High Rise Tower Fire Checks (UK)

Update 16th June : a public inquiry is announced amid calls for an inquest to be held into the deaths. Scotland Yard will also conduct a criminal investigation. 

A devastating fire started last night in a high rise tower block in Kensington, West London – many of you will be watching the news reels that are covering this.

Nick Hurd, appointed yesterday as Police and Fire Minister, has announced immediate fire safety checks of similar high rise blocks. The scope of these checks is not presently clear. The instruction appears to be to Local Authorities. 

Part B of the Building Regulations 2010 (fire safety) is in the spotlight and has been with the government for review since 2016, following a devasting fire in another tower bloc in 2009 and that coroner’s report issued in 2013. The current Part B documents are here

Please remember that employers’ obligations vis a vis Fire Safety are consolidated by the Fire Safety Order (the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005), and its equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland, these are in EHS Legislation Register systems, in the various Fire Safety Registers. The Building Regulations are found in ENV Energy. I will add the Part B documents to the OHS Fire Registers for completeness.

The Building Regulations are in the spotlight because of eye witness observations of the fast speed of fire spread. 

Concerns over external cladding were raised in the UK as early as 1999, here

This post will be updated, as and when further regulatory information is available. 

Forklift Truck Fatality (Britain)

A worker was killed on his first day of work, when the forklift truck he was driving overturned, crushing him.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) press release is here.

The court was told that the deceased was not wearing a seatbelt and there was no company policy in place to ensure seatbelts were worn.

HSE’s investigation also found that the forklift trucks in use at the company were not suitable for operation on uneven surfaces or over loose material such as that found on the site. Alternative vehicles, such as four-wheel-drive, all terrain shovel loaders, could have been used and were already in use elsewhere on the site. Since the incident, the company now uses these vehicles to move all the material on the site and it is now company policy for seatbelts to be worn at all times in all vehicles.

Recresco Ltd, of Lane End, Urban Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottingham, was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay £38,693 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 17 December 2014.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Martin Paren said:

“Ian was just a few hours into his first day at work for Recresco Ltd when this tragic incident occurred. Our investigation revealed a series of failures at the plant, with forklift trucks being used in an area that was completely unsuitable because of the uneven surface created by waste material scattered around the floor. There was also no policy in place for the use of seatbelts.

Sadly it was entirely foreseeable that someone was at risk of being badly injured or killed. If the company had taken some simple measures to reduce the risks, such as using the all-terrain vehicles in use elsewhere on the site, then Ian’s tragic death could have been avoided.”

Port Operator Crew Fatalities (UK – Scotland)

23 September 2014: in the Edinburgh High Court, Clydeport Operations Limited, owned by Peel Ports Limited, admitted breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, that had resulted in the death of three tug boat crew members.

The company accepted that between 29 December 2000 and 19 December 2007 there had been a systemic failure in risk assessments and safe systems of work. The company was fined £650,000.

The tug operator Svitzer Marine Limited had previously admitted to proximate cause of the deaths.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) took over the maritime element of the investigation from Strathclyde Police, once it was determined that the deaths were not suspicious. However, the investigation remained under the control of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The MCA found that there were also shortcomings in the application of the Port Marine Safety code in that neither the company secretary, nor the operations/human resources director, received training to adequately fulfil their role as the designated person with responsibility to ensure health and safety.

Sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh on 29 September the judge, Lord Kinclaven, said:

The charges are severally and jointly very serious and extended for a long period of time, from 2000 to 2007.

Captain Jeremy Smart, Head of Enforcement at the MCA, said:

This was a tragic event and the MCA would like to express its sincere condolences to the families involved, who have endured a very difficult number of years. The investigation highlighted some very serious shortcomings in Clydeport Operations Limited’s safety management.

The MCA Press Release is here.

Vibration Causes Nerve Damage (Britain)

A Nottinghamshire aerospace engineering company has been ordered to pay more than £190,000 in fines and costs for failing to protect its employees from the effects of vibration, after 24 workers were diagnosed with debilitating nerve conditions.

Nottingham Crown Court heard that although HSE was notified of an employee being diagnosed with HAVS in 2010, the issue dated back to 2005 when the company’s health and safety committee asked it to carry out a suitable risk assessment for exposure to vibration, and act on the result. An assessment of the company’s tools took place in 2006 which identified some, including drills, grinders and hammers, posed a high risk from exposure to vibration. However, they were not taken out of service and no controls were put on their use until 2010. In addition, some employees used their own tools, which were also not assessed and therefore no controls put in place. HSE found that although the company provided some health surveillance for employees, it was not sufficient to identify symptoms early and refer individuals to occupational health specialists for timely diagnosis and management.

The symptoms of HAVS syndrome include blanching and numbness in the fingers, especially in the cold, as well as pins and needles, which can be extremely painful. This is due to damage to the small blood vessels and nerves supplying the hands. Sufferers can have difficulty picking up small objects and performing tasks such as doing up buttons. As sufferers cannot be exposed to cold without pain it can restrict some work and hobbies such as fishing, cycling or gardening.

Sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome also experience pain and pins and needles, especially at night, and a reduction in grip. An operation is normally needed to release the nerve, although this is less successful if they have been exposed to vibration.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Dawn Smith said:

“SPS Aerostructures Ltd was, from 2005, regularly being made aware that employees were suffering from vibration-related symptoms. They were being supplied with this information directly from staff and from their Occupational Health Nurse. However, they chose to ignore this information and allowed employees to work unrestricted with high risk tools, or their own tools.”

“The company was slow to implement improvements even after HSE’s involvement and had to be issued with an Improvement Notice in 2011 to ensure compliance.”

“Adequate assessment of the risk from vibration, provision of tools with lower vibration levels, and a good system of work would have ensured workers were not over-exposed to vibration. A better health surveillance system would also have identified problems earlier, and symptoms could have been managed to prevent them getting worse.”

Prosecution was for breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

The HSE press release is here.

Acetylene cylinder explosion causes serious injury (Britain)

When an employee of a dissolved acetylene filling plant was filling an acetylene cylinder as part of a routine operation, the acetylene solution within the cylinder became unstable and the cylinder exploded, starting a fire which was allowed to burn for eight days, until, after careful consideration, it was extinguished by the Fire & Rescue Service.

The employee suffered multiple lacerations and significant burns to his left thigh, left arm and head.

An investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees and did not take necessary measures to prevent a major accident.

The company was fined £175,000 with costs of £85,000 after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. No evidence was presented on the other charge concerning a breach of the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Evan Bale, said: “The employee’s serious injuries could have been avoided with some simple measures such as a thorough assessment of the risks, including an identification of human error potential and the design of the work.”

“Acetylene is a colourless gas which is widely used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It is very unstable in its pure form and is normally dissolved in a solution within a cylinder prior to distribution. The company fell below the standard expected for controlling risks associated with handling this hazardous chemical.”

“The plant is a top tier major hazard site and is subject to the COMAH regulations. There is no excuse for any major hazard operator failing to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents.”

Link to the HSE Press Release.

Proposals to Exempt Self-Employed Persons from HSWA (Britain)

New Regulations are proposed – ‘The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015’ – to set out activities where self-employed persons will continue to have duties under section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974; all others to be exempt from section 3(2) duties.

Section 3(2) duties extend the general duty of employers to their employees set out in section 3(1) of HSWA –
3(1) it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

It is not proposed to alter section 3(1), only section 3(2).

Consultation has been occurring and ends 31st August 2014.

This post will be updated when the Regulations are issued in their final form.

Forklift Truck Fatality (Britain)

An employee was using his forklift truck to load a lorry trailer outside his factory workplace when another lorry reversed into the side of his vehicle. The forklift overturned, killing him instantly.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that forklift truck drivers had regularly driven onto a public road to load lorries, without the company putting any safety measures in place.

The company had not carried out an adequate assessment of the risks to its employees or visiting drivers using the ‘Goods Out’ area. Drivers were also not given any information, instruction or training on how to load the lorry trailers safely, and there was poor supervision.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Deborah Walker said:

“Our investigation revealed a chaotic and dangerous system, and sadly it was entirely foreseeable that someone was at risk of being badly injured or killed.

“Neither Mr Moran nor the lorry driver had any way of knowing they were both about to start operating their vehicles, and sadly Mr Moran did not have time to get out of the way when the HGV began to reverse.

“Following the incident, the company created a no-parking zone along the ‘Goods Out’ area by Davy Road which means there is now space for forklift truck drivers to load trailers without having to come out into the road. The firm also set up a booking-in system for vehicles delivering to the factory.

“If these simple measures had been in place at the time of the incident then Mr Moran’s tragic death could have been avoided.”

AAK UK Ltd, of King George Dock in Hull, was fined £140,000 and ordered to pay £22,657 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

The HSE press release is here.