Tag Archives: workplace 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

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

 

 

£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

 

 

 

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 Things We Do For Fun or Self Destruction

Today there is a trend that produces extreme selfies. These are where someone hangs off the edge of a building or natural feature in order to get ‘likes’ on social media. Another use of these crazy stunts is to increase the number of subscribers for a YouTube channel. A terrible indictment of egotism in the modern age?  I’d say not. The things we do for fun or self destruction have not really changed.

The Daily Mail has a good article that documents the publicity stunts (or just plain larking) that went on during the building boom in the US almost 100 years ago. Who has not seen this image?

iconic line of men in 1932 eating lunch.
Iconic picture of workmen 840 feet above the ground. Picture Bettman Archive

That was in 1932 and the men were obviously not required to have their sandwiches there, it was a stunt. Here is more spontaneous shot and one that surely takes away the criticism that the selfie crowd are purely an invention of the modern generation.

worker holds onto a girder with one hand and waves with the other while at dizzy heights.
Taken from the Daily Mail article this guy was working on the Empire State building in 1931.

Five men died during the construction of the Empire State building and looking at the above I can’t image how. They were obviously so safety conscious.

Have a look at the article, I have referenced it below.

Now to the modern age and here is Russian climber, Angela Nikolau.

girl in bikini in a shot where she lies on a ledge many 100s feet of the ground sort of sunbathing.
Angela Nikolau showing her insane disregard for height, despite having a troublesome knee by the look of it.

Glorifying Stupidity?

No, not I. Actually I’m pointing out that back then, in the days of booming New York, your main safety equipment for working at height was a strong grip. If you were a bit of a wimp you would tie a rope to your ankle. Also, back in the day there was little appreciation of the public when it came to safety in construction.

Most of the time people had a bit more about them than now. In addition, there was so little chance of compensation that the best thing to do was to watch yourself if someone was working above. Remember the superstition about walking under a ladder? It wasn’t really a superstition it was a method of stopping people from having something hit them or them knocking the ladder out of place.

What is Our Excuse Today?

There are harnesses and enclosed working at height. When it comes to thrill seeking, there is no need to do it other than for self promotion. To organise a safe stunt to the general wonder of all is to entertain safely. These people don’t, they just do it without regard for anyone else.

If you fell from a height of 1500ft ( 400m) you would reach terminal velocity in about 12 seconds. That is a speed of  120 MPH but there are other factors that can change it.  At the end of that fall is some poor person walking down the street. Hardly fair huh? Here is a picture of a tormented young woman who jumped from the Empire State building and hit a passing car.

 

Crumpled roof of a car with a young woman in the middle. She does not appear injured. In fact she had just died.
The body of 23-year-old Evelyn McHale rests atop a crumpled limousine minutes after she jumped to her death from the Empire State Building, May 1, 1947. Fair use photo by Robert Wiles

I doubt it would make any difference to thrill seekers or their viewers but that was not a modern vehicle. Those limousines were of a heavy construction. The lady in the picture was a tortured soul. I am addressing the issue of careless workers and climbing egotists. Imagine what that sort of fall would do to a teenager walking with her pals when some inconsiderate person slipped?

Source article: Click here.

 

Best regards,

Chris Hodge

 

 

 

Council Routinely Removed Safety Guards

At a recent hearing Nottingham city council admitted fault when one of their workers suffered hand injuries. According to healthandsafetyatwork.com one of their employees was trying to unclog a lawn mower when his right index finger was severed and other fingers on his hand were damaged.

Screen shot of the source article
The 22 year old worker was on site at a Seagrave Primary School on 21 August 2014.

During an investigation the HSE found that safety guards were routinely removed by council staff in order to access blockages more readily. This was against the recommendations of the manufacturers. In short, a flared guard that covered ejected clippings was replaced by a simple hinged gate much closer to the rotating blade. Granted you had to have the blade rotating in order to get any serious injury.

The council was fined £33,000 with an order to pay £12,000 costs. They were also criticised for failing to supervise apprentices and failing to properly train people in using the lawnmowers.

There are pictures of the modification but I am not sure of the permission to use issue. Below is the source reference. The lessons should be obvious. If you pick up a bit of kit that has been modified be suspicious. Never trust electric tape, duct tap, bolted on bits or empty bolt holes…ah, if it looks messed with leave it to the idiot that messed with it.

Source: Click here. 

Regards

Chris Hodge

 

Curtain-Side Trailer Death Could Have Been Prevented

63 year old, William Price, was converting a curtain-sided trailer into a flat bed when the frame he was removing fell. Mr Price suffered injuries to his head and died. Wolverhampton Crown Court was told that  ATE Truck and Trailer Sales had commissioned the scrap metal dealer to remove the excess frame. It was while Mr Price cut the roof off that the 500 kg structure collapsed.

The firm defended the allegation that there had never been any risk assessment of such activities. They pointed out that in the past the operation had been successfully carried out using two workers and a sling. The judge felt that not formally conducting a risk assessment was a sufficient breach in order to convict. The firm was fined £475,000, plus £20,000 costs and this was in addition to the £100,000 price tag of their defence.

picture of aman with long hair in his 60s
On 21st Feb 2013, Mr Price, 63, died while converting a curtain-side trailer. Click the picture to link to the original article.

Judge Barry Berlin, said: ‘The requirement of a risk assessment in circumstances like these is not just good practice but a fundamental and mandatory legal requirement. This was a plainly hazardous activity.’

The lack of a formal risk assessment is a factor that runs through so many of these cases. It is almost as if there is a degree of belief that self employed people are not subject to the risk assessments of the employing firm. I am not saying who was at fault, the court case was specific to the incident. I am saying that while self employed people are on site they must be aware of any risk assessment the employing firm has undertaken. If there isn’t a written assessment they shouldn’t commence the work.

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

 

Other Places and Their Weird Work Place Risks

Two bear cubs play fighting

I have been at sea when it is frankly scary. I have been out in gales that make you dream of home, wine and box sets.  There are near misses that are planted in my mind as well. What I don’t have is experience of being charged by a bear while at work. There are two reasons for this.

First I live in the UK and work in Kent. There are no bears roaming free. The second reason is I am not completely stupid like the guys in the below video. Have a look.

The Daily Mirror carried the story. It said 3 workers and the dog were attacked when the mother bear charged. There were rumours that the story was hyped, however, I can see the cubs, then the mother. I live in Liverpool, England. We have a few predators you should be aware of but no bears. The point is even I know cubs bring mother, mother is bigger and when it comes to bears they attack to defend their young. So what were those guys laughing at? Why were they not grabbing the dog and heading for the van?

The other day I read of a mysterious bug killing workers in Indonesia and the threat from sharks to fishermen. It is possible that my reaction to such risks would be extreme because I have not dealt with them. Is it a case of familiarity breeding contempt that causes workers in Siberia to reach for their camera rather than taking to their heels?

I’ll take the opportunity to work anywhere, but in many ways I am glad of my British experience of work place risk. I will leave you with some North Americans showing a more respectful approach to work place bears. A very big work place bear at that.

Take care out in the woods,

Chris Hodge