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

 

 

Vehicles at work and reversing – three companies fined in same week after two separate fatalities

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In the last week, a construction company and groundwork contractor, along with a farm and its owner, have been fined after two separate incidents involving fatalites resulting from being struck by reversing vehicles.

In the first case, the construction company and groundwork contractor failed to ensure the safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles on their site. In the second case, the farm and owner failed to ensure the vehicle was maintained. It was found to be in poor condition, with dirty and badly positioned mirrors, and dirty glass in the cab, resulting in compromised visibility.

Reversing vehicles

What’s the problem?

Nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur during reversing. Many other reversing accidents do not result in injury but cause costly damage to vehicles, equipment and premises.

Most of these accidents can be avoided by taking simple precautions, such as those below.

Guidance

Remove the need for reversing altogether, by setting up one-way systems, for example drive-through loading and unloading positions. Where reversing is unavoidable, routes should be organised to minimise the need for reversing.

Ensure visiting drivers are familiar with the layout of the workplace, and with any site rules. Do drivers have to report to reception on arrival?

In locations where reversing cannot be avoided:

  • ‘Reversing areas’ should be planned out and clearly marked.
  • People who do not need to be in reversing areas should be kept well clear.
  • Consider employing a trained signaller (a banksman), both to keep the reversing area free of pedestrians and to guide drivers. Be aware: The use of signallers is not allowed in some industries due to the size of vehicles involved, and the difficulty that drivers have in seeing them.
  • A signaller:
  • Will need to use a clear, agreed system of signalling.
  • Will need to be visible to drivers at all times.
  • Will need to stand in a safe position, from which to guide the reversing vehicle without being in its way.
  • Should wear very visible clothing, such as reflective vests, and ensure that any signals are clearly seen.
  • If drivers lose sight of the signallers they should know to stop immediately.
  • Consider whether portable radios or similar communication systems would be helpful.

The following steps might help to reduce the risk of reversing accidents. The following are examples, but it is unlikely that any single measure will be enough to ensure safety:

Site layouts can be designed (or modified) to increase visibility for drivers and pedestrians, for example:

  • By increasing the area allowed for reversing.
  • By installing fixed mirrors in smaller areas.

Reducing the dangers caused by ‘blind-spots’:

  • Most vehicles already have external side-mounted and rear-view mirrors fitted. These need to be kept clean and in good repair.
  • Refractive lenses fitted to rear windows or closed-circuit television systems can be used to help drivers to see behind the vehicle.
  • If drivers cannot see behind the vehicle, they should leave their cab and check behind the vehicle before reversing.

Reversing alarms can be fitted:

  • These should be kept in working order.
  • Audible alarms should be loud and distinct enough that they do not become part of the background noise.
  • where an audible alarm might not stand out from the background noise, flashing warning lights can be used.

Other safety devices can be fitted to vehicles:

  • For example, a number of ‘sensing’ and ‘trip’ systems are available, which either warn the driver or stop the vehicle when an obstruction is detected close to, or comes in contact with, the reversing vehicle.

Additionally:

  • Stops such as barriers, or buffers at loading bays can be used. They should be highly visible, and sensibly positioned.
  • Where vehicles reverse up to structures or edges, barriers or wheel stops can be used to warn drivers that they need to stop.
  • White lines on the floor can help the driver position the vehicle accurately.

For more information visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/information/reversing.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 MAY 2016

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

Separating pedestrians and vehicles – body manufacturing firm fined after workers crushed between vehicles

A vehicle body manufacturing company in Stoke on Trent has been fined £20,000 after two workers were seriously injured when they were crushed between a moving vehicle and stationary vehicles.

North Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court heard that a colleague of the two men was attempting to manoeuvre an 18 tonne vehicle in the company’s workshop in January 2015 when two employees were pinned and crushed between the manoeuvring vehicle and two other stationary vehicles. One other employee jumped out of the way.

One worker suffered several fractures to his pelvis and ribs as well as internal bladder and kidney lacerations. The other worker suffered crush injuries to his legs.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that the company had failed to identify and assess workplace transport risks and had failed to put in place protective measures, safe systems of work and proper instruction and training to ensure employee pedestrian safety during vehicle movement.

Separating pedestrians and vehicles

Key messages

  • By law, pedestrians or vehicles must be able to use a traffic route without causing danger to the health or safety of people working near it.
  • Roadways and footpaths should be separate whenever possible.
  • You need to consider protection for people who work near vehicle routes.
  • By law, traffic routes must also keep vehicle routes far enough away from doors or gates that pedestrians use, or from pedestrian routes that lead on to them, so the safety of pedestrians is not threatened.

Questions to ask

Your risk assessment should include answers to these questions:

–              How are pedestrians and cyclists kept away from vehicles?

–              How do you mark out and sign vehicle and pedestrian areas?

–              Where do vehicles and pedestrians have to use the same route?

–              How do you mark out and sign crossing points

–              for drivers?

–              for pedestrians?

–              How do you tell drivers and pedestrians about the routes and the layout? For example:

–              staff who work on site (training)

–              new staff (induction)

–              visitors

–              Apart from collisions, what else presents a health and safety risk? For example:

–              materials falling from vehicles

–              noise

–              fumes

–              How can you manage these risks?

Pedestrians and cyclists

A driver, pedestrian or cyclist needs enough time to react successfully if they meet one another (for example, where there is limited visibility or where other noise might mask the approach of a vehicle).

Wherever it is reasonable to do so, you should provide separate routes or pavements for pedestrians to keep them away from vehicles. The most effective way to do this is to separate pedestrian from vehicle activity, by making routes entirely separate. Where possible, pedestrian traffic routes should represent the paths people would naturally follow (often known as ‘desire lines’), to encourage people to stay on them.

Footbridges and subways

Footbridges and subways are good examples of complete segregation. However, make sure that routes over traffic cannot dislodge high loads. You may also need to consider access for disabled people.

Limited access

Pedestrians should be kept away from areas where vehicles are working unless they need to be there. A good example of this is quarry working, where drivers are usually not allowed out of their vehicles beyond a certain point to make sure they are safe where large surface mining vehicles are operating.

Barriers and markings

Effective ways to keep vehicles away from pedestrian areas include:

  • protective barriers;
  • clear markings to set apart vehicle and pedestrians routes; and
  • raised kerbs to mark vehicle and pedestrian areas.

Where needed, provide suitable barriers or guard rails:

  • at entrances and exits to buildings;
  • at the corners of buildings; and
  • to prevent pedestrians from walking straight on to roads.

Crossing points

Where pedestrian and vehicle routes cross, provide appropriate crossing points for people to use. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers should be able to see clearly in all directions. Crossing points should be suitably marked and signposted, and should include dropped kerbs where the walkway is raised from the driving surface. Find out more in Signs, signals and markings: http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/signs.htm

Where necessary, provide barriers or rails to prevent pedestrians from crossing at dangerous points and to direct them to the crossing places. Similarly, you can use deterrent paving to guide pedestrians to the crossing points.

At busy crossing places, consider traffic lights, zebra crossings (or other types of crossing), or suitable bridges or subways as a way of segregating pedestrians from moving vehicles.

Where vehicle roadways are particularly wide, you may need to consider ‘island’ refuges to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the road in stages. In some cases, subways or footbridges could be necessary.

Where the number of vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists using a route is likely to change at regular times, consider preventing pedestrians or vehicles from using the routes at these times, to keep them apart. An example might be limiting the use of vehicles on a roadway during a shift changeover, when many pedestrians are likely to be crossing.

Segregation

Provide separate vehicle and pedestrian doors wherever possible (segregation). Windows on doors can help drivers and pedestrians see whether it is safe for them to approach a door.

If vehicles use routes inside buildings, use signs and markings on the floor to tell both drivers and pedestrians.

On routes used by both pedestrians and automatic (driverless) vehicles, make sure that vehicles do not trap pedestrians. The vehicles should be fitted with safeguards to keep the risk of injury low if a vehicle hits someone.

Provide enough clearance between the vehicles and pedestrians, and take care to make sure that fixtures along the route do not create trapping hazards.

Training and induction

Visitors

Make sure that visiting pedestrians report to the site office, if this is appropriate. Tell visitors about site safety policies and procedures before they are allowed into areas where vehicles work. Sometimes you may need to make sure that pedestrians, including any visitors, wear high-visibility clothing.

For more information about vehicles at work, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/index.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