Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) (US)

The USEPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is here. IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. Through the IRIS Program, USEPA provides the science-based human health assessments that support its regulatory activities. The IRIS database is web accessible and contains information on more than 550 chemical substances.

Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (US)

The USEPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.

Further information is found here.

Hydrocarbon Tank Cleaning Fireball

A UK company was prosecuted and heavily fined (29th October) after serious injuries were caused by safety failings in the method used by the company to clean large fuel bowsers (tanks) deployed in the aviation industry.

It seems the cleaning method required persons to climb through a manhole cover on top of six-metre-long 20,000 litre aviation fuel tanks to clean the inside by applying a highly flammable solvent to a cloth and then wiping down the walls, whilst holding a lamp.

In this instance, since the lamp inside the tank was getting hot, the person inside the tank carrying out the cleaning pulled the plug from its socket. As he did this, a spark caused the fumes to ignite and he was surrounded by flames, which were witnessed shooting into the air up to two meters above the manhole cover. The fire was so hot that it melted the visor on his mask and his protective suit, so that only the elastic from the collar and cuffs were left.

The HSE press release states the person suffered multiple burns over most of his body, including his arms, legs and face; his hair and eyebrows were burnt off; and his lips badly burnt. He was in hospital for three months and is now almost totally paralysed.

The investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the method of cleaning the fuel tanks with a highly flammable solvent had been used since 2007 (the incident took place in 2011), but the company had failed to carry out any kind of risk assessment. In addition, there was no supervision of workers or monitoring of the fumes inside the tank, and the masks and lighting provided were entirely unsuitable. Workers also had to take it in turns to clean each tank as the build-up of fumes from the solvent made them feel sick.

The day after the incident, the company decided it did not need to use a solvent to clean the fuel tank and instead used soapy water.

Information on preventing workplace fires and explosions is available at www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion.

Microgeneration Strategy and Action Plan (UK)

The UK’s Microgeneration Strategy and Action Plan was published in June 2011 with the aim of tackling the non- financial barriers facing small-scale renewable and low carbon energy technologies. It was supported by an action plan for industry and Government to take forward, covering the areas of quality, skills, technology development, information and advice and communities.

The Final Report of the Microgeneration Government-Industry Contact Group (MGICG) is now published. This is a report on the implementation of the Microgeneration Strategy Industry Action Plan – a two-year programme of action to tackle non-financial barriers facing small-scale renewable and low carbon energy technologies. The Microgeneration Government-Industry Contact Group (MGICG) provided oversight and coordination of the implementation of the action plan.

The MGICG comprises the various trade stakeholder groups that are representative of the wider microgeneration industry, consumer stakeholder organisations and government departments. The group works constructively with Government in an advisory capacity on delivery of the Microgeneration Strategy and functions as a project board to oversee its implementation. The group also considers related policy areas in respect of microgeneration, such as for Green Deal, FITs, RHI, building regulations, planning, smart meters and the decarbonisation of the grid. The primary point of contact with Government is DECC’s Heat Strategy and Policy team.

Microgeneration describes a range of small-scale onsite technologies for generating renewable and low carbon electricity and heat including photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, heat pumps, micro/small wind turbines, biomass, micro combined heat and power (CHP) and micro hydropower. For the purpose of the Strategy, microgeneration is defined as up to 50kWe for electricity and up to 300kWth for heat. This differs slightly from the legal definition as set out in the Energy Act 2004, Section 82.

The Industry Action Plan was a two year programme (2011/12 and 2012/13) comprising seven taskgroups:

1. Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) – to maximise the effectiveness of the MCS scheme in ensuring high-quality design and installation of microgeneration systems and improved consumer confidence – this is found here

2. Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) – to align sector behind a single set of recommendations for the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) to align it to the emerging EU policy environment and inform fairer reflection within EPCs as part of the Building Regulations review

3. Skills and knowledge – to ensure that there are sufficient levels of skills and knowledge within the industry to meet the demands of a rapidly growing sector in line with UK carbon reduction and green economy policies

4. Warranties and insurances – to ensure effective consumer protection schemes are identified and fully communicated to the market

5. Technology – to promote deployment of system-based approaches to microgeneration technology, produce clear guidance on technologies, improve consideration of grid and connection issues and encourage a reliable market growth for microgeneration technologies

6. Communication – to achieve consensus within the industry on core messaging and promote a collaborative approach to dissemination, enabling greater reach

7. Community delivery – to encourage and support uptake of renewable energy technologies by communities and facilitate area-based approaches. This work is being taken forward by a team in the UK Government Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and the Community Energy Contact Group.

The tasks completed and still to complete are set out in this MGICG Final Report.

Children’s Playground Equipment Fine

A ten-year-old boy sustained severe head injuries when part of a swing collapsed on him at a Blackpool park. Blackpool Council was then prosecuted by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the council had been warned by Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) engineers in separate inspections (which the Council had paid for) that the swing needed urgent attention. The investigation concluded that poor repair work carried out on the swing in 2009 was likely to have contributed to its deterioration, meaning the same issue is unlikely to occur on other similar swings.

Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard that the child’s injuries, including a fractured skull, could affect him for the rest of his life. Magistrates were told the youngster and his friends had been playing on a tyre swing at one of the council’s public parks. The swing was connected to an arched metal beam overhead by four chains which hung down from a suspension mechanism. The boy was underneath the swing when the rotating mechanism gave way, striking him on the head. He was in hospital for eight days, suffered a crushed and fractured skull, and the loss of vision in his right eye.

The Council was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 23 October 2013.

Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

Low Voltage Electrical Equipment Testing Guidance

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated its electrical testing guidance for low voltage electrical equipment INDG354.

INDG354 covers electrical testing of low voltage equipment, eg industrial and domestic appliances (low voltage is defined as not exceeding 1000 V ac or 1500 V dc). Most of this equipment will be used on mains supply voltages of 230 V ac single phase or 400 V ac three phase. However, there could be internally derived voltages which are much higher and in some cases above the low voltage limits; these are still covered by this guidance.

The guidance supplements the information in HSG85 Electricity at work: Safe working practices. HSG85 gives more general guidance to managers. It covers the key things to consider when devising safe working practices for people who carry out work on or near all types of electrical equipment.