Tag Archives: work place injuries

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?

Tanker tipped on its side on industrial site
Toronto accident that claimed a worker’s life. CTV News Canada. Click image for the article.

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

£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

Beards are Hazards, You Have Been Told

I have no axe to grind or dog to fight when it comes to beards for obvious reasons, but Mears has a problem with them. The property maintenance group has told its workers that they cannot work if they have a beard.

Recently they announced that unless you have a medical reason not to shave or a religious reason for sporting a clump of chin hair you should find work elsewhere. The reason behind this is that the tight fitting face masks they provide will not achieve an adequate seal.

This has not pleased the Unite union:

‘The arrogance of Mears is hair-raising. This is a highly delicate issue, which has huge cultural, religious and personal issues and where sensitivity should be the watchword. Instead members have been handed a decree from on high. This is clearly a case of Mears going for the cheapest option and amounts to penny pinching stupidity. Other forms of masks are available and these should be offered to existing workers. Unite will always put the safety of our members first and creating huge resentment and anger among your workforce is never the way forward. Mears needs to withdraw this decree and enter into a proper consultation with Unite and the workforce.’

I like the hair- raising line for a start, very droll. Other than that this does seem like a bit of a storm in a dusty room. The exceptions are there straight off. If for medical or religious reasons you need a beard you can be exempt if you provide proof. Mears does say there is no guarantee but anyone in the real world knows that hell would be to pay if they got in to that social and political argument.

Their HSE guy is not having much of the unions objections. Mark Elkington said: ‘We are pretty surprised that Unite, who claim to have the safety of workers at heart have taken this disappointing stance. Every employer in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that employees working in dusty or otherwise potentially hazardous environments are properly protected and in recent years employers have been prosecuted for failing to fulfil this duty. The simple fact is that no dust mask can work effectively unless it forms a seal against the skin. That is not possible with a beard or even heavy stubble. If the Health & Safety Executive did a spot site visit and found workers wearing dust masks that were not sealed against the face then we would be liable to prosecution.’

He then goes on to point out that there are some practical difficulties with the other solutions Unite mention. He also said that assessment of individuals who could not wear a standard face mask might well result in hoods etc being offered.

The Correct USE of PPE is a Legal Must. So What Motivates Unite in Objecting?

This is a conversation rather than just me spouting an opinion so by all means come back at me. My view is if the dust is such that it is assessed as hazardous PPE must be worn. Crucially it must be worn in a way to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. In the full article, referenced below, Mr Elkington says that if HSE spot check and see dust masks ineffectively used they will be in trouble. If illnesses result from Mears neglect then Mears are in trouble again.

It doesn’t matter if it is a beard that causes the worker to not wear a face mask or because they hate them. If the risk exists then Mears have to deal with it.

I became more entrenched in this view when I read the counter argument by the Unite union HSE chief.

Susan Murray said: ‘An employer should first assess the risks presented by exposure to hazardous substances, then identify the steps needed to adequately control the risks; put them into operation and ensure they remain effective. The use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) may be one of the control measures, but the wearing of face masks should be a last resort and priority should always be given to eliminating the risk. Before any policy is introduced there should be full and proper consultation. It is crucial that the policy recognises the diversity of the workforce and the principle that workers should be consulted and given a choice of several correctly specified types of RPE so they can choose the one they like.’

Well yes and no. The risk will be diverse as this is a maintenance company not a factory etc. In a stable environment involving such risks extraction is an obvious choice, not so when using a drill or a sander on site. Some jobs will need RPE some not. Some jobs will need it for an hour of work, others all day.

original web page
Click on the above for the original source article. The Construction Index

The risk has been identified as of now. You can’t claim that you did nothing while awaiting a consultation period and offset any liability. The final paragraph of her argument is the best yet. She says Mears have to recognise the diversity of the workforce. They did by allowing evidence based exemptions and offering to assess the worker for an alternative.

If the RPE does not fit because of a beard then a solution must be found. It appears that even saying something about an obvious risk is enough to have conditions and rather spurious arguments dragged up for very little reason other than to argue. What do you think?

Take care

Chris Hodge

 

The Highest Work Place Fall Survived

When you talk of falls being potentially deadly it shouldn’t be a dry subject, it is though. We as humans have to face the uncertainty of each day no matter what job we do. If it isn’t falls that could kill us it is a range of other accidents plus our own weird biology. It is better to have a few incredible tales at hand to sprinkle into the same old training. The highest work place fall survived by anyone was the fate of Vesna Vulovic .

On the 26th January 1972 Vesna greeted passengers on the ill fated JAT Flight 367. It should have flown to Belgrade from Stockholm, however, over Czech airspace it broke into two as the result of an explosion. There is still controversy about the cause. What is not in doubt was that Vesna was pinned into the severed rear section of the DC 9 by a waitress trolley. When they found her Vesna had crushed vertebrae, broken legs and a fractured skull. The 22 year old was in a coma for 27 days and had no knowledge of the incident.

White DC 9 in a colour shot from 2009. Seen here climbing at a 45 degree angle.
Wikipedia shot of a DC9 climbing sharply. Thanks to Wikipedia, Anthony92931

The crash killed everyone except her and has been officially blamed on a bomb planted by Croatian terrorists.  In total it is thought this young stewardess fell 33,000 feet. She was presented with a Guinness Book of World Records award by Paul McCartney in 1985.

black and white passport type shot showing a pretty light haired girl.
Vesna Vulovic when she was 23.

Since then it has been suggested that a Czech fighter jet mistakenly shot the passenger plane down as it tried to complete an emergency landing. If true the fall would have been around 2600 feet. That might not be a record but it is still way over the normal safety limit. As it stands the fighter jet story is only circumstantial so Vesna still holds the title.

Heroics on the Ground

Rightly this lady was seen as something special in her home country of Yugoslavia. She was brave about flying again and heroic when she stood up against nationalists and Slobodan Milošević throughout his awful time in power. She died in 2016 at the age of 66 and try as I might I cannot find a cause.

Regards

Chris Hodge

Main source article The Daily Telegraph

 

When it Comes to Health and Safety, What is Going on in France?

I know well that statistics can be manipulated to prove almost any point.  So when I was looking at the provisional total of fatal workplace injuries  I was aware of the variables.  I scanned the figures for 2015/16 and was pleased to see there had not  been an increase in incidents. It was as I looked at an EU comparison I found something curious. When it comes to health and safety, what is going on in France?

I had made a presumption that the relatively wealthy nations would score well and those moving up financially would lag behind. I was wrong, at least wrong because of France.

The British figures for 2015/16 will be confirmed in July this year, however, the average is taken over 5 years so we can lean on that.   Obviously if a single horrific incident fatally injures a large number of workers the average would spike, hence that 5 year standard. Currently 2015/16 here is projected to stand at 0.42 per 100,000 while the 5 year average is 0.52.

When I delved into the EU figures over the last decade the British safety record compares very well with other nations. All EU nations have seen a steady reduction in fatalities, without exception, but many of them had a worse record than we had to start with. For example if we look at the deaths that occurred in 1996/97 our 5 year average is half what it was back then.  However, France? I still don’t get it

France keeps company with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and is one place behind the Czech Republic. In 2013/14 ( the last Eurostat figures I could find) France returns a rate of 2.94 deaths per 100,000  workers, with an average that is slightly higher over previous years.

Again I know that figures can vary but there was no apparent spike that year.  France is the 5th biggest world economy, they built the Eiffel Tower I mean they are sensible people overall so what is going on? No comfort is to be found in the figures for none fatal injuries either, they topped the table there with rivalry from Portugal and Spain.

Naturally enough the rate in which injuries required time off work was also high. In the same period 1.4 per 100,000 workers needed time off after injury in the UK whereas across The Channel 3.1 were laid up.

In conclusion I can find no reason for the increased risk to workers in France. This obvious issue is hardly mentioned. Across the board in the EU figures France stands out time and time again when it comes to injuries to workers. Across nationalities if say one nation was working in great numbers in France and their home figures showed large numbers of worker injuries then you could say that bad practise had been imported. That isn’t the case, however, because going back to 2002 ( before major EU worker movement) the UK still had less than a 3rd of the fatal accidents its neighbour had.

My own opinion from this brief study is that so long as a single worker is killed or seriously injured then there are no laurels to be awarded to the UK or anyone else. That said I think we apply safety legislation and standards better than many countries. Globally a rate of 20 plus per 100,000 is sadly not unusual so in comparison criticising EU nations seems a bit silly. However, once you factor in the financial stability ( and while we are at it the political stability) of France with the worst record holders world wide their death rate is still best described as concerning. Yet there is no concern to be found. Unfortunately for now I will have to leave it there. I will keep digging  and let you know if I find the golden variable that explains this apparent issue. Meanwhile working in France? Take care.

Below are some of the references I found on this subject and as always I would be interested in your comments.

Regards

Chris Hodge.

International comparison of work place deaths 2002 Click here

HSE European Stats Click here

Eurostats Click here

HSE Fatal injuries Click here

Comparison stats I found looking at the USA and UK. We still come out better. No celebration just interesting. Click here 

It Will Be Right. Firm Fined After Worker Buried in Trench Collapse

I hope my meagre attempts to highlight failings in health and safety convey my intentions. Each incident shows what can go wrong, each incident is a lesson and a reminder. I work for firms and work with people who have a job to do. My job is to minimise the risks. Articles like this are not about hammering errant operators or criticising mistakes with the full force of hindsight. I just hope that by expanding the reach of tragic cases we can collectively prevent them happening again. This one is a case of ‘ It will be right.’

A nine foot deep trench that was being dug for drainage collapsed on a worker as he was guiding an excavator. The 43 year old was working for Wallace Roofing & Building Ltd who are based in Fife, Scotland. The drainage was needed to connect a new extension on an old property but the job was obstructed by a large boulder. The worker got down and was guiding the excavator when the unsupported wall caved in. Colleagues managed to dig him clear enough to breath until emergency services arrived.  His injuries included a puncture to both lungs.

It took 6 years to get the ruling and a fine of £14,000 was imposed. A Unite spokesman, Steven Dillon, criticised the fine on the grounds that it was too small to send a strong enough message. I don’t disagree with him in principle, however, my concern is more simple. Trench walls can collapse, we know this. The older ones amongst us need to tell the youngsters and we should have it in our minds moment to moment.  In addition to the risk posed by the trench walls here a digger was added. The extra weight and vibration should have sounded alarm bells.

‘It Will Be Right’

I admire a can do spirit. Really I am in awe sometimes of the people who put things up and dig things down, but into many is set this attitude of ‘ It will be Right.’ Weight, vibration and an unstable, unsupported trench or tunnel…don’t get in it and don’t let anyone else get in it. It won’t always be right.’

Regards

Chris Hodge

Full article Click Here

See similar case study articles:

Water Risks. The Worst Health and Safety Fail that looked Safe. Click here

Australian Firm Fined for Power Line Injuries. Click here