Industry News

17th April 2024

Unacceptable Asbestos Risks

Twenty-five years on from the deadly material being banned in Britain, an estimated 300,000 non-domestic buildings built before 1999 still contain asbestos. With many of these buildings requiring refurbishment, tradesmen and building users will be put at risk if it isn’t managed properly. Around 5,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases every year in Britain. While the cause of their illness was likely exposure from decades ago, it is believed that people are still being exposed today, putting them at risk of terminal cancers such as mesothelioma in years to come.

What is of significant concern is the lack of consistency in managing asbestos among duty-holders and a lack of awareness and knowledge about it among those who are coming into contact with it, particularly in smaller businesses. There are still hazards and risks associated with removal. What really needs to happen is a collective effort by policymakers, government, regulators, employers and workers to address this issue. Also, essential to it, is improved training for employees which raises awareness of the dangers of exposure, informs them how to deal with asbestos and what to do if they come across it.

Young Worker Crushed to Death

A building firm has been fined £133,000 and ordered to pay £8,500 in prosecution costs after a 22-year-old worker was crushed to death by an excavator. James Rourke had only been working for Materials Movement for a few months when the vehicle struck him, causing catastrophic injuries. The firm had been hired to undertake ground clearance works in Hertfordshire, in preparation for the building of new houses. The site engineer had been attaching warning work signs to fencing around the site when the incident happened in November 2019.

Investigators revealed Materials Movement had failed to plan and manage the work, and failed to properly supervise the work that James and the excavator driver were undertaking to ensure it was safe. It also didn’t ensure the work was planned and managed to eliminate any chance of James working near the excavator. Employers must consider the main precautions needed to control excavator hazards including exclusion, clearance, visibility, plant and vehicle marshaller and bucket attachment. The man’s death could have easily been prevented if his employer had properly planned, instructed and supervised the work.

 Materials Movement admitted breaching Construction Regulations 2015 at Peterborough Magistrates Court.

14th March 2024

Prison Sentence for Scaffolding Company Director

Canterbury City Scaffolders was erecting a scaffold structure in Crawley. Steven Gilmore was sitting on top of the temporary roof’s partially-built structure, near an overhead power line that ran across the corner of the site. The worker took control of a 6m long scaffold pole with his back to the overhead cable, when the tip of the pole made contact with the 11kV transmission line. He fell more than 5m to the ground below; suffering full-depth burns to his hands, which he will never regain full use of as there was so much damage to the nerves, muscles and tissue. He also suffered a badly broken leg.

The HSE received a call from Sussex Police as they were first on the scene. All work onsite was stopped and UK Power Networks contacted because it has to be informed if an incident with one of their resources requires an emergency response, such as isolating the line. They also wanted to understand what went wrong and to advise on steps needed before the line could be re-energised and work could restart onsite. The HSE discovered that the scaffold structure was built too close to the overhead power cable. UK Power Networks measured that at the closest point the scaffold structure was just 1.9m away from the wooden pole supporting the overhead power cable.

In addition, the scaffolders were manoeuvring 6m long pieces of metal at near vertical angles; so if the structure itself is only 1.9m away, movement of the parts being manoeuvred around must be considered. That brought the components within striking distance of the power cable; so in effect there was no safety margin. The director from the company was onsite directing the work. He had the design for the temporary roof scaffold structure in his head and was managing how it was being assembled, including the system of work used by his team of scaffolders.

He also provided the equipment and chose the lengths of scaffolding poles that were going to be used. On 22September 2023 at Brighton Magistrates Court, Canterbury City Scaffolding pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act. At a sentencing hearing the company was fined £50,000 and the Director sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

23rd February 2024

CDM 2015 non-compliance

Companies are more likely to have a dangerous or fatal accident while construction work is carried out if CDM Regulations are not followed. In addition, the finished structure may not be safe to use, safe to maintain and may not deliver good value for money. Construction is a high-risk industry; around one third of all workplace fatalities occur in construction and many thousands are injured each year. Such incidents often have a significant and long-lasting effect on the individuals, colleagues, family, friends and businesses.

By following CDM 2015, companies will be helping to stop this from happening. When the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) does find problems, they will aim to deal with the issue in a reasonable and fair way. However, serious breaches of health & safety legislation onsite could result in construction work having to be stopped by the HSE or local authority and additional work may be needed to rectify matters. In the most serious circumstances, they may prosecute. The HSE will enforce CDM 2015 in accordance with their enforcement policy statement.

Enforcement has a wide definition ranging from advice to more formal sanctions and prosecution. The principles of the enforcement policy are proportionality, targeting, consistency, transparency and accountability. The HSE focuses on serious problems and not trivialities.

6th February 2024

Fall From Access Equipment

A 36-year-old worker and a colleague had been tasked with installing a lightning protection system to the front of an office block being converted to flats in Warrington. As he lowered the access equipment, using a rope attached to a frame at roof level and a handrail at ground level, both he and the frame fell from the roof to the ground. HSE investigators found that Inco Contracts, the principal contractor, and Prestige Security Installations, the contractor in control of the electrical installation package, failed to ensure that the work was properly planned and failed in their duties to manage and monitor the work to ensure it was carried out safely.

Liverpool Crown Court was told that due consideration had not been given to safer methods and both workers had been given no instruction or safe means of getting their equipment down from the roof. Prestige Security Installations was fined £120,000 for breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act. PTSG Electrical Services were found guilty of breaching CDM Regulations 2015 and fined £30,000 and plus £15,000 in prosecution costs. Inco Contracts was found guilty of breaching CDM Regulations 2015 and fined £600,000 and ordered to pay £58,448 in costs.

The message is simple:

“It’s vital that work at height is properly planned; where it isn’t, risks can lead to serious consequences. As such, duties are placed on all involved to ensure that risks are fully assessed and suitable control measures implemented. Principal contractors should be aware that appointing subcontractors doesn’t remove the duty they have to ensure work has been properly planned and undertaken safely. Had Inco Contracts and Prestige Security Installations properly reviewed PTSG Electrical Services’ proposals for carrying out the work, they could have ensured suitable controls were in place and this tragic incident could have been avoided.”

9th January 2024

Designers under CDM Regulations

A designer should not commence work in relation to the project unless satisfied that the client is aware of their duties under CDM Regulations. When preparing or modifying a design, the designer must take into account the general principles of prevention and any pre-construction information to eliminate, so far as is reasonably practicable, foreseeable risks to the health or safety of anyone carrying out or those liable to be affected by construction work, maintaining or cleaning a structure and using a structure designed as a workplace. 

If risks cannot be eliminated the designer must so far as is reasonably practicable:

Take steps to reduce or control risks through the design process

Provide information about risks to the CDM principal designer

Ensure appropriate information is included in the CDM health & safety file

A designer should take all reasonable steps to provide sufficient information about the design, construction and maintenance of the structure, to adequately assist the client, other designers and contractors to comply with their duties under CDM Regulations.

3rd December 2023

90ft Cradle Fall

Two workers were in a cradle working on level nine of a residential tower that was under construction in London; however, as they manoeuvred the cradle, it fell 90ft to the ground below. Miraculously, although the men suffered significant injuries, they both survived. This was the first time either of them had been in this cradle and it was the first time the cradle had been put into use. The cradle didn’t just go straight up and down; it could also be moved in and out along beams. And that is where the problem occurred as the workers moved the cradle out to install the panel and it ran off the end of the support beams.

The manufacturer, Zarafa Height Solutions, would usually have carried out a safety check in the factory; but on this occasion it didn’t happen. That meant the system left the factory untested and in an unsafe condition. Giraffe Access Company, which installed the system, was legally required to test the system and carry out a thorough examination before installation in accordance with the Lifting Operation and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER). The company said it would normally have tested the trolley and beams onsite on the ground, but because there was insufficient room on this occasion it didn’t test the end stops; assuming it had been tested in the factory.

On 10 November 2023 at Croydon Magistrates Court, both companies admitted breaching section Health & Safety at Work Act. Zarafa Height Solutions was fined £120,000 plus £3,987 in costs and Giraffe Access Company was fined £120,000 plus £3,996 costs.

It is vital to ensure that equipment and plant is checked, with safety checks carried out before it leaves the factory and before it is put into use. If that had been done, if normal procedures had been followed and the wheels of the trolley had been run to the end, the problem would have been identified.

The message is simple:

Follow any checks that are required by law and any further checks identified by a risk assessment and make sure they have been carried out before equipment is used.

20th November 2023

HSE Proactive Cladding Inspection

“Following the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, the issue of combustible cladding and insulation has become a highly emotive topic. To address this, the Health & Safety Executive instigated a proactive programme of building inspections where such combustible materials were being replaced. The HSE carried out one of these proactive visits on a project by Green Facades Limited in 2022 at The Circle (an eight-storey building in Liverpool). The first thing the HSE discovered was there were scaffolders erecting a scaffold across the facade of the building.

With scaffolding beyond a certain height and width, and depending on intended use, it needs to be tied to the building. But in order to fit them, the scaffolders had punched a hole through the external render, insulation and cladding. The render itself was not combustible but the insulation that it covered was and the holes had not been backfilled with a non-combustible material. Additionally, there were insufficient means of escape from the scaffolding; there should be at least two escape routes.

They didn’t have this safeguard in place nor did they have any means of raising the alarm. The risks hadn’t been properly assessed, which is why measures weren’t in place. An Improvement Notice was issued to fill the holes the scaffolders made. The principal contractor should have identified this, and it should have ensured there were measures in place to raise the alarm in the event of a fire and provided fire extinguishers, fire alarms and means of escape. The Improvement Notice gave twenty-one days for the principal contractor to comply. A company has the right to appeal an Improvement Notice if they believe it is unjustified. 

During an HSE return site visit, they found that Green Facades Limited had stripped off one section of insulation and rendering exposing the combustible material underneath the cladding on either side. The HSE then served a Prohibition Notice to stop the principal contractor taking anything more off the building until the exposed combustible insulation had been adequately covered up. The HSE also took the decision to prepare a prosecution report which was submitted to HSE Legal Services who decided that it met the standard for prosecution.

On 26 October 2023, at Liverpool Magistrates Court, Green Facades Limited pleaded guilty to breaching CDM Regulations and were fined £240,000 and ordered to pay £5,405 costs. Green Facades Limited was classed as a small company in terms of sentencing guidelines, but it’s still a multi-million pound company and, as such, should have recognised that putting all the company’s health & safety responsibility and expertise in one person (who had subsequently left the company) was not sensible. Green Facades Limited should also have identified from the information provided by the building owner that it was combustible material.

Fire is an entirely foreseeable risk on a construction site and the principal contractor should have considered what it was dealing with and how it could prevent a source of ignition coming into contact with that material. As well as sealing off any exposed combustible material, Green Facades Limited should have considered taking off cladding panels and the insulation, and then replacing it straightaway with non-combustible material, so there would have been no need to leave anything exposed. 

Under CDM Regulations, duty-holders cannot simply appoint a specialist company without understanding how they will complete the work and the associated risks. Those appointing contractors should ask themselves whether they have the capability within their company to identify whether they are doing the job properly and they are assessing the risks.”

20th October 2023

Design Risk Assessments

A design risk assessment should identify hazards and evaluate the risks that may arise from the design.

Depending upon the hazard and level of risk, designers are encouraged firstly to eliminate risk by designing it out and should this not be practical, identify control measures to minimise the risk.

Recipients should also refer to design risk assessments produced by other members of the project design team. Normal risks related to the site in general and risks associated with the construction that a competent contractor should be aware of and would therefore mitigate, need not be included.

The principal contractor must undertake their own risk assessments for all stages and processes of the construction phase. Clients should be notified of actions they need to take by issue of this risk assessment.

As a designer, under Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, you must critically assess your design proposals at the start and throughout the design process.

4th October 2023

CDM Regulations 2015 - why they're important

You are more likely to have a dangerous or fatal accident while construction work is carried out if CDM regulations are not followed. In addition, the finished structure may not be safe to use, safe to maintain and may not deliver good value for money.

Construction is a high-risk industry; around one third of all workplace fatalities occur in construction and many thousands are injured each year. Such incidents often have a significant and long-lasting effect on the individuals, colleagues, family, friends and businesses. By following CDM 2015, you will be helping to stop this from happening.

When the Health & Safety Executive does find problems, they will aim to deal with the issue in a reasonable and fair way. However, serious breaches of health & safety legislation onsite could result in construction work having to be stopped by the HSE or local authority and additional work may be needed to rectify matters. In the most serious circumstances, they may prosecute.

The HSE will enforce CDM 2015 in accordance with their enforcement policy statement. Enforcement has a wide definition ranging from advice to more formal sanctions and prosecution.

The principles of the enforcement policy are proportionality, targeting, consistency, transparency and accountability. The HSE focuses on serious problems and not trivialities.

13th September 2023

Substandard Roofing Battens

Amid the high demand for treated timber, compounded by shortages, substandard roofing battens are being marked, coloured and sold as conforming to BS5534. These inferior battens present a serious issue for roof safety; not only do they affect the longevity of the roof; they are less able to support a worker using battens as a roof ladder alternative. Nonetheless, battens incorrectly carrying the BS5334 grading and/or those coloured to imply conformity are being marketed as compliant.

There are also concerns that many contractors are unwittingly using inferior battens, as they believe they have purchased pre-graded material and are likely to proceed without additional checks. Therefore, essential checks should be carried out before roof work commences. Battens are often overlooked and their value to the roof structure and safety are underestimated.

  • BS5534 states that a batten should be 25mm thick with a tolerance of -0/+3mm
  • Do not rely on the colour of a roofing batten to guarantee that it is compliant
  • If you see signs of rot/decay or growth on a batten do not use it

 

All roofing battens that are compliant with and graded to the requirements of BS5534 should be delivered to site with correct documentation. Always request a copy of this documentation and any third-party certification and retain these records. Using substandard roof battens as an alternative to a roof ladder also increases the risk of accidents, as they are taking the additional live load of the worker installing the roof.

8th September 2023

RAAC - Lightweight Concrete - Some Facts

RAAC is a lightweight material that was used mostly in flat roofing, but also in floors and walls, between the 1950s and 1990s in public buildings.

The aerated material was a cheaper alternative to standard concrete, quicker to produce and easier to install.

Its structural behaviour differs significantly from traditional reinforced concrete; it is susceptible to structural failure when exposed to moisture. The aerated material can allow water to enter; and if that happens, any rebar reinforcing RAAC can also decay, rust and weaken. Because of this, RAAC is often coated with other materials (e.g. bitumen on roofing panels), but this material can also degrade.

In the 1990s, several bodies recognised structural deficiencies in RAAC panels. It was recognised that performance was poor with cracking, excessive displacements and durability all being raised as concerns; although called concrete, RAAC is very different from traditional concrete and, because of the way in which it was made, much weaker; there are tens of thousands of these structural panels already in use and many are showing signs of wear and tear and deterioration.

The HSE says RAAC is now beyond its lifespan and may collapse with little or no notice.

3rd August 2023

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are one of the most well-known and universally used forms of firefighting equipment on a construction site. A fire extinguisher can make all the difference to fire control.

To meet fire safety regulations, you must have the exact types of fire extinguisher to meet the fire risks of your site. Using the wrong type of extinguisher on a fire can cause more harm than good; you risk electrocution if you use a water extinguisher on an electrical fire and you risk suffocation if you use a carbon dioxide extinguisher in a confined space.

Ensure that all temporary fire extinguishers are in place in all work areas and in temporary facilities.

The equipment must be labelled and dated for annual test verification. At least one fire point to be established at each access point to the building plus any additional fire points as required by the fire warden. Fire extinguishers should be located at identified fire points around the site.

The extinguishers should be appropriate to the nature of the potential fire. Nominated people should be trained in how to use extinguishers.

The principal contractor must allow for fire point signage to be displayed at each point and all extinguishers to be raised off the floor.

Keep fire extinguishers filled and maintained. An empty or faulty extinguisher is of no use in an emergency.

27th July 2023

House Partially Collapses

The Health & Safety Executive visited a property in Fallowfield on 22 September 2020 after being informed an exterior wall had collapsed during construction work undertaken by Servotec. Additionally, the HSE issued Improvement Notices to the company for the poor welfare and insufficient asbestos survey. Inspectors returned to the site on 25 September 2020 and a second Prohibition Notice was issued to Servotec after another structural problem was identified. Following this, the HSE investigated the initial cause of the partial building collapse; however the company and its director were not forthcoming with the requested information over a number of months.

The investigation found the company failed to comply with an Improvement Notice and that significant risks across a multitude of areas were present from start to finish including structural safety, working at height and welfare. The director demonstrated a persistently poor attitude and lack of accountability throughout HSE interactions. He was also found to have failed to comply in his role as a director. Servotec pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £5,000 at Manchester Magistrates Court on 10 March 2023. Shaun Brae pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs.

“This was a very serious incident, and it is fortunate nobody was injured as a result of the collapse or any of the subsequent failures. Where contractors demonstrate persistent poor health & safety and ignore Notices served, the HSE will not hesitate to take necessary action. Directing minds playing a significant role in a company’s failings will also be held accountable as was the case here.”

6th July 2023

Plumber Jailed for Illegal Gas Work

Christopher Roland Shaw (AKA Chris Parker) trading as SOS Express Plumbing, attended the woman’s home on Headingley in October 2019, where he was hired to carry out gas work.

Mr Shaw had been assisting the woman with general plumbing needs for a number of years and told her he fitted the water heater in her bathroom. As a result of this, the woman believed Mr Shaw was able to work on gas appliances. At the request of the woman, Mr Shaw then removed an existing gas boiler and installed a new combination boiler. An investigation by the HSE found Mr Shaw was not registered with the Gas Safety Register (GSR), a legal requirement whilst carrying out gas work.

Mr Shaw’s work at the woman’s home was subsequently investigated by GSR, which identified several issues. Some of these issues were deemed as at risk; meaning they could be a danger to life or the property in the future. Mr Shaw had previously been prohibited from carrying out gas work by HSE and had subsequently been investigated and prosecuted for similar illegal gas work, resulting in a custodial sentence in 2015. Mr Shaw pleaded guilty to breaching Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

Mr Shaw was sentenced to sixteen months in prison at Leeds Crown Court on 9 February 2023.

“Whilst checks could have been made with Gas Safe Register to identify whether Mr Shaw was registered and competent to carry out the gas works prior to any work being undertaken, Mr Shaw knew he was not allowed to do this work. The carrying out of illegal gas work will not be tolerated and will be investigated fully with offenders being brought to justice.”

16th June 2023

Hefty Fine For Health & Safety Failings

Work was taking place to convert an old bank into offices on London Road in Alderley Edge.

The HSE inspected the site on 9 October 2020, and found many health & safety failings, including several areas where workers could have fallen from height, a risk of exposure to hazardous substances, and inadequate welfare facilities.

Daniel Taylor Builder & Architectural Woodworker Limited was served with THREE Prohibition Notices prohibiting unsafe activities and FIVE Improvement Notices requiring the company to take remedial action to comply with the law. 

A HSE investigation then found the company had previously been the subject of enforcement action relating to unsafe work at height at both its construction sites and joinery workshop.

The investigation also found the company director was acting as site manager at the London Road site and had failed to ensure necessary health & safety measures were implemented to protect employees and others, despite the previous HSE interventions. Daniel Taylor Builder & Architectural Woodworker Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. 

The company was fined £20,000 following its early guilty plea and ordered to pay £1,507.71 in costs at South Cheshire Magistrates Court on 8 February 2023.

David William Taylor pleaded guilty to breaching Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. He was fined £10 by the district judge taking into account the totality of sentencing the defendant as a director of the company, his early guilty plea, positive references and his cooperation with HSE enforcement action. He was ordered to pay £1,507.71 in costs. 

“Good management of health & safety onsite is crucial to the successful delivery of a construction project and principal contractors have an important role in managing the risks of construction work and ensuring that safety measures are implemented.”

5th June 2023

R.I.P. Dennis Vincent

On 24 February 2021, a young father and another worker were using ropes to install a lightning protection system to the front of a Warrington office block being converted into flats.

Dennis Vincent was lowering the access equipment from the roof, using a rope attached to a frame at roof level and a handrail at ground level. As he did so, both he and the frame fell from the roof to the ground.

An investigation by the HSE found the employer, PTSG Electrical Services Limited, failed to adequately assess the risks associated with this work, giving little consideration to the work at height hierarchy of control and opting for personal protection measures over more suitable collective protection measures, such as scaffolding or a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP).

In addition to this, the company had not planned for getting the rope access equipment onto and off the roof safely, providing no instructions to the operatives.

The company was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £5448.51 in costs at Wirral Magistrates Court on 9 February 2023.

 “Our thoughts should be with the family of Dennis Vincent, a young father and husband who did not return home on 24 February 2021 because of the failings of his employer.

This incident could easily have been avoided by better planning of the work to ensure adequate controls were in place to prevent falls from the roof.

Whilst rope access techniques are appropriate in some circumstances, they should only be used if more appropriate measures, such as fixed scaffolding, cannot be.

Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

15th May 2023

Health & Safety should be an Integral Part of any Business

A building firm has been fined for a catalogue of health & safety failings that included two workers being lifted into the air by a raised excavator bucket. It was one of a number of health & safety failings found during construction work at a site in Littleborough.

HSE inspectors visited the housing development on 7 July 2021 and issued Hoyle Developments Limited, the site’s principal contractor, with a Prohibition Notice for inadequate scaffolding and Improvement Notices for a lack of welfare facilities and insecure fencing. HSE inspectors had visited the same site four times between November 2018 and August 2021.

Repeated breaches were found including a lack of sufficient welfare, unsuitable controls for work at height and inadequate protection from silica dust exposure.

Hoyle Developments Limited was served with multiple Notifications of Contraventions, Prohibition Notices and Improvement Notices. Hoyle Developments Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £3,165.15 in costs at Manchester Magistrates Court on 25 January 2023.

This proactive prosecution demonstrates that HSE will not hesitate to take proactive enforcement action against those that continuously fall below the required standards and demonstrate persistent poor safety.

Health & safety should be an integral part of any business, not an afterthought, and having a clear health & safety policy and construction phase plan in place, before work commences, can assist with ensuring this.

2nd May 2023

Worker Crushed to Death

Philip McDonald had been hired by Birch Brothers (Kidderminster) Limited to assist with the construction of a concrete overflow weir structure near Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

The worker was with colleagues on a road above the work area waiting for the excavator to remove sand from trench boxes when it rotated clockwise and crushed him.

Kidderminster Magistrates Court heard that the principal contractor had hired steel fixers and joiners to undertake the work before tragedy struck on 5 September 2017.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found that the work had not been adequately planned, and no instruction had been given to the digger operator or to pedestrians who were working in the area. The risks associated with the work had not been adequately assessed either; and there was no segregation of pedestrians and plant in this area of the site.

The company had not appointed a banksman to ensure the safety of pedestrians while the vehicle was in operation and there was also nobody to oversee this element of the work to ensure it was carried out safely.

Following the incident, a Prohibition Notice was served stopping further work involving mobile plant and vehicles until the site had been organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles could move without risks to safety.

The principal contractor pleaded guilty to breaching CDM Regulations 2015 and was fined £146,000 and ordered to pay £4,621.90 in costs.

In September 2022, the company appointed liquidators.

“This was a tragic incident that was easily preventable. Those in control of work have a responsibility to organise their sites and devise safe methods of working in relation to vehicles and pedestrians and ensure they are implemented. Site vehicle incidents can and should be prevented by effective management of transport operations throughout the construction process. Companies should be aware that Health & Safety Executive will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.

15th April 2023

Worker Hurt Falling Through Collapsed Floor

A construction company has been fined £66,667 after a worker was injured when a floor that was under construction collapsed. The worker was one of three who were working on the incomplete first floor of a building that was being constructed in Croydon on 23 June 2021.

Several pallets of blocks were lifted onto the incomplete concrete beam and block floor using a loader crane, eventually causing the floor to collapse.

One of the three workers fell to the ground and suffered an open fracture to his left leg as well as a broken wrist.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found that Lusson Limited did not take any steps to prevent falls from height and they failed to establish a safe system of work for this task.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 and fined £66,667 and ordered to pay costs of £1,907 at Westminster Magistrates Court on 21 December 2022.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices. Companies should be aware that the HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

12th April 2023

Worker Crushed on Site

Ace Demolition Services Limited was contracted by Southend Borough Council to demolish Futures Community College in Southchurch Boulevard.

Shannon Brasier was working with a colleague to load a fuel hose into the rear compartment of a 21-tonne excavator when the excavator moved round and crushed her between the excavator and a mobile fuel tank.

The 20-year-old suffered life-changing injuries including to her neck, skull and face which she was fortunate to survive.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found that Ace Demolition Services failed to implement suitable controls to segregate pedestrians and construction plant, allowed two pairs of keys to be used during the refuelling process and allowed operatives to act as signallers/banksman for the excavator without having received adequate training.

John Gilligan was responsible for supervising the refuelling and drove the excavator before the refuelling was complete. The director pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

The company was given a £20,000 fine and ordered to pay £9,731 in costs at Chelmsford Magistrates Court. John Gilligan was given a twelve-month community order with a requirement to undertake 250-hours of unpaid work.

“This incident could have easily been avoided; while there were a number of shortfalls, this incident ultimately occurred due a failure to keep the workers away from the excavator. Duty holders must ensure that individuals are segregated from vehicles and construction machinery.”

2nd April 2023

Fake Health & Safety Law Posters

It is worth checking that you’re not buying fake Health & Safety Law Posters; as only the HSE can approve a version of the actual poster.

If you employ anyone, the law says you must display an approved version of the poster, or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent leaflet.

You must display the poster where your workers can easily read it and you must not print a copy yourself.

“Welsby Slater Limited, and the HSE, are aware of suppliers selling fake versions online that haven’t been approved. The current version of the law poster includes enhanced security features and is more durable.”

16th March 2023

Engineer Jailed for Illegal Gas Work

Peter Read, trading as ACE Plumbing & Heating, was contracted to install a new gas central heating boiler for a client in January 2020.

A few days later the client experienced problems with the boiler. On inspection by an engineer on the Gas Safe Register, the installation did not meet current standards. Further repair work was then required by a Gas Safe Registered engineer to ensure that the installation was in a safe condition.

An HSE investigation found Peter Read was not competent to carry out gas work and not on the Gas Safe Register at the time he carried out this work.

He had previously been prosecuted by the HSE in April 2016 and had been found guilty of carrying out unregistered gas work. He was fully aware of his legal responsibilities when carrying out gas work.

Peter Read pleaded guilty to breaching the Gas Safety Installation & Use Regulations 1998 and the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was handed a custodial sentence of twenty-weeks at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on 2 December 2022.

“Peter Read continued to carry out gas work while he was not competent to do so and while not Gas Safe Registered. He showed a blatant disregard for the law and continued to put people at risk despite previous enforcement against him by the HSE. His actions have not only caused considerable stress for clients, but have also resulted in additional financial outlay required to put right his poor quality work. Anyone who needs gas work must make sure they check that the engineer has the right skills and is registered with Gas Safe Register. This is very easy to do and by law, anyone working with gas must be listed on the register.”

8th March 2023

Asbestos - An Important HSE Announcement

The HSE has launched a new campaign to remind people working in construction trades to manage the risks associated with asbestos. In 1999, asbestos was banned, but still around 5,000 people a year die from asbestos related diseases due to the decades delay between exposure and symptoms of the disease appearing.

Asbestos didn’t disappear when it was banned in Britain and remains in millions of homes and buildings. Asbestos exposure is still the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in this country with those carrying out repairs or refurbishment work being at a higher risk of disturbing asbestos, especially when working in houses.

Builders, carpenters, electricians, joiners, plasterers, plumbers and roofers are just some of the trades being urged to take the risks of asbestos seriously. The campaign will target all trades with a focus on younger workers who have recently joined the industry.

The HSE particularly wants to reach those who started their careers from the year 2000, after the use of asbestos was banned so they know the risk still remains. Asbestos containing materials were used extensively in the construction and maintenance of buildings from the 1950s to the year 2000.

“Asbestos is dangerous when not maintained in a safe condition or if physically disturbed without the right measures in place to avoid fibres being released into the air. If asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. These diseases often take a long time to develop, and it can take 20 to 30 years for symptoms to appear. Construction workers of any age are at significant risk if they disturb materials containing asbestos during repairs and refurbishment. Where it can’t be maintained safely in place, it must be removed.”

2nd March 2023

Another fall from height and HSE investigation

MH Costa Construction had been completely renovating the property in Fulham which included building a basement and an extension.

In November 2018, a worker, along with others, was working on the extension’s flat roof when he fell through an opening created for the installation of a skylight. The opening was covered with loose planks and work was in progress immediately by the opening. An investigation by the HSE found it would have only taken a small movement to dislodge the planks. The worker either fell or stepped onto a plank which then tipped causing him to fall to the basement below.

The company’s risk assessment records did not consider how to prevent falls through the opening. Additionally, there was no scaffolding or other measures to prevent falls off the sides of the flat roof. The HSE also found other areas where workers could fall as well as issues relating to manual handling, trip hazards, hazardous wood dust and the storage of flammable materials. There was also no evidence the injured worker had been provided with any formal health & safety related training. MH Costa Construction pleaded guilty to a breach of CDM Regulations 2015.

They were fined £96,000 and ordered to pay £18,965.66 in costs at Southwark Crown Court in November 2022.

“Working on roofs is a high-risk activity, so it’s essential it is carefully planned. The worker suffered serious injuries and may never be able to work again. It’s good fortune he was not killed, but it must have been awful for his family waiting for the six-weeks when he was in a coma. The company ignored opportunities to review and improve health & safety arrangements before this incident. The HSE had served Notification of Contraventions on the company at two other sites during the previous six-months including highlighting unsafe working at height. At one site, a visiting health & safety advisor provided the company with audit reports which raised edge protection issues as needing immediate attention.”

15th February 2023

Father-of-Two Killed

Jonathan May was working on a storm-damaged warehouse roof in Barnsley with two others on 18 December 2016 when the father-of-two was killed after falling 12 metres through a skylight.

The work involved the replacement of more than 300 skylights on a fragile asbestos cement roof. The skylights had been damaged in a hailstorm. An investigation by the HSE found Davis Industrial Roofing Limited had failed to provide an appropriate risk assessment, method statement and suitable & sufficient fall protection measures for the roof work to be carried out safely.

The investigation found, even though reasonably practicable precautions were available, poor planning had resulted in a risk assessment and method statement that was not suitable and sufficient. The work was poorly supervised and carried out unsafely. Melvyn Davis, the sole director of the company, who had drawn up the RAMS and had regularly visited the site to monitor progress, had failed to provide suitable and sufficient fall protection measures and consented to the use of an unsafe system of work. This constituted a personal neglect for safety during the roof work.

Melvyn Davis pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment suspended for twelve months and ordered to do fifteen days of rehabilitation activity, at Sheffield Magistrates Court on 16 November 2022. Davis Industrial Roofing Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and fined £20,000.00 and ordered to pay £12,557.00 costs.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices. Companies and directors should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

3rd February 2023

Contractor Fined for Multiple Safety Failings

An investigation by the HSE found a contractor failed to plan, manage and monitor health and safety work on construction sites across England.

The company was given a series of Notification of Contravention letters, official correspondence that outline how firms need to improve and provide advice on doing so. They also received a significant number of formal Improvement and Prohibition Notices due to unsafe work, yet the company repeatedly failed to ensure the work being done on their sites was carried out safely and without risks to health. The company failed to reach the required basic legal standards.

The HSE investigation also found that the managing director should have ensured measures were taken to comply with each concern when it was raised by HSE and these measures were maintained. The company pleaded guilty to breaching CDM Regulations 2015. The company was fined £116,666 and ordered to pay costs of £8,294.40 at Manchester Crown Court. The managing director was served with a formal caution after accepting he was guilty of breaching the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, in relation the company’s failing of CDM Regulations 2015 on the basis of neglect.

It is accepted by HSE that responsibility for compliance with the relevant legislation was not limited to the managing director.

“Companies have a duty of care to those they employ and HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards. The company and their managing director had every opportunity to improve standards and maintain these improvements, but they sadly failed to do so and continued to put workers and contractors at risk. The company has a long history of formal enforcement and prosecutions from HSE and it is hoped that this case will serve as a wake-up call for them to ensure that their management is robust enough to maintain any and all health & safety improvements they make in the future.”

25th January 2023

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

These are new requirements for responsible persons of mid and high-rise blocks of flats to provide information to fire and rescue services to assist them with operational planning and provide additional safety measures.

In all multi-occupied residential buildings, residents should now be provided with fire safety instructions and information on fire doors. The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 are now law from 23 January 2023 and form part of a package of sensible, risk mitigating fire safety measures that the UK Government is delivering following the Grenfell Tower fire to keep the public safe.

In high-rise residential buildings, responsible persons will be required to:

Provide local fire & rescue service with up-to-date electronic building plans and information on the design and materials of their external wall

Undertake monthly checks of firefighting lifts, evacuation lifts and other key pieces of firefighting equipment

Install secure information box and wayfinding signage

In mid-rise residential buildings, over eleven metres, responsible persons will be required to undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common part.

16th January 2023

An Employee Receives an 11,000-volt shock!

On 30 September 2019 an employee of a groundworks company was pouring concrete on a site near Banbury when the floating arm of a mobile pump came into contact with an overhead powerline.

As a result, the employee received an 11,000-volt shock which caused him to lose consciousness. Colleagues had to perform CPR to resuscitate him at the scene. He was later taken to hospital where he was in a coma for six-days and hospitalised for ten-days. The HSE investigation found that the company fell far below expected standards and failed to implement its own control measures documented within its risk assessment.

The HSE investigation also found that the sole trader failed to plan, manage or monitor the construction phase and failed to ensure reasonably practicable control measures were in place. Additionally, the concrete pump operator failed to take reasonable care for the health & safety of himself and others who were affected by his act and omission.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and the company was fined £50,000 and £5,425 in costs plus a £181 victim surcharge of £181 at Oxford Magistrates Court on 28 October 2022.

The sole trader pleaded guilty to breaching CDM 2015 and fined £3,000 and £525 in costs plus a £181 victim surcharge. And the concrete pump operator pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act and handed a twelve-month community order with a requirement to carry out sixty-hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs plus a £90 victim surcharge.

“The company could have ensured that the mobile concrete pump lorry was positioned outside an exclusion zone to prevent contact with the overhead powerline. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

6th January 2023

Failings in Fire Management

In January 2018 the HSE undertook a proactive inspection to investigate health & safety failings by a building contractor at a site in Brentwood after concerns were raised that people were sleeping onsite. The subsequent HSE investigation, assisted by Essex Fire & Rescue Service, identified failings in fire management at the site which created risks to workers and the public who were visiting show flats outside of business hours. The site was poorly managed and construction work was being carried out in an unsafe manner which could have resulted in a fire.

The contractor had previously been subject to HSE interventions after risks of a fire had been identified across a number of sites over several years. Evidence gathered during investigation indicated that the company director regularly attended the site but failed to implement improvements from previous HSE interventions. The contractor pleaded guilty to breaching Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,894 at Basildon Crown Court on 25 October 2022. A company director pleaded guilty to contravening Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He received a community order to complete 100-hours of unpaid work and was given a £4,200 fine.

 “The contractor completely ignored the importance of fire safety measures on a construction site led by a director who wilfully chose to ignore the risks despite evidence he knew how to make things safe. This unsurprisingly resulted in a site where risks were also ignored by his workers. Follow the guidance, get competent advice and take responsibility that the law requires at the very least, or someone may get hurt, which thankfully did not happen here.”

16th December 2022

Groundworker Engulfed in Flames

A Kent groundwork contractor has been fined after a worker sustained serious burns following petrol being thrown on a bonfire.

On 24 June 2020, a groundworker employed by the contractor was working on a new residential development in Ramsgate when a co-worker used petrol on a bonfire. The groundworker was unaware of this and after he was instructed to light the bonfire, it engulfed him in flames as the petrol vapour ignited.

The worker suffered serious burns and underwent two skin graft operations to his left hand, left arm, left side of torso and both his legs.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found the company had failed to appropriately supervise their operatives and failed to provide them with the appropriate information and instruction, so far as is reasonably practicable to ensure work was carried out without risks to health or safety.

At Folkestone Magistrates on 10 October 2022, the company pleaded guilty to breaching Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015. They were fined £10,000 and ordered to pay nearly £8,000 in costs.

The operative’s injuries are life changing and could have easily been fatal. This serious incident and devastation should have been avoided if those in control of the work provided the appropriate supervision, information and instructions to their workers.

2nd December 2022

Contractor Breaches Prohibition Notice

A property investment company was using a site-made cradle during the renovation of a five-story building on Bermondsey Street in London.

Cradles are temporary suspended work access platforms widely used in construction, which are commonly suspended from cables and raised & lowered into position by winches.

However, Westminster Magistrates Court heard that on and before 26 February 2019, the company put operatives at risk of falling from height while unsafely refurbishing the front façade of the building. Despite being served with a Prohibition Notice by the HSE the company continued working the following day.

An HSE investigation found that workers were at significant risk of falling from height by manually lifting the cradle from the open edge of the roof and working from height near unprotected openings; and that the work was not appropriately supervised.

The company also obstructed justice by refusing to allow the HSE inspector access to the site. As such, the company failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of those carrying out the work.

On 10 October 2022, the company pleaded guilty to breaching Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and breaching the Prohibition Notice.

They were fined £46,000 and ordered to pay over £24,000 in costs.

“HSE Inspectors will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against duty-holders who fall below the required standards and put lives at risk. Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. In 2021/22, falls from height accounted for 29 fatal injuries in the workplace.”