Less HSE Site Inspections a Good Thing?

Some would say so, however. I would like to think they would be in the minority. As is the case with many official regulatory bodies the money squeeze has been tightening on the HSE. Budgets have been reduced for sometime and the cuts are not finished yet. For the more, shall I say,  casual operators less HSE inspections might be seen as a gift.

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

The courts show that there is no winning. All of the progress made in health and safety  has come alongside the raft of legislation that has not been reduced. Even though inspections have dropped by 14% in the last year( with a 4% fall the year before) that liability has not changed. The worse a safety culture is the more likely there will be an event that has the HSE arriving.

As much as it is natural to curse those high pressure days when on top the HSE comes knocking, a figure that can’t be quantified is how many lives have been saved by the knowledge that they could show up.

Accident Increase

This has not been seen yet and fingers crossed it won’t be. Fatal injury numbers have still been falling with other categories levelling off. Unite, the main construction union, used a freedom of information request to collate the figures. In some areas the figures are frankly alarming for the future. The North East of England for example saw a 22% reduction in visits with the Midlands worse at 26%.

Unite Seeks Consultation with Government

A Unite spokesperson said: ‘The government has slashed funding for the HSE and it is clear that it is increasingly struggling to make ends meet. With a new secretary of state in place Unite and our members need to know what plans he has for the HSE and safety laws.

We also need answers from the HSE about whether they are taking steps to redress this fall in inspections and whether there are specific reasons for these reductions.’

Holding My Breath

I wish experience had told me that less big brother in safety would mean individuals rising to the best standards. Experience hasn’t told me that. I mean I hate speed cameras, I hate the idea of the fines behind them but do I believe all motorists would behave of their own accord? Does anyone believe that?

The same goes for industrial safety. Most will do their best because they don’t want to see people hurt, many will do it because they don’t want lost production, sadly some will gamble with both factors. Only visits can deal with the latter group.

Take care,

Christine Hodge

 

 

Source article. Click here

Cladding Concerns Gathering Speed 75 Buildings Identified

The horrific fire that destroyed people and the Grenfell Tower they lived in has had only one positive result. So far 75 tower blocks have been identified as being at risk.

The instant blame that followed this awful event surprised me in one major way, the cause talked about within hours turned out to be accurate. Normally assumption is the mother of all…mess ups. I have been around industry long enough to not be surprised that combustible material was used. I’d hoped it wasn’t but when it was confirmed there was no shock for me or many up and down the country.

I certainly would like to believe it was an oversight, that somewhere between the plans and the execution of the Grenfell refurbishment someone screwed it up. Yeah I know how that sounds and I ‘m going to leave it there in the slim hope the inquiry sheds a more humane light on the circumstances.

blackened and gutted iterior of one of the floors of the tower block.
Met Police picture f the interior of the building where so far 79 people died.

75 Tower Blocks Below Code

All over the UK teams have been taking hastily put together advice from the government and scouring buildings with aluminium composite insulation. Samples have been taken and tested. Not all cladding is as risky as that which killed all those people but much is close to the line. In this atmosphere I am surer of action than I am about my hopes for an innocent mistake having been made on Grenfell.

The Future

Well that is going to be frantic and the price tag absolutely immense.  The 75  suspect buildings are as it stands now with the search continuing for more. All of it has to be done yesterday with logistical reality slowing progress. Meanwhile the local authorities and fire services nationally are reviewing safety procedures.  All I am left with is a lesson that I know but there is never harm in being reminded. The devil is in the detail. That is a saying as old as the hills. I wonder when we can have it engraved on every office wall, mug and written on every letterhead.

Take care

Christine Hodge

Heavy Lifting Above Workers is Dangerous Apparently

In a recent HSE case the circumstances of a workers injuries were examined. It was a simple enough process for Weymouth Magistrates Court. The worker was hit by falling scaffolding poles that were being lifted up on a stillage attachment.

The attachment was not up to the load, 1000kg, there were deficiencies in the planning of such operations and the whole thing cost two firms fines, one of £145,000.

I am not being glib, nor am I micro assessing in hindsight. The worker was hit in the shoulder and head. Fortunately her injures were not life changing but with that weight dropping from over 10 metres survival was just a matter of centimetres.

Managing a Site

In this case there were problems of managing risk between firms on the same project.

It isn’t easy.  Lessons learned in this case about lifting loads above people were not remembered and it is dangerously easy to do. What people on the outside do not get is that a project is like a machine consisting of a huge number of parts. Unfortunately these parts are independent minded, they are not bolted together, they do strange things.

Apart from the organised chaos the phone rings, problems occur and visitors bend your ear. When it comes to contractors their activities fall under your responsibility but the moment to moment stuff is in their hands.

As a contractor the same applies  to your crew. Overall you know what is going on and any falling weight that hits workers is your problem. That said the phone rings, a problem comes up and it is easy to take your eye off the ball.

As a worker your safety and that of those around you is your problem during all work activities but the boss is on your back, a problem occurs or someone commences work in a risky place while you are concentrating on your task at hand.

What Makes the Difference

Well sadly if someone is setting up a lift or is lifting with people under the load and you don’t see it only one thing will keep the fines away…risk assessments, records and associated action. It is all about keeping people safe first but you can’t control all these moving parts every second. The paperwork and implementing risk assessments  is a pain but £145,000 plus lost time, plus court time, plus possibly being responsible for a death?

Lessons Learned

Clear underneath any lifting. The HSE rep in this case said, where ever possible, I say just don’t do it. That was 500kg falling 10 metres, it happens so we have to plan for it happening and show we did so. A good implemented plan might mean someone going home that night and a bit of a clear up and cursing.  I’ll take that over what happened in the below article any day.

Take care

Christine Hodge

Healthandsafetyatwork.com article on above case. Click here

 

 

Lone Working Expo

Lone working happens in all industries. In construction I am thinking  of site visiting, administration after hours and lone contractors specifically.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, set up following the awful disappearance of a young estate agent in 1986,  were recently at the ExCel Safety and Health Expo.

logo of suzy lamplugh trust
Suzy Lamplugh Trust website for more details. Click the image.

Code for the Safety of Lone Workers

It is easy to think of what happened to Suzy Lamplugh as a totally different set of circumstances to those found in construction, manufacturing or even off shore.

People do work alone and some distance from the nearest available help. By definition the general public are kept away from many of our workplaces. Sometimes the places we work are pretty isolated.

Suzy’s Code for Personal Safety says organisations should:

‘- Implement a buddy system (so colleagues always know each other’s whereabouts and contact details. This should include checking in and out when meeting arriving at and leaving the property, including out of normal office hours)

– Have a system in place for colleagues to raise the alarm back at the office in case of an emergency while working alone

– Have a clear procedure to follow if someone does not return or check in when they were expected

– Where possible, arrange for viewers to visit the office before meeting them at the property so that colleagues have also seen them

– Offer all staff a personal safety alarm and have discreet lone worker devices available. Before conducting a viewing, find out who else will be present in the property (current tenant, contractors etc.) when you visit

– Finally, make sure all staff are aware of and have access to the personal safety measures available’

Looking Beyond the Threats in Specific Industries

Generally our sort of work has a reputation, one that it is hard to get around even when we read the above. Not all construction workers, oil workers or engineers are tough to the point of fighting two burglars who wander onto a site. Our workers are not immune to sexual assault ( sorry to those who haven’t heard- I mean both sexes) none of us are immune to falls or other accidents or finally medical emergencies.

Going through the points in the code our work is covered by all of them at some stage. In addition there is that responsibility to watch out for those working for you. If push comes to shove and horrible people hurt your staff questions may well be asked about assessments that should have been made.

Stay Macho by All Means but Heart Attack!

We could debate all day as to who is vulnerable or who could take on a young Mike Tyson (probably no-one). a medical emergency can happen to anyone, end of debate. So even if you can’t see such and such as being vulnerable in any other way then the above code covers tragic sudden illness.

If I can help with any of the above then please contact me in the comments .

Take care,

Chris Hodge

 

 

£160,000 Fine for Roof Fall

Wessexmoor Ltd were running a project that involved roof work in Glycena Road, London. Ali Mucoj, 56, fell of the rear section of the roof where there was no guard. He suffered bleeding on the brain and a broken leg.

Southwark Magistrates imposed the fine and costs of £7000 because it held the company had breached HSE regulations regarding safe working at height.

Mr Mucoj, will have to live with the effects of the injuries for the rest of his life.

Lesson

I am not being holier than thou, this is another example of something that is all too common when it comes to roof work and in my experience workers themselves are just as culpable.  I am not referring to this specific case. I say quick job or protracted job, if it involves height the safety rails etc are not an optional extra. It is the law and even though people I respect curse at the inconvenience the above is what happens when things go wrong. £160,000 would sink many firms I know. At least the insurance premiums would knock them to one side the following year. Not worth the risk to life, limb or bank account in my book.

Take care

Chris Hodge

A source article: Click here

Fences are Not Just There to Keep Out Kids

Kirkcaldy Sherriff Court heard a particularly sad case recently that underlines the need for adequate fencing. Don’t get me wrong any work place death is awful but somehow the end that met an 83 year old man in January 2015 struck a cord with me.

Houses were under construction in  Kirkcaldy’s Chapel Level. John Philbin was suffering from a number of age related illnesses when he strayed onto the site. There was no-one there due to the holidays. he fell into an excavation that had filled with water and drowned.

HSE presented evidence that the firm in charge, Sandford Park Ltd, had not erected a sufficient fence and they were fined £110,000. A spoke person said,’We accept that there was a failure here for which we apologise unreservedly.’

The Lesson Not the Hindsight

When we look at site security we tend to dwell on thieves and older kids. Both these groups climb. If it is felt that they would be difficult to stop attention turns to securing valuables by removal or placing secure storage. It is easy to miss the fact that someone like Mr Philbin may be vulnerable and as a result be at risk of hazards unlikely to affect a more robust person. All it took was a water filled excavation.

Cheers

Christine Hodge

Sources: Construction Index. Click here Or Fife Today. Click here.

A recently added post on the same subject of site security. Another firm fined: Click here

 

 

 

Electric Cars Might Not Have Medium Term Effect on Oil Industry

Environmentalists have a cosy notion that you could ditch all the old and dirty and carry on into the sunset powered by water or wind generated electric. One day maybe, but now or even soon? Well we are learning that just because lots of people say a thing is certain that does not make it so. A Russian oil expert makes some good points to support the argument that electric cars might not have a medium term effect on the oil industry.

I’ll state my interest in this. I am a HSE adviser. In some regards it makes no difference if I work on a project constructing windmills, nuclear reactors or an industrial worm farm. I started out in the North Sea on the rigs and many of my friends still work there. It is important to them, their families and the economy that predictions for oil production are as accurate as they can be.

picture of the source article
Source article click the image.

If the Western world turned to electrically  powered vehicles in the medium term the oil industry would take a hit it can ill afford. I am not talking about the giants, I am talking about the people putting bread on their family table. If predictions are wrong and oil companies diversify, particularly into developing regions, as a result it is bad for Western oil workers and Western economies.

Tesla Criticised for Uncertain Sales Predictions

Igor Sechin, CEO of Russia’s oil giant Rosneft is quoted in Bloomberg as saying: ‘The unconditional truth remains in the fact that the hydrocarbon power industry has been and will be in demand. The market’s assessment of the prospects of electric car producers, in our view, is significantly overestimated.Until the electric transport industry becomes as user-friendly and attractive for consumers as the cars with internal combustion engines, the prospects for electric vehicles remain largely uncertain.’

Sechin was talking to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum recently.

The logic behind this seems sound to me. Electric cars are impressive in comparison to only a few years ago, no doubt. What Sechin doubts is that they can compete with combustion driven vehicles. The infrastructure supports traditional cars, the advances in performance and economy have been equally impressive. The combustion engine allows for greater diversity in design, size and range.  That is of course now, not in the future. So could an aggressive sales campaign globally force adaption of support services so that electric is just as convenient as oil powered?

I don’t think so and Tesla was singled out as not having the best future business model when it comes to sales predictions. Sechin pointed out that sales are still relatively small with only Norway showing an increase of any note. To balance this it has to be noted that Norway subsidises electric car ownership to a significant degree. Sechin says, and I agree, that for the electric car to make up ground on the internal combustion energy these subsidies have to continue.

If I look at the UK. If I put the current demands for public funding on the table and think of the issue of electric cars one thing is clear. Increased subsidies and increasing financial support for companies to provide recharging stations etc! I’m very doubtful of Tesla achieving the success they desire. It will be interesting to see how things develop but government coffers need filling, especially now. I cannot see masses of people taking on the inconvenience of electric transport in the hope that soon it will be as easy to use as their old car.

Take Care

Chris Hodge

Manslaughter Conviction for Brighton Developer and Foreman

Money is a motivator for both good and bad health and safety working. If you cut corners enough and get lucky with the law and potential tragedy you can save a packet on any project. The problem with that, even if you have no conscience, is that big fines await those that get caught. If a sense of humanity or the fear of a financial penalty is not enough to ensure due diligence then maybe a manslaughter conviction might work.

Mike Holland and his foreman Grant Oakes will find out their fate when they appear at Lewes Crown Court on 21st July 2017. Both were convicted the other day of manslaughter in the case of David Clark.

Mr Clark, 55, had been working on a stable conversion when he fell through a gap in the first floor. He was there working as a carpenter and died a month after the incident in September 2014.

Holland is the sole director of Cherrywood Investments Ltd, he and Oakes were found to have been grossly negligent to the point that it qualified as manslaughter. The prosecutor said it had been a complex case to bring to trial and evidence was heard of previously ignored HSE warnings.

Gail Purdy of the CPS said: ‘ From the evidence gathered, it became clear both men visited the site regularly and would have seen the conditions, which included work being carried out with voids that someone could fall through, but they did nothing to prevent this happening.’

Evidence was also heard that after being inspected in 2013 the specific dangers to those working at height had been raised with Holland and Oakes. Oakes attended training in safety on the subject as a result but little had changed.

Mr Clark suffered head injuries in the fall and died in hospital. The company was also found guilty of associated breaches in health and safety legislation.

Lessons Learned

The obvious one about not being able to escape your responsibilities if tragedy strikes. Another obvious one about not ignoring HSE warnings and finally for us as workers if it doesn’t seem safe then maybe the paycheck is not worth it. The latter point is all to easy to say yet when the mortgage payment is due? It is valid nonetheless. Simply put, these things should not be happening in 2017. Murphy’s Law springs to mind, I would have thought that at least would be ingrained by now.

Take Care

Chris Hodge

 

The Grenfell Tower Tragedy and Why I Have No Opinion

That is not strictly true. I do have an opinion on the subject generally and that is that the lessons of the past mean we should wait. We should not wait for long but as the fire was still going strong it was widely declared that the cause and effect had been identified. I don’t accept that.

It is rare, people who know me will say it to my face, that I have nothing much to say on any issue. When it comes to the exterior cladding and its alleged acceleration of the flames up the London residential tower block, it looks highly likely but not proven.

The fire experts say the materials used were substandard, the manufacturers and suppliers insist it was legal to use but in among the media hype and counter claims by the government I am left with questions. Those questions will only be answered in a bit of time. Meanwhile, one thing is clear this stuff is on other buildings, sufficient history exists to call it into question therefore immediate action to remove it seems logical. It is a nightmare logistically i admit but it needs to come off.

Declaring an opinion on that is still withholding one on the specifics of this fatal blaze. There are serious political reasons for skewing the facts in this case and plenty of media commentators with axes to grind. I will wait on the search for evidence and that will apparently take several weeks.

Take Care

Chris Hodge

 

Guidance on Carding Scheme Regarding None Construction Workers.

I don’t know how everyone feels about this situation because at the time of writing I am unsure myself. In an article in the Construction Index, CSCS head of communications Alan O’Neile attempts to give guidance on the carding scheme regarding none construction workers.

Catering, Delivery and Cleaners

Of course there are other related occupations that could require access to an active building project and they would not need any qualifications in construction. It seems logical that they should not require a card. Then again, rightly, Alan O’Neile points out that without some qualifications it is up to the site manager to ensure they are escorted or at least inducted on safety in order to stay safe.

Construction Index screen shot of article.
Construction Index article on CSCS carding for none construction workers.

How many people would that be on say a project like the Spurs stadium?  Yeah it is common sense not to turn everyone without a card away from a site if their roll is not construction. The flip side to the coin is without some knowledge of construction safety how could they be left to go about their business if it meant accessing several parts of a site?

‘CSCS has stopped issuing cards for these and many other non-construction related occupations’

As the article states some sites are still operating a strict 100% card policy and that is causing problems because of the CSCS change. If managers don’t restrict access in some cases  and something happens are they liable? The answer to that is yes.

Alan O’Neile continued:’We are not asking site managers to allow just anyone on site. If a worker is there to carry out a construction related activity then a card is required as proof of their training and qualifications. If they are there to perform a non-construction related activity it becomes the responsibility of site managers to induct and escort these people to ensure they remain safe at all times when on site.’

I see what they are saying but I would prefer some clarification for large sites. What do you thing?

Take Care

Chris Hodge

Source: Construction Index article. Click here