Health and Safety – August/September 2019

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Walker Morris risk series stampLatest £1 million fine; interim report from Competence Steering Group in response to Hackitt Review; product safety no-deal Brexit guidance; and more.

Latest £1 million fine for health and safety breach

A principal contractor has been fined £1 million (with costs of over £100,000) after a worker was struck and killed by an excavator during night work at a construction site. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to ensure the safety, so far as is reasonably practicable, of its employees and others working on the site. In addition, the site supervisor, who was operating the excavator, had failed to take reasonable care for others on site at the time and was given a six month custodial sentence, suspended for twelve months. He was also ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

This fine brings the number of £1 million-plus fines imposed so far in 2019 for health and safety breaches to eleven.

Other sentencing news

BP Exploration Operating Company Limited was fined £400,000 after an oil leak in Shetland. The HSE investigation found that the company had failed to take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents and to limit their consequences to persons and the environment, and had failed to identify and assess the hazards and risks arising from the undertaking of a non-routine job.

A port operating company was fined £300,000 (with costs of just over £7,500) after an agency worker was seriously injured when he was struck by a load which fell from two fork lift trucks. The HSE investigation found that no suitable risk assessment relating to the hazards from the particular loading procedure had been carried out, and the fork lift truck lifting operation was also not properly planned, supervised or carried out in a safe manner.

A council was fined £100,000 (with costs of over £28,000) after seven workers from its grounds maintenance and street care team were exposed to Hand Arm Vibration caused by the excessive use of power tools. The HSE inspector said: “This was a case of the council failing to identify the risk from hand arm vibration which is a recognised health risk with potentially disabling consequences. Unless vibration is identified and properly assessed, an employer won’t know the level of risk and whether action is needed to protect workers”.

Competence Steering Group publishes interim report in response to Hackitt recommendations

On 16 August 2019, the Steering Group on Competence for Building a Safer Future, which was set up to tackle the competency failings identified in Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report on building regulations and fire safety, published its interim report called ‘Raising the Bar’. It is consulting on the report until 18 October 2019.

The report sets out what the Construction Industry Council describes as “a radical and wide-ranging set of measures to improve the competence of those who design, construct, inspect, maintain and operate higher risk residential buildings and make them safer for the public”. See the press release for a summary of the proposals, which include the creation of a new oversight body, and a link through to the report and an executive summary.

The Competence Steering Group’s recommendations are set out on page 26 of the report onwards. They include specific recommendations from thirteen different working groups, including engineers, fire risk assessors, building designers and project managers. The report says that the recommendations “achieve two objectives: they lay firm foundations for a more coherent and consistent approach to assessing and ensuring competence across the critical disciplines; and accompanied with the right legislation they pave the way for a culture change across the whole building industry, so that everyone recognises their responsibility as part of a wider system for delivering safe buildings”.

Government launches consultation on sprinklers in high rise flats

On 5 September 2019, the government launched a consultation on proposals to reduce the building height for when sprinklers are required from 30 metres and above to 18 metres and other fire safety measures. It also announced that a new Protection Board is being set up immediately with the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council to provide further reassurance to residents of high-risk residential blocks that any risks are identified and acted upon. This new Board will operate until legislation on a new building safety regime is introduced and a new building safety regulator is established to oversee the new regime. The consultation closes on 28 November 2019.

In related news, a number of corrections have been made to volumes 1 and 2 of the building regulations guidance on fire safety (Approved Document B). See the circular letter. The government has also published an analysis of the responses to its call for evidence on the technical review of Approved Document B which closed in March 2019. It says that it will work with industry and the Building Regulations Advisory Committee to consider the full range of technical areas raised in the call for evidence and determine a detailed plan for taking the review forward.

Government consults on proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss

In other news, the government is consulting until 7 October 2019 on different ways in which government and employers can take action to reduce ill health-related job loss. The proposals aim to support and encourage early action by employers for their employees with long-term health conditions, and improve access to quality, cost-effective occupational health.

UK product safety no-deal Brexit guidance

On 23 September 2019, the Office for Product Safety and Standards published updated guidance to explain how existing product safety and metrology legislation will be amended and what businesses need to do differently. The webpage links through to detailed guides for businesses on specific regulations and updated guidance on placing manufactured goods on the market after Brexit, including conformity marking of goods.

Launch of Industry 4.0 implications for health and safety survey

The Discovering Safety Programme, which the HSE says is aimed at improving health and safety on a global scale by using new insights from data and novel analytical techniques, is seeking views from organisations currently using or planning to use industry 4.0 technologies to support their health and safety strategy. See this link.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence.