Builder fined after sacks of rubble thrown from building window

A Coalville construction firm working in Leicester has been sentenced after workers were spotted throwing sacks of rubble from a building project opposite a police station.
Police officers called the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as debris was being launched out of a fifth floor window to a flat roof several metres below. They also saw unsafe working at open edges with no fall protection.

HSE inspectors arrived at the site on 2 October 2014 and witnessed the activity first hand, and after investigating prosecuted the firm.

J A Ball Ltd. was contracted to carry out work to refurbish former office space into flats at Allied Place, 44 Abbey Street, Leicester.

Leicester Magistrates’ Court was told company director Adam Ball decided soft stripping work should begin and walked the site with a worker who was not a site manager while issuing instructions.

The court heard Ball had not ensured a refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey had been carried out on the site before work commenced. No paperwork was given to the worker regarding the methods to be used to carry out this work.

No risk assessments or site paperwork was given to Ball’s employee and no site file existed. There was a substantial amount of waste generated and placed into the rubble bags. These were initially taken down the stairs to the flat roof and then dragged across the flat roof and thrown over the edge into the skip at ground level.

The flat roof had a number of unprotected fragile roof lights across it and there was no edge protection on the flat roof. Mr Ball’s employees then decided it would quicker to simply throw the rubble bags out of the window while they were working on the fifth floor. So while standing on the window sill of an open window bags were thrown to the flat roof before being dragged to skip.

HSE told the court that Adam Ball had arranged for work to begin on a site without ensuring that the proper procedures had been followed, and that all workers had been given adequate information. He also made incorrect assumptions about his employee being competent to manage this project.

J A Ball Ltd, of Property Court, Telford Way, Stephenson Industrial Estate, Coalville admitted breaching of Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £13,000 with £1182.00 costs.

HSE inspector Sarah Hill said: “‘It’s completely unacceptable for anyone to work at open edges with no fall protection As you can see from the pictures, there was a possibility of a fall, the consequences of which could have led to people being seriously injured or killed. Additionally there were real concerns for public safety from falling materials.

“Work on refurbishment projects needs to be properly planned, and all management procedures put in place before any work activity commences. Work at height is still the biggest cause of fatal accidents in the construction industry and unless the correct controls are in place before work starts, lives will be needlessly put at risk.”

Gov’t last ditch self employed exemption revision abolishes prescribed list

Labour peers have ended their opposition to plans to exempt some self employed people from the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act after the government said it intended “to produce a set of regulations that will retain a duty on all self-employed persons who may pose a risk to the health and safety of others”.

The proposed exemption is covered by Clause 1 of the Deregulation Bill. When the bill reached the Report Stage in the House of Lords last month, the government indicated that it would reconsider its plans in light of serious concerns raised by organisations including the TUC, employers’ body the Confederation of British Industry and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health during the HSE’s consultation.

Insulation firm fined £500,000 over pensioner’s carbon monoxide death

A pensioner from Middleton died from carbon monoxide poisoning just hours after the flue on her gas boiler was blocked with cavity wall insulation, a court has heard.

HIS Energy Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following Joyce Moore’s death, which occurred less than five hours after employees left her Middleton Road home.

Manchester Crown Court heard today (13 February) that the 83-year-old’s son had received a cold call from Nationwide Energy Services Ltd in September 2012 offering free cavity wall insulation through a scheme subsidised by the energy companies.

The firm, which was featured on the BBC Three series ‘The Call Centre’, arranged for its sister company, HIS Energy Ltd, now in liquidation, to carry out the work.

On 9 October 2012, three HIS Energy Ltd employees visited the property where they drilled holes through the house bricks, before using a machine to blow thousands of insulation beads into the cavity between the outer and inner walls.

When one of the employees checked the boiler, he noticed a pile of insulation beads at the back of it and assumed they had come through a hole in the lining of the chimney.

The worker phoned the firm’s main office, where he spoke to two managers to make them aware of the issue but neither of them arranged for a gas engineer to visit the property that evening.

Instead, Mrs Moore’s son was advised not to use the boiler but the company failed to make him aware of the potentially fatal consequences of turning on the heating.

HIS Energy also failed to make sure the boiler was switched off before its employees left the property, failed to leave a warning notice on the boiler or with the homeowner, and failed to alert National Grid or a gas engineer, despite this being standard industry guidance.

Just after 8pm, Mrs Moore’s son noticed the house was getting cold and so turned up the thermostat in the hall, causing the heating to come on. When he stood up from the sofa around two hours later, he felt dizzy and went to check on his mother. He found her slumped on her bed.

A post mortem confirmed the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Mrs Moore’s son and two paramedics were also hospitalised after tests found high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.

The HSE investigation found HIS Energy did not provide adequate guidance for its employees on what to do if a boiler flue became blocked. The job packs in the company van contained examples of warning notices, but there were no actual notices which could be given to homeowners or stuck on boilers.

HIS Energy Ltd, which has since gone into voluntary liquidation, was found guilty of a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company, formerly of Northern Boulevard in Swansea, was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay £24,968.44 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Lisa Bailey said:

“It was a natural reaction for Mrs Moore’s son to turn on the heating when it began to get cold, especially as he hadn’t been made aware of the potential dangers.

“The boiler should have been switched off by the company, and warning signs should have been stuck on the side. If this had happened then I am sure the heating would have remained off throughout the evening.

“HIS Energy should also have arranged for a registered gas engineer or National Grid to visit to property as soon as possible but, again, this did not happen.

“The company knew about the risks from its work but its safety standards fell well below the legal minimum. As a result, an elderly woman has lost her life.”

More information on gas safety is available at HSE Gas Safety.

Farm director gets fine after dangerous work at height

The director of a Shropshire dairy farm has been prosecuted after he failed to protect both himself and others while working at height.

Shutt and Mansell Ltd director Phillip Mansell, 49, and a 22-year-old self-employed relief worker from Market Drayton, were both knocked unconscious after being lifted in the telescopic loader bucket to work on two molasses tanks when the incident happened on 30 September 2013.

Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court heard today (12 Feb) how, while fitting a pipe to one of the tanks at Flashbrook Manor, Newport, the two men received a shock of 11,000 volts from overhead cables while working at height.

Both men slumped unconscious in the bucket, which was immediately brought back to ground level by the employee driving the telehandler.

The two suffered electrical burns and were taken to hospital. Mr Mansell has recovered and returned to work.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found it was normal working practice for the dairy farm to lift workers in the telehandler bucket to the top of the silage clamp when regular access was required.

The court heard the telehandler bucket was designed for general-purpose work, including shoveling/loading of feed, and was not designed for lifting people. There was no protection in place, such as rails, raised sides or an anti-tilt mechanism for stopping people falling out.

In addition there were no verbal or written checks on working at height in the telehandler, and the work was not planned.

Phillip Mansell, of Flashbrook Manor, Newport, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £1,495 in costs after pleading guilty to three breaches of section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Shutt and Mansell Ltd, of the same address, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £800 in costs after admitting breaching Regulation 9(3) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Dr Marie-Louise Riley-Roberts said:

“A picture has emerged of a company that has failed to take measures to adequately control risks from working at height.

“There was a substantial and fundamental failure by the director to control the work to ensure it was effectively planned, supervised and carried out safely; and a failure to select the correct equipment to lift persons such as a purpose-made lifting platform. The failings of the company are directly attributable to actions of Mr Mansell.

“There was a very real risk of persons falling from height. It’s only down to luck that Mr Mansell and his co-worker, who were knocked unconscious, fell into the bucket and not out of it, otherwise we could be dealing with a tragic, double-fatal incident.”

In 2013/14, 27 agricultural workers were killed at work.

Court for Essex firm involved in fire

An Essex firm has been fined for neglecting chemical safety after a fire involving a brazier and a drum of thinners led to safety breaches being uncovered at its Rainham site.

CLB Refridgeration Ltd, which cleans and refurbishes industrial-size refridgeration containers, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Southwark Crown Court after its investigation.

The court heard (17 Feb) that a 25-litre drum of paint thinners was involved in an incident in October 2012 where a fireball erupted in a brazier at the company’s site in Ferry Lane.

HSE told the court that CLB Refrigeration Ltd failed in its duties to assess and control the use of paint thinners – the company was not aware how workers were using the dangerous substance and were also unaware that a brazier was being used to burn rubbish.

The investigation identified that thinners was being used to clean marks off the containers that were being refurbished and that when the skips were full the employees would sometimes burn material they had removed from the refrigeration containers in the brazier.

HSE found that the company had not properly assessed the risks involved in using and storing paint thinners, and had fallen far below the standard of controlling the risks. CLB Refrigeration failed to ensure it had full knowledge of all the chemicals on site, how they were being used and failed to undertake an assessment of the risks involved.

CLB Refrigeration Ltd of Parkside, Woodside, Grays, Essex, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and was fined a total of £22,500 and ordered to pay £9243 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Monica Babb said:

“CLB Refrigeration Ltd should have been aware of what dangerous substances their workers were using, and how. A proper risk assessment was key to making sure that suitable, effective control measures were in place and the brazier was removed from site.”

Firms sentenced after airport worker breaks leg

Two firms have been prosecuted after a worker suffered a broken leg when he deliberately steered his ride-on cleaning machine into a balustrade when the brakes failed in order to avoid hitting pedestrians in Stansted airport.
Carl Marshall, 28, of Little Dunmow, Essex, was forced to veer into the central dividing balustrade after brakes on the scrubber-drier machine failed to respond as he rode down a sloping passenger ramp.

As the machine came to a halt, passengers rushed to his aid and helped to free his trapped legs. Mr Marshall suffered a broken right thigh, sprained right knee and two sprained ankles, requiring four days’ treatment in hospital. He has since returned to work.

The incident, on 2 July 2013, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (10 Feb) prosecuted Mr Marshall’s employer, ISS Facility Services Ltd, of Surrey, and the maintenance contractor Michael Laryea, trading as Lamick Floor Machines, of Isleworth, Middlesex.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard that once Mr Marshall realised the brakes were not slowing the vehicle during descent, he shouted for passengers to get out of the way and pulled the steering wheel hard to the right to slow the machine against the central walkway balustrade. Passengers then came to help and stopped the machine moving further by leaning against it, and then freed Mr Marshall’s legs which had become trapped.

HSE’s investigation found that the scrubber drier machine had a worn and ineffective brake that had been poorly maintained. A second machine was also found to have similar defects.

ISS Facility Services Limited of Genesis Business Park, Albert Drive, Woking, Surrey, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £5,490 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Michael Laryea, trading as Lamick Floor Machines, of Elmer Gardens, Isleworth, Middlesex was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,490 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Glyn Davies said:

“Mr Marshall’s painful injuries could have been avoided had the ride-on scrubber drier machines been regularly checked in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and maintained in good repair. ISS and Michael Laryea of Lamick failed to make sure the machine was safe to operate.

“This has been an expensive lesson for both these businesses to learn; but employers should understand that serious breaches of health and safety law that put workers’ safety at risk are likely to result in similarly serious outcomes.”

More details about working safely with work equipment and machinery can be found on the HSE website at: HSE Work Equipment and Machinery Safety

Firms prosecuted after worker loses left leg

A Tameside factory worker had to have part of his left leg amputated after he was struck by an 850kg metal frame being delivered to a plant in Glossop, a court has heard.

Two firms have been ordered to pay nearly £50,000 in fines and costs following an investigation into the incident on 5 January 2012 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The metal frame which caused Vincent Sutton's injuries

The metal frame which caused Vincent Sutton’s injuries

Derby Crown Court heard Vincent Sutton, 49, from Mossley, had been delivering the five-metre long rectangular frame to Delpro Ltd on the Brookfield Industrial Estate after it had been manufactured by his employer, Russell Fabrications (UK) Ltd.
The metal frame which caused Vincent Sutton’s injuries

The frame, known as a skid, had been loaded onto a pickup truck at an angle using an overhead crane and chains, with the top end resting on a supporting bar above the driver’s cab.

When the frame arrived at the Delpro plant, workers lifted it off the truck using the same chains, this time attached to a forklift truck. The chains consisted of two separate sets, one of which was significantly shorter than the other to allow for the angle of the lift.

As they lifted the frame, the shorter chains – attached to the higher side – forced their way out from the hook on the forklift truck. The frame fell around two metres to the ground and landed on Mr Sutton’s left foot.

The damage was so severe that his leg eventually had to be amputated to above the knee for medical reasons.

The court was told neither of the companies had planned how they were going to safely lift the metal frame onto and off the pickup truck, and that both the truck and the lifting equipment were entirely unsuitable for the job.

Russell Fabrications (UK) Ltd also failed to make adequate arrangements for the metal frame to be transported safely.

Delpro Ltd, which designs and assembles equipment for packaging and printing industries, pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to ensure the work was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in safely.

The company, of Peakdale Road in Glossop, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £8,735 towards the cost of the prosecution on 27 February 2015.

Russell Fabrications (UK) Ltd, of Wood Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, was fined £11,917 with costs of £13,734 after being found guilty of a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following a trial.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Scott Wynne said:

“The failings of both companies contributed to this incident, which could so easily have been avoided had more thought gone into the planning of the loading, unloading and transport of the metal frame.

“The methods adopted for both the loading at Russell Fabrications (UK) Ltd and the unloading at Delpro Ltd were inherently unsafe and the vehicle used to transport the frame was unsuitable as the loading area was too small to safely accommodate it.

“Unfortunately the failings of the two companies have led to a worker suffering life changing and permanently disabling injuries.”

Information on improving safety in the manufacturing industry is available at HSE Health and Safety in the Manufacturing Sector.

Basement building in London faces safety scrutiny

A two-day inspection initiative of basement projects in high-value London boroughs is to be carried out by the Health and Safety Executive next week. (w/c 9 March).
Construction inspectors will be focusing on sites in two boroughs – Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham – in a bid to improve safety in the increasingly popular basement sector.

This action follows a number a number of fatal incidents, as well as serious injuries, in the capital in recent years relating to basement projects.

Over the last 10 years, HSE has received reports of 17 construction workers having died as a result of an excavation collapsing, whilst in the same period 27 were seriously injured.

In December 2014, following the death of a labourer in a basement excavation collapse in Fulham, a company director was found guilty of manslaughter offences and jailed.
Example of a poor basement renovation

Inspection teams will be looking at key safety issues including collapsing excavations; risk of building collapse from structural alterations or undermining by excavating; the dangers of handling heavy steel beams; poor access and risks of open or unprotected parts of sites. Other issues such as poor welfare facilities and lack of training can also give rise to HSE action if found.

HSE construction inspector James Hickman, whose team covers south-west London, said: “The construction of basements in London is increasingly widespread. Often it is carried out under existing homes as owners seek to increase their living space without a house move.

“The work is technically challenging and can carry substantial risk. Standards are often poor and often vulnerable sections of the labour market are recruited.

“Contractors are failing to appoint a competent temporary works engineer to design suitable propping to support excavations and existing structures. Likewise, on many projects basic safeguards are missing, such as edge protection to prevent falls from height. And all too often little thought is given to providing proper welfare facilities for site workers.

“Where we find poor practice that is putting lives at risk we will take action, including stopping work and prosecuting those responsible.”

The risks of working in unsupported excavations are well known throughout the industry, as are the precautions required to ensure work is carried out safely. The HSE publication HSG150 ‘Health and safety in construction’ contains advice and guidance on what measures to take in order to ensure excavation works are carried out safely. This document is free to download from the HSE website.

The targeted inspection is part of continuing efforts by HSE to improve health and safety in this sector of the construction industry.

Construction Dust – Industry Survey Report

Over 500 UK construction workers a year die from lung cancer caused by silica, with construction dust also causing other serious lung diseases like asthma, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
A newly-published industry survey conducted jointly by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the Construction Dust Partnership (CDP) has found that workers believe the construction industry needs to do more to face up to the challenge that dust created on the job poses to employees’ health. dust
You can get more information about dust and how to protect your health by visiting The Construction Dust Partnership. For more health and safety advice on silica dust visit HSE’s Concrete Webpages.

Farm worker’s death leads to prosecution over exposure to toxic gases

A Dorset farm owner and his two businesses have been fined for serious safety failings after a 29 year-old worker died following exposure to toxic gases.

Dorchester Crown Court heard today (23 Feb) that Matthew Pitt and David Bartlett were working at Lowbrook Farm, owned by Clifford Owen Yeatman, in Bechalwell, Blandford Forum. They were exposed to toxic gases during maintenance of an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant at the farm. The plant was developed by Biogas Nord UK, of which Mr Yeatman was sole director.

On 24 June 2009, Mr Pitt and Mr Bartlett, both from Sturminster Newton, were tasked with opening the roof of the digester tank to free a stirring mechanism which had stopped moving due to a crust forming in the tank. As they did so, they were engulfed by toxic hydrogen sulphide gas.

Both men lost consciousness and when Mr Bartlett came round he found Mr Pitt lying next to him but could not get a response. He alerted other people on site to get help and an ambulance was called. Two paramedics and two other farmworkers also suffered from the effects of the fumes. Mr Pitt was later declared dead without having regained consciousness.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found a number of unsafe practices and failings during both the construction and operation phases of the AD plant.

Mr Yeatman and his company, Biogas Nord, did not assess the risks associated with the plant in general or with opening the roof. The roof had been opened five times since March 2009, including the day of the incident, by people working for Mr Yeatman. However, it was not designed for routine removal and its opening should have been required only rarely had the plant been operating correctly.

Workers were not trained to remove the roof and did not recognise that the removal of the roof was a specialist job. The risks from substances generated in the AD process, including explosion and exposure to toxic gases, were poorly understood.

Work at height during the removal of the roof was also carried out without adequate safety precautions.

The investigation identified that a previous similar incident had never been reported to HSE. On 1 August 2008 farm worker Joerg Grondke fell unconscious after he was exposed to toxic gas when he was replacing the clamps that held the roof seal in place.

While masks were supplied after the 2008 incident workers were never trained in their use and they were taken off once the roof was removed in the mistaken belief that the danger had passed. The masks were also not face-fitted or properly maintained.

Clifford Owen Yeatman, of Lowbrook Farm, Blandford Forum, Dorset, was fined a total of £15,000 as a director of Biogas Nord UK (Ltd) after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He also pleaded guilty to two further breaches of the act as a partner of CO and RA Yeatman and was fined £45,000. His company, Farmergy Ltd, also of Lowbrook Farm, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 42 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Both Mr Yeatman and his company Farmergy Ltd were ordered to share £75,000 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Annette Walker said:

“The previous incident involving Mr Grondke should have served as a warning about the risk of toxic substances when opening the roof. If that risk had been identified and safe systems of work put in place to prevent exposure to workers, the tragic death of Matthew Pitt would have been avoided.

“While farm energy generation from anaerobic digestion is an emerging application in the UK, anaerobic digestion has been used here for several decades for treatment of sludge by water companies.

“The risks associated with access to confined spaces and the associated potential for exposure to hydrogen sulphide in anaerobic digestion facilities are well-known.

“What has happened at that farm demonstrates the importance of having safe systems of work in place, particularly for maintenance and repair work where the risk of exposure is likely to be highest. The need for specialist skills and training also has to be recognised.”

Matthew Pitt’s mother, Janet Pitt, said:

“I have still not come to terms with the loss of our son. Matthew was not just a son, but a best buddy too. We were a close-knit farming family that did everything together. We lived, worked hard and played together. All that has ended and although we carry on with our lives, behind the strong exterior lies broken hearts that will never be mended.”

Further information on the process of anaerobic digestion can be found on the HSE website at HSE Disposal and Energy Recovery.