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 – 14TH JANUARY 2016

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IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Excavation and underground services – electrical explosion leaves worker scarred for life

Sensible health and safety management in schools – school in court over science experiment injury

Work equipment and machinery – housing trust in court after mower mangles worker’s hand

Introduction

We open this week’s update with news of two construction companies being fined £45,000 each after two workers were seriously burned, and one scarred for life after they cut into a live 11,000v electrical cable. The HSE found that the principal contractor for the project had failed to identify the risk from live electrical cables that had been dug up and exposed (in addition to other failings by both companies at the site), so we’re sharing HSE guidance on excavation and underground services.

Moving from construction to education, it’s probably no surprise to readers that over half of secondary schools are now academies, and that up to 1,000 more could go through the transition by the next election. When a school becomes an academy, the Governing Body, as the employer, becomes legally responsible for health and safety and the school no longer automatically receives the Health, Safety and Wellbeing service that it was entitled to as a maintained school. So this week, after news of a chemistry laboratory technician losing parts of three fingers and sustaining a serious internal injury while preparing a highly sensitive explosive for use in a ‘fireworks’ demonstration, we also share HSE guidance on sensible health and safety management in schools.

And finally, we’re again sharing HSE guidance on work equipment and machinery, after news of a housing trust being fined £140,000 plus £70,000 costs after a worker suffered severe injuries to his left hand when it was struck by a metal blade on a ride-on mower.

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

Excavation and underground services – electrical explosion leaves worker scarred for life

Two construction companies have been fined £45,000 each after two workers were seriously burned, and one scarred for life after they cut into a live 11,000v electrical cable.

Southwark Crown Court heard the labourer and a bricklayer were working in a House of Lords site at Millbank, London, on 1 July 2013, to lay bricks around a manhole.

One of the men, who was 22 at the time of the incident, hit the cable with a jackhammer when removing old brickwork and suffered serious burns to his arms, legs, hands and face. He was in hospital for nearly a month receiving treatment to his injuries.

The other worker, a 63-year-old man, suffered significant burns to his face and neck. He has been treated for the longer term traumatic stress because of the incident and is unable to continue working with drills and machines.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation into the incident and the conditions found at the construction site.

One of the companies – the principal contractor for the project – had failed to identify the risk from live electrical cables that had been dug up and exposed, failed to provide information warning that the incident cable was live, and failed to adequately manage the site and the contractor.

The employer of the two injured workers also failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment before the work started, failed to provide effective supervision during the work and failed to check competence before allocating tasks including the operation of the jackhammer.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented after the hearing: “This serious incident should be a warning to the industry about the need to identify the risks to workers’ safety before work begins, so they can be protected.

“Employers have a duty to check workers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and training before they allow them to use equipment such as jackhammers on construction sites. A key point is to not assume a worker can use the equipment safely, just because they may have operated it previously.

“The ferocious explosion resulted in some serious injuries. This incident could easily have resulted in a fatality, and other employers should take this as a warning about the risks of working near electrical cables.”

Excavation and underground services

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” (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg47.htm) gives guidance on how you can manage the risks of digging near underground cables.

The Electricity Networks Association (ENA) publication “Watch It! When digging in the vicinity of underground electric cables” also provides advice.

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

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.

Find out more (click on the links for further information):

For more information, visit the HSE 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 happy to help.

Sensible health and safety management in schools – school in court over science experiment injury

A chemistry laboratory technician lost parts of three fingers and sustained a serious internal injury while preparing a highly sensitive explosive for use in a ‘fireworks’ demonstration to a class of children.

Bristol Magistrates’ Court heard the now retired staff member lost the top joints of his left hand index, middle and ring fingers and ruptured his bowel while preparing the explosive.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the laboratory technician spent 12 days in total in hospital after the October 2014 incident. Although he returned to work in February 2015, he has since retired.

It was revealed that the preparation of explosive substances had been carried out in the school several times a year since 2009. The mixture in question and other substances had been used in ‘fireworks’ demonstrations.

The court also heard that other explosive substances, namely flash powder and gunpowder, were stored in the school’s chemistry storeroom.

HSE said the incident could have been avoided if the school had implemented clear management arrangements to control and review the risks posed by the chemicals used in its teaching activities.

The school admitted that it failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees, in breach of its duty under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

It also admitted failing to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment, in this case its pupils, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, in breach of its duty under Section 3 of the same act.

The school was fined a total of £26,000 [£8,000 for the section 2 offence and £18,000 for the section 3 offence] and ordered to pay £12,176 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Susan Chivers said: “Schools need to have clear health and safety arrangements in place for their staff and students.

“They should set up adequate control systems and ensure that these arrangements are clearly understood and adhered to. They should also follow recognised guidance provided by CLEAPSS (formerly known as the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services) and similar organisations regarding the control of risks to health and safety in practical science work.”

Leading sensible health and safety management in schools

Sensible health and safety management means making sure that the focus is on real risks with the potential to cause harm, not wasting resources on trivial matters and unnecessary paperwork. In short effective leaders follow a sensible and proportionate approach to health and safety management that promotes risk awareness rather than risk avoidance.

While many schools manage health and safety effectively and sensibly, some have adopted over cautious approaches. This means that pupils are missing out on challenging and exciting activities and learning opportunities, and the chance to develop new skills.

In schools sensible health and safety starts at the top and relies on every member of the management team making sure that risk is managed responsibly and proportionately. It is about creating a safe learning environment, giving pupils an appreciation of risk and how to deal with it. It means doing what is reasonably practicable to reduce significant risks by putting in place control measures to manage the real risks. It is not about the elimination of all risk.

Health and safety arrangements in schools need to be proportionate and appropriate to the risks involved:

  • Primary schools and ‘traditional’ classrooms in secondary and sixth form colleges are typically lower risk environments, and you will probably already be doing enough. The classroom checklist (http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/classroom-checklist.htm), which is not mandatory, provides a useful prompt for these types of classroom.
  • Risks may increase in Design and Technology workshops, science laboratories, art studios, textiles, drama, and PE.
  • Some of the higher risks to manage include vehicle and pedestrian movements on site, refurbishment and construction work, and adventure activities. You may wish to consider the joint high level statement ‘Children’s play and leisure: promoting a balanced approach.’ (http://www.hse.gov.uk/entertainment/childs-play-statement.htm)

The following guidance provides advice for all schools on (click on the links for further information):

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

Work equipment and machinery – housing trust in court after mower mangles worker’s hand

A Tameside housing trust has been fined £140,000 plus £70,000 costs after a worker suffered severe injuries to his left hand when it was struck by a metal blade on a ride-on mower.

The 24-year-old from Stockport, who has asked not to be named, sustained several broken bones and had to have his thumb and forefinger amputated following the incident in Dukinfield in March 2014. A hospital x-ray has been released showing the extent of his injuries.

The housing trust was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the organisation had failed to consider the risks from the work, provide professional training or to give clear instructions on what to do if the mowers became blocked.

Manchester Crown Court heard the worker was using a ride-on mower for the first cut of the season, with a grass box attached. The chute to the grass box often became blocked, as the grass was long and wet.

On one occasion, the employee reached into the chute to clear a blockage when his hand came into contact with a metal fan, which was still rotating. He suffered serious injuries as a result, and is now unable to grip with his left hand or use his remaining fingers.

The court was told the worker had not received training on how to use the mower, and did not know that the fan continued to rotate for around 30 seconds after the engine was switched off.

Are you a user of work equipment?

What you must do

You must select and install equipment properly, use it carefully and make sure it is maintained to protect the health and safety of yourself, employees and others who may be affected by the way you use it. Sensible risk assessment is the key, following manufacturer’s recommendations for use and maintenance, and ensuring employees are trained and competent. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure new work equipment complies with the relevant European requirements for safe design and construction. You must not use, or permit the use of, unsafe work equipment.

What you should know

Nearly all equipment used at work is subject to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), which place duties on employers, the relevant self-employed and those who control work equipment. If you are self-employed and your work poses no risk to the health and safety of others, then health and safety law may not apply to you.  HSE has guidance to help you understand if the law applies. Work equipment may also be subject to more specific legislation, for example:

  • the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
  • the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

In addition to the general requirements applicable to most work equipment, PUWER covers in particular:

  • the risks from riding on and controlling mobile work equipment
  • operator visibility
  • protection from falling objects and from rolling over
  • restraint systems (seat belts, etc)
  • inspection / thorough examination of power presses

PUWER is supported by three Approved Codes of Practice; a general one on the Regulations, and two on specific types of machinery (woodworking and power presses). The ACOPs give practical guidance and set out the minimum standards for compliance. LOLER is supported by its own ACOP.

If you find new work equipment is not safe because of the way it has been designed, constructed, supplied or installed then you should stop using it until this has been remedied. You should first make contact with the manufacturer and supplier (or installer, if relating to the installation) to get the issue resolved. Where the product is defective due to its design or construction, you can report this to the relevant market surveillance authority. They may have the statutory powers necessary to take formal action and resolve the matter.

Further reading (click on the links):

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/ 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