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Employee's loss of arm costs company £40,000 21/08/2019

HULL FIRM Moss Tyres Ltd must pay more than £40,000 after an accident in which an employee lost an arm.

The firm has been fined £17,000 and must pay Hull City Council’s prosecution costs of £24,638, plus a statutory court charge of £120 after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of an employee.

Mobile tyre technician David Ralph had to have his left arm amputated and sustained fractures to his face, right arm and right hand when a crane tyre he was inflating exploded in December 2015.

Sentencing for the case took place at Hull Crown Court today, with Hull City Council the prosecuting authority.

On the day of the accident, Mr Ralph, who was left-handed, and a colleague, who was not injured, had been sent by Moss Tyres to a site owned by crane operators Sangwin, where the company was contracted to carry out work.

The two men had been asked to rebuild components of the type of wheels used on cranes and to reassemble the tyres.

They started to inflate the first tyre on a pallet, but before it reached the standard pressure, it suddenly exploded. Mr Ralph, who had been standing one metre away, was thrown high into the air. The force of the explosion was so strong that a container in a neighbouring premises was damaged and debris from the tyre was found there.

Mr Ralph was taken to hospital by ambulance. He had suffered multiple fractures to his arms and lacerations to his face. Doctors tried to save his left arm, but the damage was so severe that amputation was necessary to save his life.

An investigation by environmental health officers from Hull City Council’s Public Protection division found inadequate equipment had been provided to Mr Ralph and his colleague by their employer to hold the wheel in place during the inflation.  A specialised cage or frame can be used to contain ejected parts in an explosion.

The investigation found that Moss Tyres was aware of the risk involved in the work the men were carrying out and that certain precautions should have been taken.  A generic risk assessment had been carried out in 2010 and the company had felt inflating a very large tyre on a vehicle with the fitter safely out of the way was sufficient.

Reminders were issued to Moss Tyres staff in 2012 and 2015 that a cage should be used where available.  There was a cage at the Moss Tyres premises, but it was not large enough to contain the crane tyres involved in the accident.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Specialist Inspector examined the incident and concluded that any reasonable “safe system of work” based on HSE guidance would have required the wheel to be placed into a suitable cage or frame, with the tyre fitter outside an area adjacent to the tyre.

Khaled Choudhury, principal environmental health officer, said: “This extremely serious and avoidable accident had life-changing consequences for Mr Ralph. The work he was involved in on the day it happened was high-risk in nature and Mr Ralph should have been afforded a series of protections by his employer. Unfortunately, this was not the case.”

Councillor Mike Thompson, portfolio holder for public protection, added:  “Protecting the health, safety and welfare of workers is a priority for Hull City Council. We act as a co-regulator with the HSE in accordance with the Joint Statement of Commitment and will work with local communities, which includes businesses to reduce work-related death, injuries and ill health.”

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Safety milestone for Kier Highways 21/08/2019

TWO KIER Highways smart motorway projects have worked over one million hours without a reportable injury.

M20 J3-5 in the south-east and M6 J13-15 in the Midlands both achieved the significant milestone within weeks of each other and put this success down to hosting successful engagement sessions and the commitment and dedication from all staff on both sites.

Since the M20 project started in May 2018, 1,996 people have been inducted and there are currently 250 operatives working on site. In addition to this, the team has worked 870,000 hours without any lost time injuries. The Accident Frequency Rate (AFR) remains at zero at this site.

Steve Crofts, Kier Highways head of safety, health and environment, said: “Such impressive health and safety performance reminds us that, when we all work together and focus on health & safety without compromising, it is possible to ensure everyone goes home safe and well every day.”

M6 J13-15 carried out several collaborative health and safety initiatives focusing on the most important choice people make each day – the choice to work safely. The sessions were well attended and covered a variety of topics, including safety in design, choosing to be resilient in changing situations and stroke awareness.

Following the two weeks of presentations the health and safety team managed four stand-down days, where all operations stop for a day of briefings and team building, this covered over 200 operatives and site-based personnel.

Steve added: “Engagement with workforce and supply chain is key to understanding the culture that exists and ensuring everybody understands and lives by the mantra that nothing is so important that it cannot be done safely.”

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Employees not meeting fitness goals 21/08/2019

SITTING AT a desk all day can take its toll. Many of us will be familiar with the feeling that we could be more active, but working 9-5 often means that there’s a lot of time spent sitting, and not a lot of time spent standing or walking. In fact, a UK adult spends an average of 9.5 hours a day sedentary.

A new study by Perkbox Medical, of 2,850 people, found that 45% of Brits feel that they aren’t able to reach their fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day because they are ‘not able to walk a lot at work’. A further 40% stated that they ‘don’t have enough time’, further highlighting the issue of work/life balance. 

With 58% of Brits trying to reach the target of 10,000 steps a day and a huge 71% of Brits (whether attempting to hit this target or not) not reaching this amount of activity each day, it highlights that many Brits are living a highly sedentary lifestyle. This can contribute to a host of serious medical issues, including depression/anxiety, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

The survey also revealed that 73% attempt to reach 10,000 steps a day to maintain mental health and reduce stress and 64% wish to improve fitness - therefore, with 45% feeling that they aren’t able to reach these goals because they can’t walk a lot at work, it leads to concern that workplaces aren’t placing their employee's health as a priority. 

Workplace stress is a growing issue and regular exercise can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety and more. It relieves stress, improves memory, improves sleep and boosts overall mood - all of which should be of importance within the workplace.

Employees should feel that they are able to take regular short walks at work - the NHS recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with shorter bouts of activity for just one to two minutes. 

To increase the number of steps and activity completed in the workplace, Perkbox recommends the following:

  • Education surrounding the mental health benefits of walking - Many might be unaware of the mental health benefits that walking can allow - helping to educate everyone in the company of mental health benefits that a simple short walk can bring, could make a real impact to some lives. If possible, make it clear to employees that if anyone is feeling under any pressure or stress, they are able to step away from the desk and take a short walk to clear their mind and reap the health benefits. 

  • Introduce workplace step count competitions - Who doesn’t get a bit competitive at the sound of a challenge? Setting up a friendly competition amongst colleagues, of who can reach 10,000 steps a day the most frequently over a certain period of time, with the winner receiving a small prize, helps to get everyone involved. A shared goal boosts motivation, and the whole office will be feeling the benefits of getting more exercise.

  • Encourage walking lunches - Many of us can’t resist staying at our desks to get a few extra emails out over lunch. However, eating lunch at your desk can decrease productivity and bring the ‘brain fog’ that many of us will be familiar with. Create a culture in the office that encourages everyone to leave their desks at lunch, even just for a short time - the office should seem revitalised come the afternoon.  

  • Introduce standing desks - Although not contributing to step count, standing desks reduce the effects of sitting for too long. Standing desks aim to reduce back pain and all the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Having desks that can switch between sitting and standing gives the choice of both and allows for a break from long periods of sitting.

  • Talking in real life? Surely not - Technology makes it so easy to communicate with colleagues without even moving. And whilst we all love slack and email, sometimes it can mean we don’t move for hours as it's so easy to chat with everyone in the room without getting up. Walking over to talk to a colleague gives an opportunity to stretch legs and can often mean that ideas and thoughts are more quickly communicated - encourage an open communication culture and ensure that everyone in the office gets up to talk to others throughout the day. 

For more information, visit https://www.perkbox.com/uk/resources/blog/why-are-brits-still-trying-to-reach-10-000-steps-a-day 

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Workplace whitepaper addresses mental health 20/08/2019

WELLBEING IN the workplace is increasingly gathering more attention, yet business owners and workplace managers are often left in the dark on how to help those struggling with mental ill-health.

A new mental health in the workplace whitepaper released by iHASCO, a market-leading provider of eLearning, addresses the most common questions around mental-ill health and provides practical guidance to support good mental health at work.

 It is now well recognised that businesses which prioritise employee wellbeing outperform those who don’t. Research consistently shows that employees perform better when they are healthy, motivated and focused1. For example, Deloitte concludes that for every £1 invested on employee wellbeing, employers can expect to see an average of £4.20 in return2. By supporting employee wellbeing, organisations can reap benefits such as enhanced morale, commitment, productivity, innovation and lower employee turnover. 

However, with many managers and business owners not sure where to even start, creating an open and supportive workplace culture requires resources and education – something that is not always readily available. The new whitepaper aims to alleviate the pressure on businesses and delivers a comprehensive step-by-step handbook detailing how to embed employee wellbeing into organisational culture.

Line managers and HR professionals can implement the practical advice immediately as the resource details the key skills and competencies that are required to create an atmosphere in which employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health and wellbeing. Managers do not need to become experts on mental health, but by simply creating a supportive culture they can help their staff and organisation reap the rewards of having an engaged and satisfied workforce.

“Mental health in the workplace has definitely started to get the attention it needs and deserves, but practical advice on how businesses can improve the wellbeing of their staff can still be hard to come by. That is why we have created a resource that details many simple, achievable steps that any organisation or individual can take to improve their own and others’ mental health,” says Lottie Galvin, Mental Health First Aider at iHASCO.

“The truth is that mental-ill health has a more far-reaching impact than we are commonly aware of. It doesn’t just affect the individual, it can also influence those in their team and this can hinder productivity, job satisfaction and financial success. Managers should know how to better handle situations when people in their team are struggling, yet they often don’t have the resources to enable this. Our whitepaper can be used as a starting point on their journey towards supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce,” adds Galvin.

Earlier this year, iHASCO launched six mental health courses designed to help organisations inspire better management practices in the workplace and cultivate an open and honest culture that allows employees to feel they can speak up. Each course provides workers with tools, guidance and extra resources to manage their mental wellbeing on a daily basis.

 2 https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/mental-health-employers-review.html

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One-stop-shop for lone workers 21/08/2019

THE LONE Worker Safety Expo Conference returns to London in October after a very successful first year. With expert speakers, interactive workshops and selected exhibitors, this educational event is the one-stop-shop if you need guidance and advice on managing lone working.

Lone Workers should be at no greater risk than other employees’ according to The Health and Safety Executive guidance. However, as the level of risk to the safety, security and wellbeing of employees can all be increased by lone working, how do organisations ensure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities?

Help is at hand for those who aren’t sure where to start (or want to check best practice), in the form of the Lone Worker Safety ExpoConference, an interactive educational event with access to experts in the field and selected providers of lone worker solutions.

Nicole Vazquez, organiser and host told us “Last year was extremely well received with the level of positive feedback being overwhelming. It seems that we hit just the right note, with our combination of education and interaction”. The event returns to The King’s Fund, Central London, on 15thOctober.

This year will be opened by Barbara Hockey, Head of the Vulnerable Workers Team, HSE. Nicole comments “We are thrilled that the HSE are engaging with the Lone Worker conversation. Their input is vital, helping to ensure that organisations recognise the importance of managing the specific risks that affect remote or isolated workers. The HSE will also share some exciting news at the event”. 

The main conference sees speakers discussing issues such as practical risk mitigation, current security risks and mental health implications of lone working. Duncan Spencer, Head of Advice and Practice for IOSH will be sharing insights from IOSH’s research and joining the expert panel for a discussion on how to engage lone workers and senior management in the risk control conversation. 

The morning will be rounded off with an inspirational presentation from Jason Anker MBE and Prof. Tim Marshwho will be sharing Jason’s story and exploring ways to protect individual’s mental health and wellbeing. 

An afternoon of interactive workshops includes a case study from Sean Elson, Pinsent Masons LLP, looking at the implications of organisations not fulfilling their legal responsibilities and a very practical session from CMA Training on reducing personal safety risks when travelling. 

With statistics showing that violence against staff is on the increase in most sectors, the team from Worthwhile Training will invite delegates to take part in a drama-based workshop, looking at innovative ways to train staff with skills to defuse aggression and protect themselves. 

Throughout the day there will be plenty of opportunities to network and chat to a small group of trusted providers who supply a variety of lone worker solutions, including training, dedicated devices and smartphone apps.

Nicole sums up, “Our aim is to make this the event that people attend for advice and guidance on all things lone working – a one-stop-shop so to speak. Although lone working is now on most organisations’ agenda, it still seems that a lot of people are not looking at the breadth of the risks, or if they are, there is still confusion about the best way to manage both the risks and lone workers themselves”.

“We are hoping that managers, safety professionals and those responsible for lone workers will take this opportunity to engage with experts in the field. The day is interactive from the very beginning, so if you are going to attend, please come along armed with questions”.

SPECIAL HSM OFFER: HSM readers can claim an extra 20% off their delegate fee.

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Construction industry's mental health wake up call 19/08/2019

UNITE, THE UK’s construction union, is calling for the industry to meet the challenges of mental health problems affecting workers directly, after a major report in The Guardian revealed that the flagship Hinkley Point project was having to tackle a wave of mental ill health among its workforce.

The fact that Hinkley Point has had these problems is particularly concerning because, unlike much of the industry, EDF (the client) has taken mental health seriously and worked with Unite, for instance in training workers and union activists in mental health first aid.

Unite believes the key factors behind mental health problems in the construction industry are a result of the hire and fire culture, where direct employment is low, engagements are short and most workers are either bogusly self-employed and/or recruited via agencies. This is coupled with workers frequently living away from loved ones, a long hours culture in the industry and a macho culture.

Unite also believes that the damage to workers’ mental health is cumulative and poor practices over many years create long term harm.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said, “It is deeply ironic that Hinkley has given rise to the exposure of the mental health crisis in construction, because Unite has a strong presence the issue has got an airing.

“Elsewhere it is a different story. Direct employment or any form of stability is the exception not the norm.

“There is an air of increasing hostility to Unite organising at site level elsewhere – which is totally unjustifiable as the union is not the cause of cutthroat tendering and client's seeming indifference to the appalling 'man up' culture that we have seen discourages reporting workplace hazards let alone personal mental health issues.

“Construction has the potential to be a credit to our country, high quality apprenticeships and a range of good jobs on decent union negotiated rates, benefiting local communities and the supply chain of building materials.

“Instead the sector has become a byword for sharp practice and dog eat dog activities. 

“Just weeks ago immigration officers raided a site run by a major contractor and what was exposed was gross exploitation of illegal workers by grasping subbies.

“Unite is open to talk with sector bodies, clients, contractors, government ministers and civil servants  about solutions that tackle the cause not just the symptoms of the mental health epidemic now rife in construction. A 21st Century construction 'accord' could establish a turning point that could literally save lives.”

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Directors found guilty of waste crimes 19/08/2019

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency has successfully brought those responsible to account for abandoning nearly 2,000 tonnes of waste at Shaw Road, Dudley in 2016.

On Tuesday 13 August, HHJ Kershaw sentenced Kevin Allan and Brian McIntosh to suspended sentences of imprisonment in addition to unpaid work. Randle Hawkins was ordered to complete unpaid work under the supervision of the Probation Service.

In June, jurors at Wolverhampton Crown Court convicted the directors of Rowanoak Waste Services Limited for their failure to comply with permit conditions and enforcement notices at the site known as Rowanoak. The Environment Agency used various enforcement tools to try and bring the site back into compliance, but those operating the site failed to act on the advice and guidance provided.

The site was then abandoned in 2016 with a significant amount of waste left in situ. Environment Agency officers worked with the new landowners and the waste was removed in March 2018.

Rowanoak Waste Services Limited and director Kevin Allan were found guilty on all counts relating to the illegal waste activities at Shaw Road. The company was fined £25,000 and Kevin Allan, who showed no remorse for his actions during the trial, received 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months and was ordered to complete 100 hours’ unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £40,000 towards the prosecution costs and disqualified from acting as a company director for three years. The court took into consideration Mr Allan’s age, 60 years old, and his previous good character.

The court heard that operations at the site led to complaints of smells and dust. Employees of nearby businesses described the smell as ‘stomach churning’ and felt physically ill as a result. The smell was described as rotting vegetables and resembled that of sewage. The dust had an impact on neighbouring businesses, covering customers’ cars and business vehicles. Debris from the waste piles blocked guttering and affected air conditioning at nearby factory units.

Mak Waste Ltd and its director Brian McIntosh, had previously admitted their part in the failure to comply with the conditions of the permit on the site and the continual failure to action requests for compliance made by Environment Agency officers. Mak Waste was fined £18,000 and Mr McIntosh was found to have been allowed the breaches to occur and witnessed the site getting worse and worse, while making empty promises to Environment Officers. HHJ Kershaw took into account Mr McIntosh’s good behaviour since the offences were committed and that he has two children, but passed a sentence of 10 months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months and ordered Mr McIntosh to complete 150 hours’ unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £1,200 towards the prosecution costs and disqualified from being a director for five years.

Randle Hawkins was found guilty of deliberately failing to comply with a revocation notice. He was ordered to complete 100 hours’ unpaid work and pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs. He was earlier cleared of four other charges relating to the breach of permit conditions and enforcement notice.

Edward Venables (formerly Boulton), also a director of Mak Waste Ltd, was found not guilty of all three charges against him.

Speaking after the case, the Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said, "Waste crime is a serious offence with tough penalties. It can damage the environment, blight local communities and undermine those who operate legally. We aim to disrupt, prevent and investigate illegal waste activity and take enforcement action where we can. In this case, those found guilty, by being in breach of their permit, continued to operate their site illegally and continually ignored the Environment Agency’s efforts to reduce the waste.

"The Environment Agency use all enforcement powers available where we believe environmental offences have been committed.

"Allan, McIntosh and Hawkins have shown a complete disregard for the local community, subjecting local businesses to months of misery by illegally and inappropriately storing large quantities of waste on the site."

Everyone who handles waste has a duty of care to ensure their waste is handled correctly. Whether you are a business, local authority or householder you must make sure you know where your waste goes so it doesn’t end up in the hands of illegal operators.

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Support staff with mental health problems 19/08/2019

FOLLOWING THE news of the tragic death of customer assistant, Shaun Winstanley, Mind reminds all employers of their responsibility in promoting wellbeing and looking after their employees at work.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind said, “Our thoughts are with the loved ones of Shaun Winstanley at this incredibly difficult time. It’s important anyone bereaved in this way asks for help if they need it. Every suicide is a tragedy, and most are preventable. The Government has committed to investing in mental health services after years of underfunding, but we also want to see different agencies working together to tackle the underlying social issues that can affect our mental health such as debt, housing, access to benefits and employment.

“Staff exposed to traumatic events as a result of their jobs should be offered appropriate support and given time off work or their roles and responsibilities adjusted if necessary. Mental health problems can be debilitating in the same way as physical health problems and are a valid reason for taking sick leave.

“Employers need to bear in mind that any staff facing disciplinary proceedings or dismissals are likely to be at greater risk of developing or worsening mental health problems. That’s why it’s vital that employers have policies and procedures in place to make sure that current and former employees are signposted to, and can access, timely and appropriate support.

“All employers need to create mentally healthy workplaces by tackling the work-related causes of poor mental health and promoting good mental health for all staff, including those living with mental health problems. Every employer should offer workplace wellbeing measures and they don’t need to be large or expensive. Things like flexible working hours, generous annual leave, subsidised exercise classes and Employee Assistance Programmes – access to 24 hour telephone support – can make a big difference. Mind has lots of free resources about mental health at work for both employers and staff, available at mind.org.uk/work.”

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Large construction projects benefit staff 19/08/2019

MAJOR CONSTRUCTION projects can play a critical role in improving workers’ understanding of health risks and championing ‘universally high standards’ across the industry, new research suggests.

A three-year research project, funded by IOSH, aimed to explore the management of health, safety and wellbeing interventions on the Thames Tideway Tunnel project.

Members of the research team from Loughborough University were integrated into each of the construction teams working on the Tideway project and monitored key health and safety processes, personnel, documentation, events and activities.

In a paper titled ‘Raising the bar for occupational health management in construction, published in the Institution of Civil Engineers' journal Civil Engineering, the research team highlights practical measures from the Tideway project to help stakeholders improve the management of health risks in construction.

The Loughborough team suggests major projects have an important role to play in upskilling the workforce, and that construction managers must take responsibility for health risk management, supported by skilled OSH and health professionals.

Interventions included working with occupational hygienists to improve understanding about health risks and how to manage them and coordinating training sessions for project managers, engineers, supervisors and others who contribute to risk assessments focusing on practical control measures.

Alistair Gibb, Professor of Construction Engineering Management at Loughborough University, said: “The construction industry faces many unique challenges when it comes to managing health risks and protecting workers. Across the industry there is poor understanding about the standards of health assessment which are legally required and low motivation among many employers to pay for health checks for workers who may soon move to other employers.

“Major projects such as Tideway are critical to developing universally high health management standards and are well-placed to champion good OH services and to use their expertise and influence to embed change within their own supply chains. To achieve long-lasting improvements, these standards must be adopted throughout the sector, particularly within the SMEs which employ the majority of the workforce.”

The study suggests a consistent approach to occupational health management and health surveillance is needed across the construction industry with a commitment to improved portability of OH data.

The researchers also argue that health needs to be given higher visibility and clarity at prequalification and in tender documents.

Steve Hails, Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Tideway, said: “Our commitment to transformational health, safety and wellbeing standards at Tideway is intended to set a new benchmark for the industry. Achieving parity between health and safety is a strategic objective for our programme and understanding the specific challenges emerging in the course of construction is imperative to our future direction.

“The support from IOSH and Loughborough University has been invaluable in identifying our progress. This unique approach to conducting a longitudinal study with skilled researchers embedded into our construction teams, has allowed us to compile legacy information in real time rather than, as has historically been the case, at the end of the project. This gives Tideway objective feedback during our works and informs our future direction.

“There are additional wider industry benefits for future projects to learn from our experiences through this approach and realising the benefits of industry working collaboratively with academia during the planning and construction phases of work.”

Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said: “This research goes a long way towards addressing what is a very prevalent and complex issue in the construction sector.

“For health to truly be treated like safety in construction there needs to be a shift in the perception and practices of employers and workers, and acceptance in industry that high standards should not be an exceptional practice but the necessary norm.

“The study highlights practical measures to help all stakeholders address barriers and improve the management of health risks in construction.”

An additional recommendation from the research includes further training for frontline workers, particularly to compensate for low visibility of health hazards including noise and respirable dust, and greater awareness of health conditions with long latency periods, including those caused by silica dust and asbestos exposure.  

IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign aims to explain the causes of occupational cancer and help businesses take action. Information about the dangers of silica dust, asbestos and other carcinogens and how to prevent exposure is available on the website: https://www.notimetolose.org.uk/

The paper, titled ‘Raising the bar for occupational health management in construction’ is published in the Institution of Civil Engineers journal Civil Engineering. The research is funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). The paper is available here: https://www.icevirtuallibrary.com/doi/abs/10.1680/jcien.19.00029

In a second paper, published in the journal Safety Science, the research team explore in more detail the challenges to achieving lasting improvements to worker health in construction, this is available here: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1ZWj63IVV9gluI

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Companies saved by sprinklers 19/08/2019

WHEN A fire broke out on site, more than 400 staff were evacuated in less than three minutes from the Hull factory of offsite specialist Walker Modular.

Five fire engines were called to the scene after the alarm was raised at the bathroom pod manufacturer.

Company owner Shane Walker told the Enquirer: “I’m so proud of my staff and the fire service for dealing so well with a difficult situation.

“We liaised with the fire service when we designed the factory and all the fire suppression systems and alarms worked perfectly. All the staff evacuated the building within a couple of minutes and I’m very proud of how the incident was handled.”

Production now continues as normal at the factory which manufactures 500 pods a week.

Engineering works, Bradford

West Yorkshire FRS reported that a fire which originated in a refrigerator in a Bradford textile engineering works activated the sprinkler system which all but fully extinguished the fire. 

Due to the amount of wood, Acetylene cylinders, work, van, gas forklift etc. inside the building they believed it was possible the building could well have been lost if not for the sprinkler system.

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