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Safeguarding failure led to lone worker's rape 23/09/2021

AN EDINBURGH-based care company has been fined £20,000 for its failure to safeguard a worker who became the victim of abduction, assault and rape.

The Action Group, which provides housing and community support to those with additional needs, pled guilty to health and safety at work breaches committed in 2017 and 2018.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that on 27 December 2018 Albert Caballero abducted, assaulted, sexually assaulted, and raped a 25-year-old woman during a visit to his Edinburgh home.

On 26 June 2019 Caballero was sentenced to eight years imprisonment.

The Health and Safety Investigation Unit of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service subsequently referred the case to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE investigation found that the company had failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk Caballero posed to female employees.

They failed to identify and implement measures to mitigate these risks when providing support to Caballero at his home.

The investigation also uncovered a history and recent escalation of inappropriate behaviour from Caballero. Reports of this were not recorded despite many of those who worked with him being aware of or experiencing incidents.

Since the attack the company have implemented a new lone-working policy and support workers have been given smartphones to enable communication and track location.

A review of the individual risk assessments for all service users was carried out to identify potential risks to staff and additional control measures put in place where appropriate.

Alistair Duncan, Head of COPFS’s Health and Safety Investigation Unit said, “A young woman suffered a serious and traumatic assault and rape while acting in the course of her employment. 

"The Action Group could have prevented this if they had carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk posed to female employees.

“Lone workers are more vulnerable and employers should provide the necessary support to prevent such incidents.

“This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all employers that failure to establish the necessary measures and policies can have serious consequences.”

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Driving for work update welcomed by D.tec International 23/09/2021

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE), working in partnership with the Department for Transport (DfT), has published updated guidance on work-related road risk (WRRR) for employers and workers.

For the first time, HSE have asked employers to remind workers that they must not drive under the influence of drink or drugs, including prescription drugs.

In 2019, the most recent year that statistics are available, there were 7,860 drink driving related collisions resulting in 280 deaths – the highest number in a decade and an increase of 15% from the previous year.

In the same period, 92 people were killed and 672 were seriously injured in collisions where a driver was impaired by drugs. The true figure is likely to be much higher.

Driving under the influence of drink or drugs significantly increases the risk of death or serious injury and with 74% of substance abusers stating that they are in full-time employment, it stands to reason that HSE would align their guidance with challenges in society. 

Ean Lewin, managing director for D.tec International, provider of drug and alcohol testing services and equipment for safety critical employees, as well as all 43 police forces in England, Wales and Scotland, welcomed the announcement.

He said, “This is a step in the right direction. All drivers and riders have a responsibility for their compliance to road traffics laws. However, when driving for work, their employer has legal responsibility for their employees’ health and safety which extends beyond making sure they do not drive for an excessive number of hours and ensuring their vehicle is properly maintained”.

He added, “The statistics demonstrate a worrying and fast-growing trend that will only be reversed if employers help to embrace the issue and ensure their own compliance by educating their employees and having robust policies in place to tackle drink and drugs in the workplace”.

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Diving instructor sentenced after trainee dies 22/09/2021

A TECHNICAL diving instructor has been sentenced after he failed to properly assess the competency of two pupils prior to a deep-water dive in Scotland, which ended in a fatality.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how on 8 July 2017, William Peace and another pupil were due to take part in a 45m dive off the coast of Dunbar to the wreck of the U74E – a 755-tonne German mine laying submarine, which sank in 1916. The men were taking part in closed-circuit rebreather diving, which is more technical than scuba diving and enables divers to dive to greater depths. They had joined technical diving instructor Ashley Roberts, sole director of Ash Roberts Technical Limited, to complete their Technical Diving International (TDI) mixed gas closed-circuit rebreather course. They were also accompanied by a friend of Mr Roberts.

As the students had not completed all of the online course pre-requisites, Mr Roberts determined that the planned dive would be a free diving session and fun dive rather than a training dive where he would check the students abilities in-water and provide feedback to them prior to enrolling them on the course and starting the training the following day.

Mr Roberts determined that they would complete an assessment dive to a maximum depth of 45 metres to assess their competency. After entering the water, they descended a shotline slowly to 13 metres, when Mr Roberts’ friend disappeared from view. Mr Roberts travelled back up the line to the surface to check on his friend to find he had abandoned the dive as his dry suit was leaking water.

When Mr Roberts returned down the line to a depth of 13 metres, the two students were out of sight, having continued to the seabed. Mr Roberts travelled down the line, but couldn’t locate them. 

Once they had reached the seabed, they encountered difficulties and Mr Peace became unresponsive.

His dive buddy made several attempts to rescue Mr Peace, but was forced to return to the surface for his own safety. Mr Peace’s body was later recovered by police divers using a sonar search.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Ashley Roberts did not conduct a suitable assessment of the competence of the pupils prior to commencement of the dive. Although an assessment dive was carried out it was not sufficient to measure the capability of the divers and should have been carried out at a depth much shallower than 45m. There was also a failure to verify the number of rebreather hours Mr Peace had completed during his previous dives or to check each diver’s rescue ability. The men should have been under the supervision of an instructor at all times and particularly during an assessment.

Ashley Roberts, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) and Section 37(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £2,300.

Ash Roberts Technical Limited was dissolved on 9 July 2019. 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE specialist diving inspector Alister Wallbank said, “This was a highly traumatic incident for all involved and a tragedy for William Peace and his family. Mr Roberts was responsible for the appropriate level of assessment, instruction and supervision. The conduct of Mr Roberts undertaking at the pre-dive and assessment stages exposed William Peace and his co-pupil to increased risks to their health and safety than might otherwise have been the case.

“Diving is inherently risky and particularly more so when divers are undergoing training and assessment. There are many potential risks and it is ultimately the responsibility of the diving instructor to manage these risks when supervising, training or assessing in what are often dynamic situations.”

He added: “Many diver training courses require an initial assessment dive in order to establish that divers can demonstrate the required pre-requisite competency before progressing to formal training and assessment of more advanced skills and techniques. Competency is a combination of skills, knowledge and experience, it is a recognised fact that many previously learned diver skills can fade over time if not routinely or recently practiced. It is vitally important that a diving instructor adheres to the training guidance provided by the diving federation under which they are instructing and conduct these initial assessment dives in such a way as to reduce any risks so far as is reasonably practicable.”

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BSIF reveals Product Innovation Award 2021 shortlist 22/09/2021

THE BRITISH Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) is pleased to announce the finalist shortlist for the 2021 BSIF Product Innovation Award. The Product Innovation Award recognises products that are new and innovative and will contribute to improvements in occupational safety & health.

The finalists have all demonstrated that their submissions meet with the criteria and they now move forward to the judging day, each finalist will have the opportunity to present their product entry to a panel of independent judges who have vast experience within the safety & health market place. The judges will have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenter and then draw conclusions to announce an overall winner for 2021.

The finalist shortlist for 2021 is:

Guardian - Quick-Switch Dropped Object Prevention System

3M™ - Welding Helmet G5-02 Cleanspace Exhalation Filter

3M™ - E-A-R™ Flexible Fit HA Earplug

Audiology Online - Earplugtest

MAPA - Ultrane 527

3M™ - DBI-Sala™ Flexiguard™ Modular Jib System

Shawcity - QuantiFit 2

Seton - Safety Sign Alerter

Optrel - Swiss Air

The winners will be announced alongside the BSIF Safety Solution Award, BSIF Customer Service Award and BSIF Water Pollution Prevention Award at the Safety & Health Excellence Awards 2021 on Wednesday 13 October. 

You can register to view this digital event by visiting https://she-awards.com/

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Safety & Health Excellence Awards 2021 shortlist revealed 23/09/2021

THE SHORTLIST for the Safety & Health Excellence Awards 2021 has been revealed with the winners set to be revealed at a digital ceremony in October 2021.

More than 200 entries were submitted for this year's Safety & Health Excellence Awards and these have been whittled down to 56 shortlisted entries. The winners will be revealed during a digital awards ceremony 13 October 2021, which will be hosted by the voice of Strictly Come Dancing and The National Lottery Alan Dedicote. 

The SHE Awards will form part of Health & Safety Matters Live, which is a free-to-attend digital conference that offers CPD to all attendees and allows delegates to not only watch the awards and an entire day of educational content, but also network with other delegates, speakers and sponsors via direct messages or video calls. The full agenda for the event is available at https://hsmlive.co.uk/hsm_live/en/page/agenda

You can register to attend the SHE Awards and HSM Live for free at https://hsmlive.co.uk/hsm_live/en/page/register-today

The shortlist for the Safety and Health Excellence Awards 2021 is as follows:

Health and Safety Manager of the Year
Paul Bolton - M247
Lucy Innes - UK Power Networks Services
Paul Millea - Mabey Hire Ltd.
Gillian Farrell - CAN Group
Sadie Jones - Kepak LTD
Thomas Whistler - CALA Homes
Andy Himsworth - Mobile Mini UK Ltd
Luke Hunt - Hunter Safety Group
Bruce Bahlaj - Auto Windscreens
Carolione Blaxley - EE/BT
Ken Bell - Palletline
Marie Chisholm - Avanti West Coast

Best Health & Safety in Construction Award – Sponsored by Turner & Townsend
Kier Highways 
Fanny design enterprise/ leojacin foundation
Lanes Infrastructure 
ADT Workplace

Alan McArthur Unsung Hero Award – Sponsored by 3M
Midori Harako - safestyle uk
John Crockett - Acorn Safety Services 
Lee Fisk - Morgan Sindell

Health and Safety Team of the Year (Fire, Health & Safety) – Sponsored by NEBOSH
BRE Group
Link Contracting Services Ltd
Birmingham Airport Limited
D Morgan PLC
Travis Perkins
Aramark Ltd.
BT and EE – Consumer
Kier Highways Ltd (Area 3 & 4)
Avanti West Coast

Campaign of the Year 
Doroty House
Birmingham Airport Limited
Hochiki Europe
D Morgan PLC

Best Health & Safety Project 
Ellis Whittam
Hunter Safety Group
Serco - Citizen Services
OCO Technology
Savoir UK
Cardinus Risk Management
Orbit Housing
DHL Supply Chain
Avanti West Coast
ADT Workplace

Best Health & Safety in Manufacturing -– Sponsored by The Health and Safety Event
Kepak St Merryn 

Rising Star Award – Sponsored by SHE Software
George Gaddes - Mabey Hire Ltd 
Tivana Chellan - South African Medical Students Association
Hollie Caldwell-Burns - Hunter Safety Group
Dave McPherson - JMcCann & Co Ltd 
James Washington - Kier Highways 
Donya Seyadi - Lanes Group
Julie Blackburn – Northgate Lighting Ltd

BSIF Product Innovation Award
Guardian - Quick-Switch Dropped Object Prevention System
3M™ - Welding Helmet G5-02 Cleanspace Exhalation Filter
3M™ - E-A-R ™ Flexible Fit HA Earplug
Audiology Online - Earplugtest
MAPA  - Ultrane 527
3M™ - DBI-Sala™ Flexiguard™ Modular Jib System
Shawcity - QuantiFit 2
Seton - Safety Sign Alerter
Optrel - Swiss Air

The Safety & Health Excellence Awards take place on 13 October 2021 as part of the Health & Safety Matters Live Digital Conference. You can register to attend the for free at https://hsmlive.co.uk/hsm_live/en/page/register-today

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Worker crushed at coal face 22/09/2021

MINING COMPANY, Three D’s Mining Ltd has been fined £100k for safety breaches following a fall of ground on the NW9 coal face at Dan-y-Graig No 4 colliery located near the village of Crynant, South Wales.

Swansea Crown Court heard that, on 15 November 2017, two workers were preparing the roof for the erection of supports with the use of a pneumatic chisel when 0.6 tonne of stone fell from the roof and hit one of the workers on his back. He suffered significant crush injuries, large pelvic haematoma and a three spinal fractures.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had not carried out an assessment of the strength of the timber. The 24mm timber used to support the roof was not strong enough. The timber was not industry standard half rounds or split bars which are 65mm thick.

Three D’s Mining Ltd Dan-y-Graig No 4 Colliery, Neath Road, Crynant, Neath were found guilty of breaching Section 2 (1) and Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Also, Regulation 3 (1) of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999.

The company has been fined £100,000 payable over four years. Costs were not awarded as the company is entering administration.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal inspector Adrian Taylor said, “Small coal operators should follow industry guidance on the use of support material on small coal faces. Any changes should be fully assessed to check suitability.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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HSE puts emphasis on ventilation 22/09/2021

AS MORE people return to the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is stressing the importance of good ventilation to support businesses minimise the risk of coronavirus.

Alongside cleaning, hygiene and handwashing, good ventilation is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the workplace as it reduces the amount of virus in the air helping protect workers and their families.

As coronavirus spreads through the air, the virus can build up in poorly ventilated areas which increases the risk of infection and it is a legal requirement that employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace.

HSE’s updated guidance looks at how to identify poorly ventilated areas, the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors, how to improve natural and mechanical ventilation, balancing ventilation with keeping warm and ventilation in vehicles.

Maximising the fresh air in a space can be done by:

  • natural ventilation which relies on passive air flow through windows, doors and air vents that can be fully or partially opened
  • mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside, or
  • a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation

Dr Alexander Tsavalos, HSE’s Head of COVID Sector Policy said, “As more and more people return to their place of work, employers and workers need to continue to work safely to keep coronavirus at bay and this includes having good ventilation systems in place.

“Ventilation helps reduces how much virus is in the air. It helps reduce the risk from aerosol transmission, when someone breathes in small particles (aerosols) in the air after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.

“You can improve natural ventilation in the workplace by doing simple things like opening windows and doors and can improve mechanical ventilation by understanding how your systems work and by making sure they’re working properly.

“The use of CO2 monitors in the workplace can also help. Although CO2 levels are not a direct measure of possible exposure to COVID-19, checking levels using a monitor can help you identify poorly ventilated areas.

“Updated guidance on ventilation in the workplace is available on our website which will help more and more businesses operate in a safe environment while protecting their workers. Covid-19 isn’t going away and complacency isn’t an option.

“Good ventilation should be considered alongside other control measures needed to reduce risks of transmission as part of working safely, such as updating your risk assessment, keeping your workplace clean and frequent handwashing.”

Managing Covid risks in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility and workplace risk assessments need to include how your premises is ventilated and fresh air is brought into your building, along with other control measures, including cleaning, hygiene and handwashing.

To support businesses in understanding the working safely guidance and how to implement Covid measures, the Health and Safety Executive is continuing to carry out spot checks and inspections by calling, visiting and inspecting all types of businesses.

The spot check programme provides expert advice during the calls and visits, advising businesses on how to manage risk and protect workers, customers and visitors. We are also working closely with local authorities, assisting them in the sectors they regulate such as hospitality and retail.

Please ensure your workplace is working safely by following the latest guidance. The updated information on ventilation is available on our website.

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Report shows workers unlikely to reveal health issues 20/09/2021

ALMOST HALF of UK employees would not talk to their employer if they were experiencing a health issue, having a detrimental impact on business performance and culture, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health.

As many as 41% of individuals reported that they wouldn’t feel confident discussing any health issue with their employer, with many worrying about what it would mean for their career and relationships within the workplace.

Almost a third of businesses (28%) accepted that they would have concerns about offering support to those in need, with as many as a fifth (19%) revealing that they have previously hired someone with pre-existing health conditions but wouldn’t do so again, perpetuating the cycle of hidden health issues at work while open conservations and effective support are not forthcoming. 

With more than half of all UK employees (51%) revealing that they have a health issue, long-term condition or disability, Benenden Health is warning that fear and stigma around health in the workplace means millions of workers may not be getting the necessary – or any - support from their employers. This could lead to absences, lower productivity and employees ultimately leaving their job. 

The organisation has launched a new report shedding light on the key health issues and conditions that affect the nation’s workforce and offering advice to businesses on how to provide support to all employees - regardless of their background or health status - and ensure healthcare provision caters equally and inclusively for a diverse team.  

The survey of 2,000 employees and 500 business owners revealed the most common ailments that workers have not disclosed to their employer to be poor mental health, high blood pressure and arthritis – all conditions that could be exacerbated in the workplace.

More than a third of employees (36%) also disclosed that they have lied to an employer about taking time off for an appointment, with almost half (44%) of 16-24 year olds doing so, making it difficult for businesses to ensure workers are getting the appropriate support.

The reasons why employees would be reticent to discuss their wellbeing at work were also revealed, with a third saying they would worry that people would think they couldn’t do their job (29%), more than a quarter believing they might lose their job (27%), a fifth concerned that they would be talked about and one in ten (9%) worrying that people wouldn’t want to be their friend. 

For some, these concerns were based on experience, with 15% of employees believing that they have been overlooked for a job in the past due to a health issue, long-term condition or disability. 

Following the findings that a quarter of businesses (26%) still don’t offer any healthcare support in addition to statutory allowances and 60% of those that do failing to consult employees when doing so, Benenden Health is calling on business owners to open communication channels with their teams and consider the health needs of their workforce to support positive wellbeing, increase retention and reduce unexpected absences. 

Naomi Thompson, head of OD at Benenden Health said, “It is disappointing that so many people still feel they can’t speak to their employers about their wellbeing and that a sizeable number of decision makers reinforce this with dated approaches to hiring people with long-term health issues.

“This stigma is especially prevalent in the workplace, with businesses too often unable to identify wellbeing issues, employees concerned about the implications of discussing them and a continuing lack of tangible support, all of which contribute to lost time and productivity for businesses as well as unaddressed poor employee wellbeing.

“Healthcare support should be available to all employees – not just senior staff - and despite some misconceptions, this can be implemented at an affordable cost. Tailored wellbeing programmes, developed with employee consultation and recognising the different needs of a multigenerational workforce, can increase productivity, support recruitment and promote a happier and healthier workforce.”

Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as mental health helplines, 24/7 GP plus access to services such as mental health counselling support and medical diagnostics so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it.

For more information about Benenden Health and to download its guide, visit the Benenden website.

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HSE updates guidance on work-related road risk 20/09/2021

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE), working in partnership with the Department for Transport (DfT), has published updated guidance on work-related road risk (WRRR) for employers and workers.

The gig economy and the increasing use of personal vehicles for work purposes – the so-called ‘grey fleet’ – has created some confusion over where responsibility for legal compliance lies, says the regulator.

Driving for work is likely to be the most dangerous activity most workers will ever undertake.

  • Every week there are around 200 deaths and serious injuries involving people using the road for work
  • It is estimated that 40,000 people working in occupations such as sales, deliveries or taxi-driving are involved in road traffic collisions every year
  • Company car drivers in the UK are 49% more likely to be involved in traffic collisions, even after correcting for demographic variables and their relatively high mileages
  • Countless other will suffer stress, anxiety and/or minor injuries from unreported incidents.

HM Inspector for HSE’s Transport and Public Services Unit, Nicola Jaynes commented, “The Health and Safety at Work Act sets out the legal duties of employers and those engaged to work for them, their responsibilities to manage WRRR are nothing new. However, the landscape is changing and we wanted to ensure guidance reflects these changes and also remains relevant for years to come.

“Companies who otherwise have robust health and safety policies sometimes fail to consider their responsibilities adequately when it comes to driving or riding for work. Everyone should come home from work safe and well, whether they’re working behind a desk or behind the wheel.”

Prosecutions could lead to significant fines and custodial sentences, as well as driving bans and/or operator licences being revoked. In 2020, a company found guilty of failing to effectively manage fatigue for their employees driving for work, was fined £450,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 costs after two men lost their lives in a motorway collision.

All drivers and riders have an individual responsibility for their driving behaviour under road traffics laws. However, when driving for work, the organisation they work for has legal responsibility for their employees’ health and safety. For example, ensuring employees do not drive an excessive number of hours and checking their vehicle is properly maintained, even if it belongs to the employee. The regulations apply to all workers including those using two-wheeled vehicles, such as motorcycles, scooters and ebikes.

The updated guidance is informed by HSE research which included a literature review, survey and interviews with those working in the sector.

Nicola Jaynes added, “The shocking number of injuries and fatalities associated with driving for work demonstrates that more needs to be done to manage WRRR.  This updated guidance will give employers the guidance they need to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their drivers and riders.  Organisations with a positive safety culture and clear, well managed policies for driving and riding for work can have a significant influence keeping our roads safe for everybody.”

You can view the updated guidance here

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£300k fine after sulphur dioxide exposure 20/09/2021

A FOOD manufacturing company, based in Holbeach Lincolnshire, has been fined after employees were exposed to sulphur dioxide (SO2) gas released as a result of poor planning and unsafe systems of work during the commissioning and operation of a new potato processing line.

Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard that AH Worth Ltd (formerly known as QV Foods Ltd) purchased a new potato processing line in 2018. The purchased line dipped the cut potatoes into a substance (Microsoak) to prevent them browning. The purchase, installation and commissioning work was poorly planned. During commissioning, the Microsoak gave off sulphur dioxide gas that affected workers in the packhouse. The company made modifications to the line to attempt to cure the problem, but it caused the nozzles on the line to repeatedly block up and more sulphur dioxide to be given off. A maintenance engineer attempting to unblock the nozzles on the 11 June 2018 was badly exposed to the sulphur dioxide. The factory had to be evacuated and other workers in the vicinity were also affected. The maintenance engineer and another worker were so badly affected that they were not able to return to work due to the effects of the gas on their lungs.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the work should have been properly planned mindful of the risks involved. There should have been adequate flows of information between QV Foods Ltd and the contractors involved. Commissioning should have been properly planned. When they started to have problems, they should have stopped and properly evaluated the solutions before going ahead and modifying the line. The maintenance workers and those on the line should have been provided with adequate information, instruction and training about the new line and what to do. There should have been a safe system of work in place for unblocking the nozzles and the workers should have been provided with additional PPE.

AH Worth Ltd of Manor Farm Holbeach Hurn, Spalding, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in that it failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of its employees. The company were fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9924.90 with a victim surcharge of £170.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Mr Martin Giles said, “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to plan properly for the introduction of new plant and equipment. It made alterations to the new plant without adequate thought and planning, failed to implement safe systems of work and failed to react adequately when things started to go wrong”.

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