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 – 29TH OCTOBER 2015

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

HSE issues health warning to the stone industry

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Work related injury and ill health still costing Britain £14 billion per year

Introduction

We open this week’s update with a health warning issued by the HSE to the stone industry, but also relevant to industries where exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can occur. Worryingly, during a recent inspection initiative in the south of England, a number of businesses were found to be unaware that in 2006 the workplace exposure limit for RCS was revised from 0.3 mg/m3 to 0.1mg/m3 thereby requiring them to devise more stringent controls.

Also, with the widely reported news yesterday that Volkswagen could be facing corporate manslaughter charges over rigged diesel emission tests, we look at the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, and the impact its introduction has had on companies and organisations – particularly the way in which their activities are managed and organised by senior management.

And finally, we share news of the financial – and human – cost to Britain of work related injury and ill health in the year 2014/15 according to statistics released by this week by the HSE.

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

HSE issues health warning to the stone industry

The Health and Safety Executive is urging the stone industry to do more to protect workers’ health following findings of a recent inspection initiative in the south of England.

HSE inspectors visited sixty stone businesses, including work surface manufacturers, stonemasons and monumental masons during the initiative, which ran from June to September, and was supported by trade association, Stone Federation Great Britain. The visited businesses were both Stone Federation Great Britain members and non-members.

Worryingly, serious breaches were found at over half (35) of the premises that were visited. HSE issued four Prohibition Notices, 54 Improvement Notices and provided verbal advice to others.

Although many of the sites visited were attempting to manage their health and safety, four common areas of concern were found throughout the initiative –

  • control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), a hazardous dust which can damage health,
  • handling and storage of stone,
  • poor machinery guarding, and
  • air compressors can create an explosion risk.

A number of businesses were unaware that in 2006 the workplace exposure limit for RCS was revised from 0.3 mg/m3 to 0.1mg/m3 thereby requiring them to devise more stringent controls.

Key issues in this area were:

  • Dry sweeping which can put fine ‘respirable’ stone dust back into the workplace air;
  • Extraction systems which are intended to protect workers by removing stone dust from air in the workplace;
  • Face masks that were inadequate.

HSE Inspector Tahir Mortuza, who led on the initiative, said:

“HSE intends to visit more stone work businesses in the future to ensure that health and safety is adequately managed. Business owners should review their processes and the materials they use whilst thinking about what might cause harm and whether they are doing enough to protect workers.

“Once the risks have been identified, businesses need to decide how best to control them so they can put the appropriate measures in place. A good starting point is to look at respirable crystalline silica, as it is one of the greatest risks for businesses engaged in stonework, as found in this inspection campaign.”

Chief Executive of the Stone Federation Great Britain, Jane Buxey, said:

“Health and Safety is a top priority for the Federation and we are working closely with the HSE to improve standards in the Industry.

“We hope to run a number of joint events with HSE and they will be sending representatives to Stone Federation Great Britain events and the Federation’s Health and Safety Forum.”

You can also keep up to date with new guidance, events and other important stone working issues by signing up for the stone working e-bulletin: http://www.hse.gov.uk/stonemasonry/subscribe.htm

Occupational exposure to RCS can also occur in the following industries:

  • construction and demolition processes – concrete, stone, brick, mortar;
  • quarrying;
  • slate mining and slate processing;
  • potteries, ceramics, ceramic glaze manufacture, brick and tile manufacture;
  • foundries;
  • refractory production and cutting;
  • concrete product manufacture;
  • grit and abrasive blasting, particularly on sandstone.

The HSE have published a leaflet “Control of exposure to silica dust – A guide for employees”, free to download by clicking on the following link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg463.pdf

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.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

It has been widely reported in the news this week that Volkswagen could be facing corporate manslaughter charges over rigged diesel emission tests.

What is corporate manslaughter?

When the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in April 2008, it was a landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations could be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

The Act clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.

The Ministry of Justice leads on the Act and more information is available on its Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 webpage.

Although the offence is not part of health and safety law, the HSE welcomed and supports the act, which has introduced an important new element in the corporate management of health and safety.

Prosecutions are of the corporate body and not individuals, but the liability of directors, board members or other individuals under health and safety law or general criminal law, are unaffected. And the corporate body itself and individuals can still be prosecuted for separate health and safety offences.

The Act also largely removes the Crown immunity that applied to the previous common law corporate manslaughter offence. This is consistent with Government and HSE policy to secure the eventual removal of Crown immunity for health and safety offences. The Act provides a number of specific exemptions that cover public policy decisions and the exercise of core public functions.

Companies and organisations should keep their health and safety management systems under review, in particular, the way in which their activities are managed and organised by senior management. The Institute of Directors and HSE have published guidance for directors on their responsibilities for health and safety: ‘Leading health and safety at work: leadership actions for directors and board members’ (INDG417): http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg417.pdf

For answers to the following FAQs, click on the link http://www.hse.gov.uk/corpmanslaughter/faqs.htm#where:

  • Where can I find the Act and any guidance?
  • When did the new Act come into force?
  • Are there any new duties or obligations under the Act?
  • What do companies and organisations need to do to comply?
  • Where does health and safety legislation come in?
  • Who will investigate and prosecute under the new offence?
  • What is the role of health and safety regulators like HSE, local authorities etc?
  • Will directors, board members or other individuals be prosecuted?

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.

Work related injury and ill health still costing Britain £14 billion per year

More than a million people are being made ill by their work, costing society £14.3 billion, according to new figures published this week.

Despite Britain remaining one of the safest places to work in Europe, injury and ill-health statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive show that an estimated 27.3 million working days were lost due to work related ill health or injury in 2014/15.

In the same year 142 workers were killed, and there were 611,000 injuries in the workplace.

Of the estimated 1.2 million people who suffered from a work related illness, 516,000 were new cases.

HSE’s Chief Statistician Alan Spence explains more about the latest findings in this video (click on the link): https://youtu.be/T5zRbXfQKpg

The full statistical report (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1415.pdf) and industry specific data (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/index.htm) can be found online (click on the links).

This is the view of HSE’s Chair Judith Hackitt: “It’s encouraging that there have been improvements in injuries and ill health caused by work related activities. But behind the statistics are people, their families, friends, work colleagues, directly affected by something that’s gone wrong, that is usually entirely preventable. Nobody should lose their life or become ill simply from doing their job. These figures show that despite the great strides and improvements made over the last 40 years since Britain’s health and safety regime was established, there is still more that can be done”.

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

Thankyou to Bryan & Armstrong Ltd (www.bryan-armstrong.com), for very kindly providing us with the below infographic, relating to the latest annual health and safety statistics:

HSE Health and safety statistics 2014/15 Infographic
Click image to open full version (via Bryan Armstrong Ltd).