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Construction infonet - March 2009

Welcome to the latest edition of Construction infonet.

Construction infonet is a free eBulletin from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to provide a regular update on health and safety issues for all in the construction industry.

In this issue

Construction inspection initiative

HSE’s latest enforcement led inspection initiative is continuing throughout March 2009 in selected regions of the country.

HSE Inspectors are visiting sites looking at working at height safely, good order on site, and the risks associated with the removal of asbestos on construction refurbishment sites.

HSE Inspectors are continuing to find a number of sites where dangerous practices are accepted by those in control of the site and in those instances Inspectors have taken appropriate enforcement action, for example:

Property Developer campaign

Anyone having construction or building work carried out, including those who are
developing property, has legal duties as a ‘client’ under the Construction (Design and
Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007), unless they are a domestic client.

HSE’s Property Developer campaign aims to raise the awareness of those developing property as part of their business of these legal responsibilities and provide advice on how to plan a successful refurbishment project safely.

Birmingham City Council and HSE join forces to prevent chimney collapses

Birmingham City Council's Building Consultancy and HSE are working together to raise awareness on these issues, providing guidance and solutions to homeowners and builders who may be at risk.

In many homes originally provided with open fires, chimney breasts have been removed or modified to make better use of the space. However, in recent years it has become evident that work carried out by building contractors, and sometimes the householder, have left the wall, flue, chimney breast and chimney stack vulnerable to collapse.

Shattered Lives Campaign

HSE’s Shattered Lives campaign is focusing on promoting action in the workplace to address risks, such as those of trips and falls in the Construction Industry, where falls from height still remains the biggest cause of fatalities.

CONIAC open meeting – 26 March 2009

HSE’s Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC) will be holding an open meeting on Thursday 26 March 2009 at HSE’s offices in London. If you would like to attend the meeting please follow the link below to register your interest.  Please note, availability is limited.

Recent enforcement activity

Read details of some recent HSE prosecutions and enforcement action in the construction sector and find sources of relevant advice.

Work at height

5 March 2009 - Building contractors are being warned to ensure they carry out regular safety inspections after HSE prosecuted a Horsforth firm over a worker's fall.

Allerton Dale & Co Limited of Horsforth, Leeds were fined a total of £3,000 after pleading guilty to offences under Regulation 26(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and Regulation 12(2) of the Work at height Regulations 2005.

The prosecution arose from an incident on the 9 October 2007 in which 33-year-old electrician, Simon Hunter, fell three metres through a void on the first floor of a new sports pavilion being built at Bradford Grammar School. Mr Hunter was installing a fire alarm cable when scaffolding guardrails, which were only properly secured at one end, collapsed as he leant over them.

9 March 2009 - HSE is reminding construction companies to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments in order to fully protect their employees.

This follows the successful prosecution of two companies after an incident in September 2006 involving a worker who was seriously hurt after falling through an unmarked roof-opening of a gatehouse which was under construction.

Laing O'Rourke Construction South Ltd was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs after pleading guilty to contravening Regulation 6(3) of the Work at height Regulations 2005 as defined by Regulation 3(3)(b).

The site sub-contractor Durable Contracts Ltd was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs after pleading guilty to contravening Section 3(1) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, by not carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for employees working on roofs.

Further information

Scaffolds

13 March 2009 - HSE is warning construction companies and property developers to ensure they provide safe scaffolding, which is regularly inspected, after two companies were fined for a scaffolding collapse in Birmingham City Centre.

On 13th December 2006 scaffolding, measuring up to 50ft high and spanning 100ft along the side of a building, collapsed across Needless Alley at 6.40pm as it was being used by pedestrians.

SGB Services Ltd, of Leatherhead, Surrey, was fined a total of £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,000. The company had been charged with not ensuring that the working platforms were erected to ensure that components did not become accidentally displaced as to endanger workers or passers-by.

In the same court hearing John Davies Interiors Ltd, of Oldbury, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,996. The company admitted that it had not ensured that the working platforms were not used in that position, as they had not been inspected within the previous seven days.

18 March 2009 - HSE is warning of the need to ensure scaffolding is properly erected, secure and safe for use after two companies were prosecuted for an incident where scaffolding collapsed onto the railway line at Aberystwyth station.

C. Sneade Ltd of Trwstllewellyn, Garthmyl, Powys, and their contractors MW Scaffolding Ltd of Aberystwyth, pleaded guilty to two charges each under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

On 22nd February 2005, a section of system scaffolding 52 metres in length, and three levels high collapsed and obstructed the railway track. No-one was injured in the incident, but workers had been using the scaffold only minutes before and members of the public were also placed at risk by the collapse.

A subsequent investigation by HSE involving a scaffolding specialist identified that neither company involved in the erection of the scaffolding had undertaken specific design calculations to ensure its strength and stability, nor had they inspected it once it had been erected. The addition of debris netting shortly before the collapse contributed to the instability of the scaffolding.

Further information

Electricity

5 March 2009 - HSE has warned about the importance of robust and well supervised systems of work when dealing with the isolation of electrical systems after a worker was knocked unconscious by an electric shock in Southend.

South Eastern Electrical Plc, based in Hainault, was fined £50,000 with costs of £20,000. The company had been found guilty of breaching of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, namely failing to protect those not in its employment.

The prosecution concerned an incident at a supermarket in Southend, Essex, on 23 July 2006. Major refurbishment works were being carried out when the store was closed on a Sunday afternoon. A groundworks subcontractor suffered an electric shock after coming into contact with a live cable during replacement of lighting columns in the car park.

Further information

Lifting

3 March 2009 - HSE is warning contractors about the safe conduct of lifting operations on construction sites after an employee, Mr John Walsh, was killed by a falling bucket during a lifting operation.

P Colohan and Company Ltd of Croydon were fined £66,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,950 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 8(1)(c) of The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (commonly known as LOLER).

The HSE investigation found the lifting operation was not properly planned or executed. The company had not provided any specific risk assessments or method statements for the operation and had not taken sufficient steps to ensure that Mr Walsh was qualified to carry out this work.

Further information

Tackling workplace stress

HSE has produced new web-based guidance to show employees, HR staff and Directors effective ways to spot and reduce stress in the workplace.

Noise and vibration

Noise - Regular, frequent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage a person’s hearing. This is most likely if high noise exposure is a regular part of the job.

Information on established good practice for managing noise risks in construction is available on the HSE website.

Vibration- Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent ill health.

HSE has identified some established good practice controls that can help to eliminate or reduce vibration risk.

Recent HSE publications

Priced HSE publication -   Protecting the public: your next move (HSG 151, second edition)

This guidance is aimed at all those in construction, not only the principal contractor, but also the client, CDM co-ordinator and designer, where appropriate. It contains practical advice on how those designing, planning, maintaining and carrying out construction work can minimise the risks to those who are not involved in the construction process but may be affected.

Research - Silica base survey

Baseline intelligence on employee exposures and the control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in four UK industry sectors: brick- and tile-manufacture, stonemasonry, quarrying and construction.

Research - "Occupational mesothelioma risks in Britain"

Evaluation of guidance for directors/board members.

Revised guidance on worker involvement and consultation

Good practice tips and case studies to help improve better communication between employers and employees.

Contact HSE

Report an accident

Call 0845 300 9923 or report online.

Feedback

We issue eBulletins on a regular basis and would welcome your feedback and views as well as any suggestions/contributions for future articles.

Thank you to those who have provided feedback on the previous editions - we have tried to incorporate as many of the suggestions as possible.

Updated 2014-09-24