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Car wash firm failed to protect workers 18/06/2024

A CAR wash firm in Devon has been fined £40k after it repeatedly failed to protect workers and members of the public from electrical safety risks.

Investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out multiple visits to Best Car Wash Ltd in Tavistock between July 2021 and November 2022. They found employees were carrying out car washing outdoors, using electrical appliances such as pressure washers and vacuum cleaners. However, the company had failed to ensure the installation had been constructed or maintained to prevent danger to both the employees and members of the public. As a result of the electrical hazards identified, the company was issued with five enforcement notices.

Despite the notices, subsequent visits found they had not been complied with and it wasn’t until April 2023 that a competent person inspected, tested and repaired the installation.

The HSE investigation found the failure of the employer to comply with the initial notice resulted in electrical safety risks to the vulnerable workers persisting for longer.

Best Car Wash Ltd of Plymouth Road, Tavistock, Devon did not provide representation at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court and were found guilty in their absence of breaching Section 3(1) of the Electricity at Work Regs and Reg 33 (1)(g) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,164 on 6 June 2024.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Helena Allum said, “We can and will prosecute if companies fail to comply with enforcement notices.

“Those in control of work have a responsibility to ensure safe methods of working. The dangers associated with electricity in a work environment are well known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from HSE.”

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Construction company fined £2.3m after worker drowns 18/06/2024

A CONSTRUCTION company has been fined following the death of a worker.

Gary Webster lost his life two days after drowning in the River Aire on 30 October 2017.

Mr Webster and another worker had been on a boat removing debris at the bottom of the weir gates at Knostrop Weir when their boat capsized. The boat had been pulled into turbulent water, caused by the considerable flow of water flowing over the top of the weir.

The 60-year-old was repeatedly pulled under the water and was eventually recovered by a diver 14 minutes later. The other worker managed to swim to safety.

Mr Webster was pronounced dead on 1 November 2017 at Leeds General Infirmary.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found BAM Nuttall Ltd had several operatives who were trained and authorised to control the weir gates so that the flow of the water could be slowed down. This would have allowed the debris to float away or be reached safely by boat. However, the company failed to carry out this task.

BAM Nuttall Limited, of Knoll Road, Camberley, Surrey, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £2.345 million and ordered to pay £25,770 in costs at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 12 June 2024.

HSE inspector Jayne Towey said: “BAM Nuttall Ltd failed to plan the work. It failed to carry out any assessment of the risks involved with the task. It failed to have any regard to the recognised hierarchy of controls to reduce the risk associated with removing debris from the water. It failed to ensure that suitable safety measures were in place and failed to put in place a safe system of work.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.”

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Jonathan Bambro and supported by HSE paralegal officer Sarah Thomas.

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BOHS issues urgent stone worktop guidance 18/06/2024

THE BRITISH Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), a leading scientific body and the UK’s Chartered body for Workplace Health Protection has issued specific guidance for anyone working with stone worktops on how to stay safe, healthy and legal.

The move comes in the face of a cluster of younger kitchen worktop finishers contracting aggressive forms of silicosis. This follows a pattern seen around the world of the crippling disease afflicting 30-40 year old men working in the kitchen fitting and fabrication industry and leading to the need for urgent surgery, including heart and lung transplants. UK ‘set for rapid rise in cases’ of fatal lung disease linked to kitchen revamps (inews.co.uk) The disease is caused by inhaling tiny particles  of silica, a naturally occurring chemical in rock, created when stone and artificial stone is cut, ground or polished.

In Australia, up to one in four workers working with artificial stone for kitchen surfaces were reported to have symptoms of the disease, leading artificial stone worktops being banned. Similar measures are being contemplated in North America.

“Silicosis is a disease we have known about for thousands of years and is easily prevented,” says Parmjit Gahir, the Society’s president and a former HSE specialist inspector. “However, many workplaces, especially SMEs don’t take very basic steps to stop massive exposure which causes irreversible lung disease. We’ve heard anecdotal evidence from Australia of a worker whose lungs were so stiffened by dust inhalation, including silica dust, that an attempted lung transplant had to be abandoned. I imagine that the latest cluster of cases will lead to prosecutions happening across the UK as our regulator focuses on this bad outcome.”

The Society does not advocate a ban on artificial stone itself, but wants to raise awareness amongst workers in kitchen materials fabrication and installation that they run high risk of serious long-term health issues when using engineered stone, natural stone, wood and laminate. When installing kitchens, kitchen installers also are likely to encounter hidden asbestos as well.

“Engineered stone shines a light on the risks that are out there for the people who work to add value and aesthetics to our homes. This cluster of workers who are young when disabling illness hits are the tip of the iceberg,” says BOHS CEO, professor Kevin Bampton. “Natural stone can contain silica, although less than some engineered stone brands, but wood dust is a cancer-causing agent, as well as some substances in laminate. Every year thousands of workers in the industry will be affected by illness that means they need to leave work younger and they are not fit enough to enjoy life. We hope that by providing guidance on how to control the risks and to stay within the law, we can help businesses to manage their risks, while keeping workers safe.”

The guidance, which is free to download can be found, at: www.bohs.org/app/uploads/2024/06/Silica-Dust-Risks-when-working-with-Engineered-Stone-BOHS.pdf

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Substandard PPE findings are 'tip of the iceberg', says safety body 18/06/2024

A NEW Channel 4 documentary, The Truth about Temu, that revealed that safety products for sale on the Temu app had fake safety certificates and were unfit for purpose is part of a much larger problem of substandard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) flooding the UK market, according to the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF).

In the Dispatches documentary, reporter Ellie Flynn reveals that some equipment advertised on the platform — which surpassed 46 million downloads in April 2024, making it more popular than Amazon's marketplace app — doesn't perform as advertised and falsely claims to have safety certifications from reputable organisations.

One notable instance involved two pairs of pliers, being sold as having electrical insulation properties, that were advertised as being certified by VDE, an established electrical product tester and certifier. However, VDE's Hendrick Schäfer confirmed that these tools had not been certified by the institute. Flynn discovered that the product listings featured altered photos of genuine safety certificates, with the name of the Temu merchant superimposed over the original certificate holders name. Schäfer explained that if the certification is not correct: “The insulation of these handheld tools is maybe not properly done and the result could be an electric shock and in the worst case, electric shock could lead to death.”

The British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) has long warned about the widespread availability of substandard PPE and safety equipment offered for sale in the UK and the serious threat this poses to users. The BSIF's own investigations, spanning from December 2022 to December 2023, found that a staggering 79% of PPE items sourced from non-member companies from a range of vendors including online marketplace and high street retailers failed to meet basic safety standards.

Examples of these failures are alarming. A flame-retardant parka purchased from an online retailer failed flame spread testing, burning through its outer layer and igniting the inner layer. Additionally, safety glasses from a high street retailer failed impact resistance tests and lacked essential safety documentation. Despite the retailer's assurances that this would be addressed, these glasses remained on sale for over two months after the failure was identified.

In response to the certification issues raised by Flynn, Temu told Dispatches: We do not allow forgeries and will take action against any sellers involved if such cases are found.”

These issues underline the critical importance of sourcing PPE from verified and competent suppliers. The BSIF advocates for the use of their Registered Safety Supplier Scheme, which ensures that products are fit for purpose and meet regulatory standards. This scheme has a compliance rate of 91% during BSIF testing, with any shortcomings swiftly rectified.

“Unfortunately, the findings of the Channel 4 investigation are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the availability of substandard safety products in the UK," says BSIF CEO Alan Murray. “A growing body of evidence shows there is an alarming volume of substandard PPE and safety products for sale and to the untrained eye it can be difficult to tell one from another. We encourage anyone buying safety products to look for the BSIF Shield for reassurance that your supplier is committed to only providing products that are fit for purpose."

Find a Registered Safety Supplier at: www.registeredsafetysupplierscheme.co.uk

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Recycling company workers exposed to wood dust 16/06/2024

THE LONG-term health of workers at a wood waste recycling centre was put in danger due to excessive exposure to the dust their work created, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution has found.

Esken Renewables Limited, a waste and recycling company that specialises in generating biofuel from renewable waste, ran a wood waste recycling centre in Middlesborough that processed mixed wood waste, hardwood and softwood into biofuel.

Breathing in wood dust excessively can cause asthma and nasal cancer. In particular, dust from softwood wood dust is a known asthmagen while particles from hardwood are a known carcinogen.

A HSE inspector visited the site in April 2022 to investigate the dust exposures on the site. A few weeks earlier, concerns had been raised about wood dust spreading to the surrounding area. The inspector wrote in detail to Esken Renewables with evidence demonstrating the extent of the wood dust exposure to staff, so that the right action could be taken by the company to control the risks.

The company provided a detailed response, and it was accepted that exposures to the surrounding area was in large part due to four storms in quick succession.

However, the HSE investigation found that the control of wood dust to protect employees working on and around the site was not adequate and fell short of the expected benchmark.

The company failed to design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of wood dust. One solution would be through the use of local exhaust ventilation, the enclosure of machinery or the designing of the processes such as using vacuum systems as opposed to compressed air for cleaning and maintenance.

Guidance on working in the woodworking industry is available and an inspection-led campaign to protect workers continues.

Esken Renewables Limited, who operated the site at Port Clarence Road, Port Clarence, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty of breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 and were fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £5,310 in costs at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on 23 May 2024.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matthew Dundas said, “The expected standard is to control exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.

“We hope this serves to raise industry awareness for the expectation of control of hazardous substances, namely wood dust, in the wood waste and recycling industry.”

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Iain Jordan and supported by HSE paralegal officer Rebecca Forman.

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Farmer avoids jail after man killed by cattle 16/06/2024

A WEST Yorkshire farmer has avoided an immediate spell behind bars after his cattle trampled a man to death and left his wife paralysed.

Martin Howard Mitchell was given a six-month custodial sentence, which was suspended for 12 months following the incident on a farm in Netherton, Wakefield.

Michael Holmes, 57, had been walking on a public footpath with his wife Teresa and their dogs on 29 September 2020 when they entered a field containing cows and calves on Hollinghurst farm. The farmer had made no attempts to segregate the cows and calves from the footpath and the couple were attacked and trampled by the cattle.

Mr Holmes suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene while his wife sustained life changing injuries that have left her confined to a wheelchair as well as requiring extensive rehabilitation therapy and major adaptations to her home. Their two dogs, still attached to their leads, had managed to escape and were later found by one of the couple’s neighbours.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Martin Mitchell had failed to ensure that the risks to members of the public were controlled, including that, where possible, cows with calves were suitably segregated from the public footpath.

Cows are known are known to be protective of their calves and unpredictable.

Martin Howard Mitchell of Netherton, Wakefield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. In addition to his suspended sentence he was also ordered to pay a fine and make a contribution towards costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Sally Gay commented, “Large animals can be a risk to people. Even a gentle knock from a cow can result in injury.

“Seemingly docile cattle can pose a risk to walkers when they are under stress or feel threatened, and can exhibit instinctive maternal or aggressive behaviour.

“This tragic incident could easily have been avoided if basic precautions had been taken by the farmer.  Readily available HSE guidance states that, where possible, cows with calves should not be grazed in fields where there is a public right of way.

“Where this is not possible they should be segregated from the footpath by appropriate fencing where it is reasonable to do so.”

The prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Andy Siddall.

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Waste company director sentenced 16/06/2024

A DIRECTOR of a Kent waste company has been disqualified from being a director for five years for his role in its failure to comply with two Improvement Notices served by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

David Richard Barker, director of BSP (Knockholt) Limited, was also sentenced to two 12-month community sentences, to run concurrently, to include 12 months of supervision and 80 hours of unpaid work.

An HSE inspection in August 2020 found that employees manually sorting through waste in the company’s yard near Orpington were at risk of being struck by heavy machinery, and that there were inadequate rest facilities for them to use during break times.

Two Improvement Notices were served on the company in September 2020, and a date for compliance in October 2020 was set. Improvement Notices can be served on companies or individuals when HSE inspectors are of the opinion that they are breaching health and safety regulations. They are given a specified amount of time to improve their practices to comply with their legal duties.

However, a further site inspection in February 2021 found that the company had not complied with either notice. The company went into liquidation in 2022 but it was prosecuted and fined £150,000 in March 2023.

Mr Barker, one of the company’s directors and its main controlling party, told HSE during that he had appealed against the Improvement Notices but did not provide any evidence. In an email sent to an inspector, he also suggested that the only way to resolve differences of opinion between HSE and the company about the safety of its working practices would be for HSE to bring a prosecution against it.

Although Mr Barker was not present at the site during either inspection, HSE inspectors were told to direct all enquiries regarding health and safety to him.

At Croydon Crown Court, David Richard Barker, of Crockham Hill, Edenbridge, Kent, was previously found guilty after trial of breaching Sections 37(1) and 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, in that the offences of contravening the requirements imposed by the Improvement Notices were committed with his “consent, connivance or were attributable to his neglect”, such that he, in addition to BSP (Knockholt) Limited, was guilty of the offences.

On 20 May 2024, he was sentenced to two 12-month community sentences to run concurrently, disqualified from being a director for five years, and ordered to pay £10,000 towards prosecution costs.

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Workers' perceptions of health and safety professionals revealed 16/06/2024

MOST WORKERS in the UK have a positive perception of health and safety (H&S) professionals, according to a survey of more than 1,200 frontline workers by global technology company SafetyCulture.

The majority of those surveyed view H&S professionals in a positive light, with the top three descriptions being ‘necessary’ (48%), ‘important for driving improvements in the workplace’ (25%), and ‘innovative and helpful’ (20%).

The findings come as frontline workers also say they’re having to cut corners and risk their safety to meet the demands of their job. More than half of respondents (56%) said they’d risked their own health and safety at work, with a quarter (27%) having done so ‘several times’.

Workers who admitted cutting corners on health and safety said they did so because they were under pressure to meet deadlines or quotas, understaffed, and poorly equipped.

Research was conducted across six sectors: construction, healthcare, hospitality, logistics, manufacturing, and retail. Frontline workers – defined as people who must physically show up for their job – represent 80% of the global workforce1.

Alex Brooks-Sykes, SafetyCulture’s lead for UK & Ireland said, “Health and safety has had something of a PR problem in the workplace, so our findings should be encouraging for the dedicated people working hard in this profession. 

“Clearly frontline workers are under pressure to be productive and efficient – when faced with clunky processes and workplace pressures, even sensible people can be tempted to cut corners. We see H&S professionals as absolutely vital to correcting this problem, and thankfully most workers seem to agree.”

However, research also suggests the health and safety profession hasn’t been able to entirely overcome stereotypes. Some frontline workers surveyed perceived health and safety professionals as ‘annoying’ (17%) and ‘old fashioned’ (18%), as well as ‘out of touch’, ‘obstructive’ and having ‘no common sense’.

Even workers who believe health and safety practices have a positive overall impact think that they negatively impact some areas of work. Approximately 7 in 10 workers said health and safety can hinder productivity and slow them down.

Alex added, “Thanks to technology, the traditional concept of an H&S role is evolving. These professionals have always been essential, but what we’re seeing now is that in many cases, people in these roles are not only helping to keep people safe, they’re also helping to identify and drive improvements right across their organisations.”

“Today we have the technology to react in real-time, minimise disruption and keep workers safe by ensuring they’ve got the right equipment and training to handle every situation. They’re simple principles, but they can make a big impact in almost every business.”

Reference
1 Emergence (2018). The rise of the deskless workforce

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Behaviour impacts road safety, report shows 16/06/2024

IN THE UK, a person is killed or seriously injured on the roads every 16 minutes, with a third of these incidents involving someone driving for work.

To help businesses make journeys safer for their employees and the wider public, AA Business Services has launched its latest Yellow Paper, Our Driving Future: Making Human Factors More Predictable, exploring the critical role human behaviour has to play in ensuring driving safety, both now and in the future. The report offers:

  • Insightful analysis looking at managing workplace driving risks in a fast-changing world
  • A look at the role that confidence, wellbeing, technology, training and education have to play as the driving experience evolves at its fastest ever rate 
  • Actionable recommendations – a guide to what businesses can do to make human behaviour safer and more predictable

Human error is a factor in approximately 95% of all road incidents. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic incidents claim approximately 1.19 million lives annually and are projected to become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030. 

“The AA represents more than 14 million members in the UK, including those who use their vehicles to get to and from work,” said James Starling, director, AA Business Services. “We’re very quick to enthuse about the future of driving when it comes to the deployment of new technologies, but we can’t afford to forget in the meantime the one critical factor that has the greatest impact on the safety of our roads – the human element. Nor should we discount the role this has to play in the future of driving.”

Starling believes a combined approach of technology, training, education and supporting driver wellbeing is essential to ensuring future road safety. “Humans are complex, with a diverse and shifting range of needs that impact our driving behaviour. 

As we enter this incredibly exciting period of change, we believe a combined approach that takes all these needs into account is essential to  road safety as we move forward.” 

The yellow paper follows the release of The AA’s motoring manifesto, ‘Creating Confidence for Drivers’ – a summary of the needs and perspectives of the UK’s driving community and the moves motorists most want to see brought about in the months ahead. These include reducing road deaths via clearer targets and increased policing. 

Click HERE to download a free copy of the Yellow Paper and HERE to download a copy of the manifesto.

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First organisations benefit from menopause standard 11/06/2024

OXFORD BROOKES University, Virgin Media and the Welsh Parliament are among the organisations that have utilised BSI’s pioneering menopause at work guidance in the year since it was published, helping to support employees experiencing menopause or menstrual health challenges and retain their experience and talent.

BSI is now urging all political parties to consider menopause support as a key plank in their manifestos for the 2024 election.

BSI, the UK National Standards Body, published the menstruation, menstrual health and menopause in the workplace standard (BS 30416) a year ago. In the year since it has become the most downloaded British Standard of the year, reaching 102 countries.

In addition to the standard, in April BSI launched free training to help strengthen organisations’ ability to effectively support employees experiencing menopause, achieving nearly 300 sign ups in its first two months.

The guidance was published to help organisations meet the needs of employees experiencing menopause or menstrual health by setting out practical recommendations for workplace adjustments, as well as strategies to sit alongside existing well-being initiatives. Global menopause productivity losses are estimated to already top $150 billion a year and BSI’s own report, entitled Lifting the Second Glass Ceiling, found that 29% of UK women expect to leave work before retirement with 42% expecting this to be due to health or wellbeing, while another fifth specifically cite menopause.

The research also found that 75% of UK women want employers to take action to retain older women in the workforce and a fifth of business leaders surveyed in BSI’s Evolving Together: Flourishing in the Age-Diverse Workforce put employers providing support around menopause symptoms as a key priority. BSI is now calling for all political parties to consider including strategies to support people experiencing menopause in their manifestos.

Anne Hayes, director of sectors at BSI said, “As our research shows, there are many factors that can lock women out of the workforce – but there are also clear strategies to address this, from support for workers experiencing menopause to steps in other areas such as working flexibly and breaking down stigma that could contribute to an enhanced work environment for all. In its first year this landmark guidance has helped prominent organisations take the first crucial steps to supporting talented people throughout their working lives. I am thrilled about the potential benefits this can bring around the country and globally as well.

“As the UK approaches a general election, with 71% of women wanting politicians to take action to retain older women in the workforce, there is an opportunity for the next government to further drive ambition, helping progress our collective journey towards a more diverse, equitable and productive working future.”

Electra Dottin, Oxford Brookes University said, "The BSI Standard has been pivotal when driving forward the Menopause in the Workplace and Menstrual Equity work here at Oxford Brookes University. It has given us the stability to keep pushing our work forward making sure we prioritise our project work while keeping it at a high standard throughout."

Maxine Fletcher, Oxford Brookes University said, "The BSI Standard has been a vital tool to help us frame and drive forward our work on menopause in the workplace and menstrual equity at Oxford Brookes University. It has provided a supportive guide that ensures that we prioritise our project work appropriately and confidently, and it has been an important lever for engaging with senior management when shaping our strategic direction."

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