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 – 22ND SEPTEMBER 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

Traffic management on construction sites – construction company fined £800,000 after worker injured

A construction company has been fined £800,000 after a contractor was run over on a large site in Surrey.

The contractor was a site foreman on the large housing development project when, in December 2014, he was struck by and pulled under a large bulk powder (mortar) carrier. He had been walking along the site road toward the rear of the vehicle which was located on a T junction having just reversed into it. He walked along the nearside of the vehicle as it pulled forward and turned towards the nearside. He was hit by the vehicle and pulled under it.

He suffered serious life threatening injuries. His skin was removed and split on his left arm and leg, he fractured his left hip requiring a pin to be inserted, and fingers on his left hand were broken. His left leg has been left permanently shorter than his right by 20mm.

Reading Crown Court heard the site, run by the construction company (appointed as the principal contractor), had failed to plan and manage the workplace transport effectively. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the incident could have been avoided had they monitored and taken action to ensure workers stayed behind the pedestrian barriers and not walked on the road, and prevented large HGVs reversing 100s of metres at a time.

The construction company pleaded guilty to breaches of Regulation 36 (1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £800,000 plus £10,984 costs.

HSE’s inspector John Berezansky said.

“[The contractor] suffered life changing injuries because [the construction company] did not properly manage and monitor the workplace transport on their construction site. When working with such large delivery vehicles and construction plant, especially on projects where there are lots of pedestrians,  the principal contractor much take responsibility and ensure the health and safety of all those involved.”

Traffic management on site

What you need to do

Important statistic: on average, each year, about 7 workers die as a result of accidents involving vehicles or mobile plant on construction sites. A further 93 are seriously injured.

The law says that you must organise a construction site so that vehicles and pedestrians using site routes can move around safely.

The routes need to be suitable for the persons or vehicles using them, in suitable positions and sufficient in number and size.

The term ‘vehicles’ includes: cars, vans, lorries, low-loaders and mobile plant such as excavators, lift trucks and site dumpers etc.

The key message is: construction site vehicle incidents can and should be prevented by the effective management of transport operations throughout the construction process.

Key issues in dealing with traffic management on site are:

  • Keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart
  • Minimising vehicle movements
  • People on site
  • Turning vehicles
  • Visibility
  • Signs and instructions

What you need to know

Each year within the construction industry, approximately ten people die as a result of being struck by vehicles on site. In addition, there are hundreds of preventable accidents and injuries.

Accidents occur from groundworks to finishing works and managers, workers, visitors to sites and members of the public can all be at risk.

Inadequate planning and control is the root cause of many construction vehicle accidents.

Keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart

The majority of construction transport accidents result from the inadequate separation of pedestrians and vehicles.

This can usually be avoided by careful planning, particularly at the design stage, and by controlling vehicle operations during construction work.

The following actions will help keep pedestrians and vehicles apart:

  • Entrances and exits – provide separate entry and exit gateways for pedestrians and vehicles;
  • Walkways – provide firm, level, well-drained pedestrian walkways that take a direct route where possible;
  • Crossings – where walkways cross roadways, provide a clearly signed and lit crossing point where drivers and pedestrians can see each other clearly;
  • Visibility – make sure drivers driving out onto public roads can see both ways along the footway before they move on to it;
  • Obstructions – do not block walkways so that pedestrians have to step onto the vehicle route; and
  • Barriers – think about installing a barrier between the roadway and walkway.

Minimising vehicle movements

Good planning can help to minimise vehicle movement around a site. For example, landscaping to reduce the quantities of fill or spoil movement.

To limit the number of vehicles on site:

  • provide car and van parking for the workforce and visitors away from the work area;
  • control entry to the work area; and
  • plan storage areas so that delivery vehicles do not have to cross the site.

People on site

Employers should take steps to make sure that all workers are fit and competent to operate the vehicles, machines and attachments they use on site by, for example:

  • checks when recruiting drivers/operators or hiring contractors;
  • training drivers and operators;
  • managing the activities of visiting drivers.

People who direct vehicle movements (signallers) must be trained and authorised to do so.

Accidents can also occur when untrained or inexperienced workers drive construction vehicles without authority. Access to vehicles should be managed and people alerted to the risk.

Turning vehicles

The need for vehicles to reverse should be avoided where possible as reversing is a major cause of fatal accidents.

One-way systems can reduce the risk, especially in storage areas.

A turning circle could be installed so that vehicles can turn without reversing.

Visibility

If vehicles reverse in areas where pedestrians cannot be excluded the risk is elevated and visibility becomes a vital consideration.

You should consider:

  • Aids for drivers – mirrors, CCTV cameras or reversing alarms that can help drivers can see movement all round the vehicle;
  • Signallers – who can be appointed to control manoeuvres and who are trained in the task;
  • Lighting – so that drivers and pedestrians on shared routes can see each other easily. Lighting may be needed after sunset or in bad weather;
  • Clothing – pedestrians on site should wear high-visibility clothing.

Signs and instructions

Make sure that all drivers and pedestrians know and understand the routes and traffic rules on site. Use standard road signs where appropriate

Provide induction training for drivers, workers and visitors and send instructions out to visitors before their visit.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/vehiclestrafficmanagement.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