet “Avoiding danger from underground services” gives guidance on how you can manage the risks of digging near underground cables and is free to download by clicking on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg47.pdf

The Electricity Networks Association (ENA) publication “Watch It! When digging in the vicinity of underground electric cables” also provides advice: https://www.southern-electric.co.uk/uploadedFiles/CoreMarketingSites/Assets/Documents/UndergroundCables.pdf

What you need to do

If you are digging or disturbing the earth you should take care to avoid damaging underground services. Underground electrical cables can be particularly hazardous because they often look like pipes and it is impossible to tell if they are live just by looking at them.

Damage to underground electrical cables can cause fatal or severe injury and the law says you must take precautions to avoid danger.

Excavation work should be properly managed to control risks, including:

  • Planning the work
  • Using cable plans
  • Cable locating devices
  • Safe digging practices

Planning the work

Most service cables belong to a Distribution Network Operator (DNO). However, some cables belong to other organisations such as the highways authority, Ministry of Defence or Network Rail.

You should check nearby for equipment owned by the organisations listed above, and if you suspect there are underground cables, ask them for plans to confirm their location. If underground cables are nearby you may need to ask someone from the organisation to come and accurately locate them for you.

If you are excavating near your own cables , then someone who is experienced in underground cable detection techniques should help you locate them using suitable equipment.

You may need to make underground cables dead for the work to proceed safely. Be aware that electricity companies are required to give five days’ notice to customers whose supply is to be disconnected.

Careful planning and risk assessments are essential before the work starts. Risk assessments should consider how the work is to be carried out, ensuring local circumstances are taken into account.

Using cable plans

Plans or other suitable information about all buried services in the area should be obtained and reviewed before any excavation work starts.

If the excavation work is an emergency, and plans and other information cannot be found, the work should be carried out as though there are live buried services in the area.

Symbols on electricity cable plans may vary between utilities and advice should be sought from the issuing office. Remember that high-voltage cables may be shown on separate plans from low-voltage cables.

Plans give only an indication of the location, and number of underground services at a particular site. It is essential that a competent person traces cables using suitable locating devices.

Cable locating devices

Before work begins, underground cables must be located, identified and clearly marked.

The position of the cable in or near the proposed work area should be pinpointed as accurately as possible by means of a locating device, using plans, and other information as a guide to the possible location of services and to help interpret the signal.

Remember: Locators should be used frequently and repeatedly during the course of the work.

People who use a locator should have received thorough training in its use and limitations. Locating devices should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, regularly checked and maintained in good working order.

Safe digging practices

Excavation work should be carried out carefully and follow recognised safe digging practices.

Once a locating device has been used to determine cable positions and routes, excavation may take place, with trial holes dug using suitable hand tools as necessary to confirm this.

Excavate alongside the service rather than directly above it. Final exposure of the service by horizontal digging is recommended, as the force applied to hand tools can be controlled more effectively.

Insulated tools should be used when hand digging near electric cables.

For more information visit HSE’s web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/information/excavations.htm, or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Asbestos information, instruction and training

A Middlesex self employed heating engineer has been fined £5,000 with £3,000 costs after removing asbestos lagged pipework in a domestic property with no precautions to prevent exposure to asbestos fibres.

The engineer was employed to install a new heating system in the domestic property. He removed the redundant pipework that was lagged with asbestos, using a powered electric saw. He then transported the pipework through the property and deposited it outside on the drive.

Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that the engineer did not have any asbestos awareness training. HSE told the court that had he been appropriately trained, he would have been in a position to recognise that the lagging may be asbestos. He would have known to avoid any work until it had been demonstrated as asbestos free or been removed by a licensed contractor. Instead, he removed the pipes with no precautions to prevent his own exposure to asbestos fibres, and the potential for other persons to be exposed. The homeowners have had to move out of their home pending thorough decontamination of the property.

Every employer must make sure that anyone who is liable to disturb asbestos during their normal work, or who supervises those employees, gets the correct level of information, instruction and training so that they can work safely and competently without risk to themselves or others.

What type of information, instruction and training is necessary?

Workers and supervisors must be able to recognise asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and know what to do if they come across them in order to protect themselves and others.

There are three main levels of information, instruction and training. These relate to:

  • Asbestos awareness
  • Non-licensable work with asbestos including NNLW
  • Licensable work with asbestos.

Attending a training course on its own will not make a worker competent. Competence is developed over time by implementing and consolidating skills learnt during training, on-the-job learning, instruction and assessment.

It is important that the level of information, instruction and training is appropriate for the work and the roles undertaken by each worker (and supervisor). Using a training needs analysis (TNA) will help to identify what topics should be covered to ensure workers have the right level of competence to avoid putting themselves or others at risk.

Asbestos awareness

Information, instruction and training for asbestos awareness is intended to give workers and supervisors the information they need to avoid work that may disturb asbestos during any normal work which could disturb the fabric of a building, or other item which might contain asbestos. It will not prepare workers, or self-employed contractors, to carry out work with asbestos-containing materials. If a worker is planning to carry out work that will disturb ACMs, further information, instruction and training will be needed.

Examples of those affected are listed below. There will be other occupations where asbestos may be disturbed in addition to those listed.:

  • General maintenance workers
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Joiners
  • Painters and decorators
  • Plasterers
  • Construction workers
  • Roofers
  • Shop fitters
  • Gas fitters
  • Heating and ventilation engineers
  • Demolition workers
  • Telecommunication engineers
  • Fire/burglar alarm installers
  • Computer and data installers
  • Architects
  • Building surveyors

Information, instruction and training about asbestos awareness should cover the following:

  • the properties of asbestos and its effects on health, including the increased risk of developing lung cancer for asbestos workers who smoke
  • the types, uses and likely occurrence of asbestos and asbestos materials in buildings and plant
  • the general procedures to deal with an emergency, eg an uncontrolled release of asbestos dust into the workplace
  • how to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos

Online learning (often referred to as e–learning) is increasingly used as a method of providing asbestos awareness training. HSE recognises the use of e-learning as a viable delivery method, among others, for asbestos awareness training, provided it satisfies the requirements of Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and the supporting Approved Code of Practice L143 ‘Managing and working with asbestos’.

Workers who plan to carry out work that will disturb asbestos require a higher level of information, instruction and training, in addition to asbestos awareness. This should take account of whether the work is non-licensed; notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW); or licensed work and should be job specific.

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

Why is machinery safety important?

A company which processes and distributes meat for retail catering and wholesale sectors has been fined £28,000 after an employee suffered severe injuries to the fingers of his left hand when they came into contact with a band saw.

Forfar Sheriff Court heard how on May 2013 an employee of the meat processing company was using a band saw which formed part of the machinery for cutting pig carcasses.

The court was told the band saw, which had an exposed blade, was being used as a replacement for the usual saw which was inoperative. The replacement band saw was not fitted to a conveyor to carry the sections of cut meat away from the blade and towards the employee. This meant that the employee’s hands were in close proximity to the exposed cutting blade.

It was during the process of moving the meat that the employee’s fingers came into contact with the band saw.

Moving machinery can cause injuries in many ways:

  • People can be struck and injured by moving parts of machinery or ejected material. Parts of the body can also be drawn in or trapped between rollers, belts and pulley drives
  • Sharp edges can cause cuts and severing injuries, sharp-pointed parts can cause stabbing or puncture the skin, and rough surface parts can cause friction or abrasion
  • People can be crushed, both between parts moving together or towards a fixed part of the machine, wall or other object, and two parts moving past one another can cause shearing
  • Parts of the machine, materials and emissions (such as steam or water) can be hot or cold enough to cause burns or scalds and electricity can cause electrical shock and burns
  • Injuries can also occur due to machinery becoming unreliable and developing faults or when machines are used improperly through inexperience or lack of training

What do I have to do?

Before you start

Before you start using any machine you need to think about what risks may occur and how these can be managed. You should therefore do the following:

  • Check that the machine is complete, with all safeguards fitted, and free from defects. The term ‘safeguarding’ includes guards, interlocks, two-hand controls, light guards, pressure-sensitive mats etc. By law, the supplier must provide the right safeguards and inform buyers of any risks (‘residual risks’) that users need to be aware of and manage because they could not be designed out
  • Produce a safe system of work for using and maintaining the machine. Maintenance may require the inspection of critical features where deterioration would cause a risk. Also look at the residual risks identified by the manufacturer in the information/ instructions provided with the machine and make sure they are included in the safe system of work
  • Ensure every static machine has been installed properly and is stable (usually fixed down)
  • Choose the right machine for the job and do not put machines where customers or visitors may be exposed to risk
  • Note that new machines should be CE marked and supplied with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English

Make sure the machine is:

  • safe for any work that has to be done when setting up, during normal use, when clearing blockages, when carrying out repairs for breakdowns, and during planned maintenance
  • properly switched off, isolated or locked-off before taking any action to remove blockages, clean or adjust the machine

Also, make sure you identify and deal with the risks from:

  • electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic power supplies
  • badly designed safeguards. These may be inconvenient to use or easily overridden, which could encourage your workers to risk injury and break the law. If they are, find out why they are doing it and take appropriate action to deal with the reasons/causes

Preventing access to dangerous parts

Think about how you can make a machine safe. The measures you use to prevent access to dangerous parts should be in the following order. In some cases it may be necessary to use a combination of these measures:

  • Use fixed guards (eg secured with screws or nuts and bolts) to enclose the dangerous parts, whenever practical. Use the best material for these guards – plastic may be easy to see through but may easily be damaged. Where you use wire mesh or similar materials, make sure the holes are not large enough to allow access to moving parts
  • If fixed guards are not practical, use other methods, eg interlock the guard so that the machine cannot start before the guard is closed and cannot be opened while the machine is still moving. In some cases, trip systems such as photoelectric devices, pressure-sensitive mats or automatic guards may be used if other guards are not practical
  • Where guards cannot give full protection, use jigs, holders, push sticks etc if it is practical to do so
  • Control any remaining risk by providing the operator with the necessary information, instruction, training, supervision and appropriate safety equipment

Other things you should consider

  • If machines are controlled by programmable electronic systems, changes to any programmes should be carried out by a competent person (someone who has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out the work safely). Keep a record of such changes and check they have been made properly
  • Ensure control switches are clearly marked to show what they do
  • Have emergency stop controls where necessary, eg mushroom-head push buttons within easy reach
  • Make sure operating controls are designed and placed to avoid accidental operation and injury, use two-hand controls where necessary and shroud start buttons and pedals
  • Do not let unauthorised, unqualified or untrained people use machinery – never allow children to operate or help at machines. Some workers, eg new starters, young people or those with disabilities, may be particularly at risk and need instruction, training and supervision
  • Adequate training should ensure that those who use the machine are competent to use it safely. This includes ensuring they have the correct skills, knowledge and experience – sometimes formal qualifications are needed, eg for chainsaw operators
  • Supervisors must also be properly trained and competent to be effective. They may need extra specific training and there are recognised courses for supervisors
  • Ensure the work area around the machine is kept clean and tidy, free from obstructions or slips and trips hazards, and well lit

Dos and don’ts of machinery safety for workers

Do…

  • check the machine is well maintained and fit to be used, ie appropriate for the job and working properly and that all the safety measures are in place – guards, isolators, locking mechanisms, emergency off switches etc
  • use the machine properly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • make sure you are wearing the appropriate protective clothing and equipment required for that machine, such as safety glasses, hearing protection and safety shoes

Don’t…

  • use a machine or appliance that has a danger sign or tag attached to it. Danger signs should only be removed by an authorised person who is satisfied that the machine or process is now safe
  • wear dangling chains, loose clothing, rings or have loose, long hair that could get caught up in moving parts
  • distract people who are using machines
  • remove any safeguards, even if their presence seems to make the job more difficult

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/index.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 and we’ll be more than happy to help.

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