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 – 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

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 5TH NOVEMBER 2015

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

New sentencing guidelines introduced for corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety

Dichloromethane (DCM) Restriction: firm sentenced after worker dies after inhaling paint stripper

Dumpers: construction firm sentenced after dumper truck topple

Introduction

Last week, we looked at the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, and the impact its introduction has had on companies and organisations. This week, new sentencing guidelines have been introduced for corporate manslaughter, as well as health and safety and food safety. Publication of the guidelines (by the Sentencing Council) ensures that for the first time, there will be comprehensive sentencing guidelines covering the most commonly sentenced health and safety offences and food safety offences in England and Wales.

Also, further to news last week of a motor vehicle repair company being fined £50,000 following the death of a worker after inhaling dichloromethane (DCM) fumes while cleaning a chemical paint stripping tank, we share HSE guidance on the safe working practices that should be followed where the use of paint stripper containing DCM is permitted, i.e. in industrial installations only.

And finally, we close with HSE guidance on the safe use of dumpers, following the recent sentencing of a construction firm after a worker was injured when a 10 tonne dumper truck he was driving overturned and landed in an open excavation.

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

New sentencing guidelines introduced for corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety

New sentencing guidelines have been published this week aiming to ensure a consistent, fair and proportionate approach to sentencing organisations or individuals convicted of corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety and hygiene offences.

Offences that come under the guidelines are very varied and could include a building firm that causes the death of an employee by not providing the proper equipment for working at height, a restaurant that causes an outbreak of e. coli poisoning through unsafe food preparation, a manufacturer that causes injury to a new worker by not providing training for operating machinery or a gas fitter whose sub-standard work leads to the risk of an explosion in someone’s home.

The publication of the guidelines ensures that for the first time, there will be comprehensive sentencing guidelines covering the most commonly sentenced health and safety offences and food safety offences in England and Wales. Until now, there has been limited guidance for judges and magistrates in dealing with what can be complex and serious offences that do not come before the courts as frequently as some other criminal offences.

The introduction of the guidelines means that in some cases, offenders will receive higher penalties, particularly large organisations committing serious offences – such as when an organisation is convicted of deliberately breaking the law and creating a high risk of death or serious injury. It is not anticipated that there will be higher fines across the board, or that they will be significantly higher in the majority of cases to those currently imposed.

The increase in penalties for serious offending has been introduced because in the past, some offenders did not receive fines that properly reflected the crimes they committed. The Council wants fines for these offences to be fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the means of offenders.

In order to achieve this, the guidelines set out sentencing ranges that reflect the very different levels of risk of harm that can result from these offences.

Corporate manslaughter always involves at least one death, but health and safety offences can vary hugely; they may pose the risk of minor harm or lead to multiple fatalities. Food offences are also wide-ranging. They could involve poor hygiene or preparation standards in a restaurant kitchen that put customers at risk of illness or that cause fatal food poisoning.

The sentencing ranges also take into account how culpable the offender was. This could range from minor failings in procedures to deliberately dangerous acts.

While prison sentences are available for individuals convicted of very serious offences, most offences are committed by organisations and therefore fines are the only sentence that can be given.

The guidelines use the turnover of the offender to identify the starting point of the fine. Turnover is used as this is a clear indicator that can be easily assessed.

However, turnover is never the only factor taken into account. The guidelines require the court to “step back”, review and adjust the initial fine if necessary. It must take into account any additional relevant financial information, such as the profit margin of the organisation, the potential impact on employees, or potential impact on the organisation’s ability to improve conditions or make restitution to victims. This means sentences will always be tailored to the offender’s specific circumstances. Fines may move up or down or outside the ranges entirely as a result of these additional mandatory steps.

Legislation requires that any fine imposed must reflect the seriousness of the offence and take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. All factors being equal, a similar level of fine given to a large, wealthy corporation on the one hand and a sole trader with a modest turnover on the other would be unfair, just as the same speeding fine given to a premiership footballer and someone on an average income would not achieve the same level of punishment or deterrence.

The UK’s record on worker fatalities is good, but where such offences are committed, the Council believes fines should be available which reflect the seriousness of the offence. As well as causing fatalities, health and safety offences may risk or cause a wide spectrum of injury and illness, including a life-changing disability or health condition for victims.

While addressing remedial action with offenders is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive rather than the courts, the guideline does provide for remedial orders to be made by the court in addition to or instead of punishment in cases where they may be appropriate. The guideline also includes a range of mitigating factors which allow for voluntary positive action to remedy a failure on the part of offenders to be reflected in sentences.

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said:

“These guidelines will introduce a consistent approach to sentencing, ensuring fair and proportionate sentences for those who cause death or injury to their employees and the public or put them at risk. These offences can have very serious consequences and it is important that sentences reflect these.”

Rod Ainsworth, Director of Regulatory and Legal Strategy at the FSA said:

“We welcome these guidelines. They will ensure that there is consistency in sentencing for food safety and food hygiene offences across the country. They will also ensure that offenders are sentenced fairly and proportionately in the interests of consumers.”

Following their publication this week, the guidelines will come into force in courts on 1 February 2016.

© Crown copyright: contains public sector information published by the Sentencing Council, and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

Dichloromethane (DCM) Restriction: firm sentenced after worker dies after inhaling paint stripper

An employer has been fined £50,000 after a worker died after inhaling fumes while cleaning a chemical paint stripping tank at a motor vehicle repair company.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard how in August 2011, the worker was employed by the company to undertake general duties which included collections and deliveries, removing and replacing tyres, and moving alloy wheels into, and out of, the chemical stripping tank. He was overcome by dichloromethane vapour while attempting to remove stripping debris from within the chemical stripping tank and died as a result of his exposure to those vapours.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the worker was provided with no formal training in respect of the use of the chemical stripping tank and the chemical stripping agent used by the company. Instead he was given ‘on the job’ training.

For more information about chemicals at work visit the website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/chemicals/

Dichloromethane (DCM) Restriction

A new ban on some supply and use of paint strippers containing the hazardous substance ‘dichloromethane’ (DCM, and also known as methylene chloride) is coming into force.  For the purposes of this ban, the term ‘paint stripper’ is taken to mean DCM (or mixtures containing it) intended for stripping paint, varnish or lacquer.

Pure DCM (or mixtures containing it) sold and used for other purposes (e.g. degreasing) aren’t banned and can continue to be sold and used (although not for stripping paint).

The new ban makes a distinction between three types of use:

  • ‘Industrial’ use of paint strippers in ‘industrial installations’ (i.e. facilities where paint stripping takes place) – this is allowed to continue as long as certain safe working practices are followed.
  • ‘Professional’ use by workers where this takes place away from an industrial installation. This will be banned, but UK can choose to allow continued safe use by specifically trained professionals.
  • ‘Consumer’ use by the general public, such as DIY. Supply to consumers is banned.

Industrial use

Use of DCM-based paint strippers can continue in industrial installations so long as certain safe working practices are followed. Supply for these uses is also permitted. The required conditions for continued industrial use are listed in paragraph 4 of the restriction text:

(a) effective ventilation in all processing areas, in particular for the wet processing and the drying of stripped articles: local exhaust ventilation at strip tanks supplemented by forced ventilation in those areas, so as to minimise exposure and to ensure compliance, where technically feasible, with relevant occupational exposure limits;

(b) measures to minimise evaporation from strip tanks comprising: lids for covering strip tanks except during loading and unloading; suitable loading and unloading arrangements for strip tanks; and wash tanks with water or brine to remove excess solvent after unloading;

(c) measures for the safe handling of dichloromethane in strip tanks comprising: pumps and pipework for transferring paint stripper to and from strip tanks; and suitable arrangements for safe cleaning of tanks and removal of sludge;

(d) personal protective equipment that complies with Directive 89/686/EEC comprising: suitable protective gloves, safety goggles and protective clothing; and appropriate respiratory protective equipment where compliance with relevant occupational exposure limits cannot be otherwise achieved;

(e) adequate information, instruction and training for operators in the use of such equipment.

Paint strippers supplied for industrial use must be labelled in accordance with either the CHIP Regulations or CLP, and must also be ‘visibly, legibly and indelibly marked’ with the text ‘Restricted to industrial use and to professionals approved in certain EU Member States — verify where use is allowed.’ Suppliers will wish to satisfy themselves that mixtures are being supplied for legal uses, in order to explain such a due diligence approach if challenged.

Professional (mobile) use

The ban first took effect on 6 December 2010.  Since then formulators of DCM-based paint strippers have not been allowed to put their products into the supply chain for use outside industrial installations. Suppliers could however continue to sell existing stocks to professionals or the public for a further year, until 6 December 2011. On the 6 June 2012 all use of DCM-based paint strippers by professionals outside industrial installations had to cease.

For clarification or more information, please contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Dumpers: construction firm sentenced after dumper truck topple

A construction firm has been sentenced after a worker was injured when a 10 tonne dumper truck he was driving over turned and landed in an open excavation.

Peterborough Magistrates’ Court heard the construction firm failed to put in place measures such as stop blocks to prevent vehicles from falling into the excavation, failed to plan and implement a safe system of work, and inadequately trained the dumper truck driver.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting said the incident could have easily been avoided by putting simple safety measures in place.

The driver of the truck sustained crush injuries to his wrist.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector who investigated and prosecuted this case, said: “Accidents can be prevented by ensuring construction work is planned, managed and monitored in a way that ensures it is carried out safely from the start, including for example the use of stop blocks at the edge of excavations”.

Dumpers

What you need to do

The law says you must organise your site to segregate pedestrians and dumpers. The dumpers used must be carefully selected, maintained and operated by trained drivers. Key issues are:

  • Dumper hazards
  • Controlling the risk
  • Training and competence
  • Inspection and maintenance

What you need to know

A safe workplace for all vehicle operations must be established by separating pedestrians and vehicles and providing hazard-free traffic routes. See Traffic management (http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/vehiclestrafficmanagement.htm).

Dumper hazards

Most fatal injuries involving dumpers are caused by:

  • Overturning – over 60% of dumper deaths involve the driver when the vehicle overturns;
  • Collision – most other deaths occur when pedestrians are struck by the dumper when it is reversing or going forwards on site.

Controlling the risk

It is important to select the right dumper for the job. There are a number of key factors to consider when controlling the significant hazards arising from use of dumpers. These are:

  • Gradients: Plan the work so that dumpers are used on gradients that are within their safe working capacity. Check with the manufacturer.
  • Competence: Arrange for dumpers to be driven by trained and competent operators and implement a system for supervising safe driving practice.
  • Safety devices: Check that dumpers are provided with roll-over protection and that drivers use their seatbelts.
  • Loading: Make sure loads are distributed evenly and provide purpose-built platforms for regularly transported items, eg large drums.
  • Vision: Make sure that loads do not obscure driver vision.
  • Edges: Provide wheel stops at a safe distance from edges of excavations, pits and spoil heaps to prevent site dumpers falling when tipping.

Training and competence

There are two categories of worker who must be trained and competent regarding dumper hazards and precautions:

  • Drivers should be trained, competent and authorised to operate the specific dumper. Training certificates from recognised schemes help demonstrate competence, and certificates should be checked for validity;
  • Pedestrians: should be instructed in safe pedestrian routes on site and the procedure for making drivers aware of their presence.

Inspection and maintenance

A programme of daily visual checks, regular inspections and servicing schedules should be established in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the risks associated with each vehicle.

Drivers should be encouraged to report defects or problems. Reported problems should be put right quickly and the dumper taken out of service if the item is safety critical.

For clarification or more information, please 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