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  By Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

“What on earth?”, “there are no barriers”, “do they not know the risks they are exposing themselves to?”. ‘Why are so many people up there?’. My Safety Bloke brain was going into overdrive as I struggled to take in the image I was transfixed by.

I don’t like Mondays’ tailed off on the radio and Jeremy Vine mentioned something about gun law in the US and Bob Geldof. As he started his next item my ears pricked up. He mentioned a public awareness campaign taking place in London which aimed to get men talking about mental health.

It started to dawn on me, this was the picture I was staring at. Gradually, realisation sunk in – ‘every two hours’ – ’84 a week’ – ‘4368 a year’.

These figures are shocking, they refer to the number of men who commit suicide every day, every week, every year in the UK alone. The 84 statues represent those poor souls for whom life has proved too much. Men in their prime who don’t have anywhere left to turn, who think that the only way is down, looking for some way to end their pain, their torment, their anguish.

As I listened and Googled the information, I was haunted by this image and the powerful message that it portrayed. All the statues are clothed, some in casual hoodies and jeans, others wearing suits and ties, some in uniforms, some in work wear, some are black, some are white, some are young, some are older a cross section of men in the UK. The single common denominator that all of them share is the overwhelming, all consuming desire to end their lives.

I remembered my own journey which took me closer to the edge than I dare recall and all the feelings associated with it. At this point I started to weep as I remembered two of my close friends who found themselves in similar positions. Both gave no outward signs that they were suffering. I was reminded of my friend’s son at the graveside, sobbing uncontrollably as his Daddy was lowered. I remember how I felt seeing and hearing that, it is an image that will never, ever leave me.

I remember my daughter hugging me tightly and saying through tears ‘promise me you won’t ever do that’.

I have learned that suicide does not end the pain, it’s simply a transfer of ownership. Those that are left behind don’t get any answers, the whys and wherefores, the reasons.

…And I can see no reason, ‘cos there are no reasons, what reason do you need to be sure…

Talking about emotions and feelings, stresses and poor mental health is not something that comes naturally to men, we tend to see it as weakness until it goes to far. We are geniuses at hiding our emotions from people, putting on a brave face.

But every two hours of every day, somebody’s Partner, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Family and Friends take ownership of that brave face and have to wear it for the rest of their lives.
Gents, let’s get together and end the stigma associated with our mental health. It’s definitely not weak to speak.

For more information about Project 84 and CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), please see their website https://www.projecteightyfour.com

On July 14th 2014, a 16 year old employee suffered serious burns to his hands and arms.
On December 1st 2015, an employee at a separate restaurant spilled gravy on herself whilst removing gravy from the microwave, causing serious burns to her body.

Despite health and safety rules and procedures being in place and agreed to, the staff members in question suffered severe burns after cutting corners and failing to wear the required PPE- a gauntlet for removing gravy tubs from the microwave. The court stated that “It is the duty of management at every level to ensure corners are not cut”.

Environmental Health officers from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council visited the Wellington Square premises, the site of the second incident, on 3rd December 2015. They found that staff at the restaurant were unable to locate any spare protective gloves, processes were not being managed and the business failed to ensure that their own procedures were being followed.

The Judge ruled that there was a lack of training given; but was complimentary about the company’s subsequent preventative actions:

“I am perfectly satisfied that they are pro-active in seeking to prevent this happening again. They have put in place user-friendly steps to warn employees. The company did not financially cut corners in spending on health and safety; they spend millions on it, and I’m satisfied that they take it very seriously indeed.

“Had its policies and procedures been strictly enforced by the company management, and had management ensured that the necessary safeguards were always in the right place at the right time, this should not have happened.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Limited was ordered to pay a total of £950,000 in fines and £18,700 in costs.

KFC representatives said that training had been given to staff and the chain invests £7.5million in health and safety measures every year. They added that procedures were in place but were not followed, that such incidents are very rare, and that they had cooperated with all aspects of the investigation.

Construction firm Frazer Stannard Ltd have been fined after hoarding on a site on Bedford High Street fell onto a member of public walking by.

68 year-old Margaret Gardiner was knocked down into the street by 10m long hoarding and was trapped underneath. She suffered injuries to her hip and extensive bruising all over her head and body.

An investigation into the incident revealed that the hoarding had not been constructed properly. This was due to the workers that were erecting the hoarding not being given a design, details or instruction on how to build the protective barrier. They had no supervision in undertaking the work and because of their lack of knowledge and experience in erecting hoarding, failed to ensure that it was properly tied back or inspected. This resulted into the hoarding collapsing onto a public street and onto a member of public.

Frazer Stannard Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and to breaching Regulation 19(2) Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined £100,000 in total (£50,000 for each offence). It was also ordered to pay costs of £2,425.16.

HSE inspector Stephen Manley said after the hearing: “This incident could have easily been a fatality and was entirely preventable. Had Frazer Stannard Ltd recognised the work they were doing as temporary works and managed matters properly they would have realised the hoarding was not fit for purpose. Construction companies must learn from this case and plan their work properly ensuring workers are given proper instructions and well as supervision.”

Housebuilder Weston Homes are offering a £20,000 reward for information after a mass daylight burglary happened at its site in Southend.

The thieves made off with £250,000 worth of goods, including plant machinery, quartz worktops, wood flooring, granite paving and glass.

Weston Homes have decided to take the case into their own hands after Essex Police’s slow response to the break-in.  The robbery occurred over the weekend of the 8th-9th July, and reported upon its discovery on the 10th July.  However, Police were unable to attend the scene until the 21st July- nearly 2 weeks after the theft.

Michael Alden, commercial director at Weston Homes, said: “This audacious robbery will eventually end up costing our company up to three quarters of a million pounds to a million pounds in losses once building delays, material reordering, time and legal costs are taken into account. We are deeply disappointed in the slow police response and their lack of resourcing to assist, hence we have decided to offer a reward to members of the general public, and also publicise the robbery via a video and social media.”

Details of the robbers are as follows:

  • 1st Man- White, slim build with shaven dark hair, wearing a hi-vis vest marked ‘Security’ over a white short sleeved shirt and dark trousers.  He wore boots on Saturday, and dirty white trainers on the Sunday.
  • 2nd man- White, heavily built with dark cropped hair. He wore different clothes on both days.  He has a large tattoo covering his left shoulder and another tattoo on the inside of his right arm.
  • 3rd man- Only appeared on the Sunday to steal a forklift truck.  White, medium height, wearing black shorts ad t-shirt and black trainers, with a green baseball cap.

The vehicles involved were:

  • MAN 7.5t lorry  MX06 NZJ
  • Blue and red Bolvo 26t lorry, AO02 NMA
  • White Ford Transit, UK04 REP

The £20,000 reward is for “any information or anonymous tip-offs on the identity of the various suspects that leads to the stolen materials being recovered”.

If you have any information, you can email: securityhotline@weston-homes.com or call 01279 874 193.

The story of the Welsh mining village of Aberfan is well known across the globe of to those of a certain age, less known amongst those under 30. But the story is one that should be remembered; not only to remember those who needlessly lost their lives, but ensure the lesson from the accident remains.

What happened?

The disaster unfolded on October 21st 1966, after millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris from the Merthyr Vale Colliery, lodged onto the side of Mynydd Merthyr hill, came thundering down the hillside onto the village of Aberfan below. Pantglas Primary School took the full hit; 150,000 tonnes of coal slurry killed 116 children and 28 adults. A whole class of 34 juniors were among those who perished. But five children were miraculously dug out alive after they had been shielded from the brunt of impact by dinner lady Nansi Williams.

Warnings

Letters addressed from DCW Jones, the Merthyr Borough and Waterworks engineer, to Mr D Roberts, area chief mechanical engineer for the National Coal Board, and TS Evans, the town clerk, dated back as far as August 1963, all carry the same subject line: “Danger from Coal Slurry being tipped at the rear of the Pantglas Schools.”

DCW Jones clearly outlines the reasons in these letters as to why ‘tip No 7’ [the name of the debris pile] shouldn’t continue to be used. He cites previous movements after heavy rain and the fact that the absorption of storm water would counter any attempt to de-water the slurry before it is tipped. He also prophesies, in restrained, official language, what would happen if the tip did collapse. In August 1963 he concludes with the line, “…if they were to move a very serious position would accrue”. In December of the same year he warns again that “although the current solution at Pantglas may be difficult it will not by any means be as difficult as would apply in the event of the tips sliding in the manner that I have envisaged”.

In March 1964, DCW Jones received a reply from the National Coal Board stating that with regard to the disposing of slurries they “would not like to continue beyond the next 6/8 weeks in tipping it on the mountainside where it is likely to be a source of danger to Pantglas School”.

In January of 1965, two mothers had presented a petition to Pantglas headmistress Ann Jennings about flooding – which she then passed on to the local council.

Yet still, Tip No 7 remained in use until its collapse.

A terrible lesson learnt

The disaster had been caused, the following tribunal stated, not by “wickedness but ignorance, ineptitude and a failure of communication”. Nobody lost their job or faced punishment.

It is a lesson that can be used in regards to a number of activities; the basics being that if you dig a hole and pile the contents onto the edge, at some point it will collapse. It will also happen at a faster rate if other conditions, such as water, are present.

A BBC documentary commemorating the disaster, “The Green Hollow”, will be broadcast by BBC1 Wales on Friday 21 October, 9pm, and on BBC4 on Sunday 23 October, 9pm.

by Ian Ball, HCS Safety Director

18 years ago this October, Zoë and Ian started working together in the health and safety sector.

Early on we had relatively few clients and we often answered “yes we can…” as soon as the words “can you…” were asked by someone.  Often before we knew what they wanted.  We would undertake any work that we thought would help us grow and get noticed.  Zoë joined contractors on a sponsored week which was covered in the local news.  Ian was often asked when he would get a proper job.

The first few years were quite tough, working from when we got up until we had done everything that we could think of for that day.  We worked from our respective homes, the smallest bedroom, or the back room, with Zoë graduating to the garage (with heating) when she moved house.  We tried to speak to each other each day to see how the other was doing, but often only saw one another once per week to catch up.

Training was carried out by Zoë using the local village hall or sports venue. Carting everything she needed there; food, drink, crockery and training aids, and then packing them all away at the end of the training session after washing up etc.

A few years went by and our client base started to grow, most of whom we still know very well today.  We realised that we had two of most things – printers, scanners, fax machines etc.  Training was becoming a bit tedious for Zoë with all the side work that went into the training day.  I did use to offer to help if I was around…

We decided to look for premises.

18 months later we finally moved into Chevron Business Park.  This was 2000 sq ft over two floors.  One floor was a training room and breakout area, the other floor was for staff – Zoë and Ian.  We bought the building on a mortgage and things were very tight after we moved in, only two of us and money was so tight that we didn’t use the heating system, choosing to share a fan heater under the desk.

One thing we didn’t share was the task of the accounts for the company.  Ian always thought that it was such a drudge dreary job that he couldn’t ask Zoë to participate, there are limits.  When the company finally broke free of excel and started using Sage, that was it.  Game over, far too complicated to get involved.  When Sage started to complain that too many errors were being made, Sara joined the company.  Then there were three of us.

With a dedicated training room that could be left set up, we started to increase our training days.  The site visits to construction sites also increased and we took on other staff to cover this work.  With the increase in staff we then found out what it was like to be an employer; with one person who was due to start turning down the position the day before they were due to start.  This was after we had bought the car, mobile ‘phone, laptop and mobile printer (remember those, what a headache it was at getting them to print).

A few years went by and our staff level was increasing.  We had a few office refurbishments in order to accommodate all the staff, but the day came when we had to have more space, so we took the ground floor over of the office next door.  We were a few yards apart, but it may as well have been a mile.  Even though we had one printer for all to use so we still saw each other at those times, it felt as if there were two different companies.  We had to move to bigger premises.

18 months later we moved to where we are today, occupying two floors in a building with three.  It took a long time as we needed to find premises with ample parking spaces for all of our clients attending training courses.  At Holbury we managed to pack cars in tighter than the ferries crossing the Solent.  The floors we took over needed a total makeover, we stripped everything back to basics and fitted it out.  Three classrooms, a large welcoming breakout area for delegates and a staff area that we could all fit into comfortably.  Plus, we had a kitchen with a cooker.  We could now indulge in Friday Fry-ups without going to a takeaway.

We still continued to grow and we had by now diversified away from construction activities to include boatbuilding, manufacturing, leisure, estates, insurance, nail bars, and the European Weather Centre!  Our staff were undertaking and passing the top NEBSOH course in health and safety – The Diploma, so we needed to ensure that their new skills were utilised fully.

After we had been at Millbrook Road West for three years, Zoë and Ian realised that space was getting tight, and that an additional classroom would be helpful to cover training course expansion.  The tenant on the ground floor moved out, and once again we went in and stripped everything out to put in the best that we could afford.  Our administration staff moved to the ground floor, but we were determined to try to make sure that staff still mixed in with each other and had regular conversations.

Each year in March we have a Membership Annual Forum. For quite a few years we have hired the Concorde Club at Eastleigh, a lovely friendly venue.  Unfortunately this year we found out that we had outgrown it, and hence next year we will be at the Hilton Ageas Bowl in the ballroom.  Plenty of space and parking there.

For almost a year now an Operations Manager has been gradually taking over areas that were covered by the Directors, leaving them more time to find new clients and engage with existing ones.  The building is about to have new windows, more space for cars to park, and a new bespoke CRM software package so that our training delegates and clients can be served better.

We couldn’t have achieved all this without tremendous support from all our staff.

So maybe it is a proper job after all.

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By Andy Bishop, Health and Safety Consultant

‘What do you mean you didn’t bring it with you!’ screamed the angry Corporal who had just asked me to show him an important piece of kit from my rucksack, ‘It was on your kit list.’ He muttered something about the skill set of junior soldiers then pointed out a hut on top of a nearby hill, ‘Go and read what it says on the front door.’
‘AND HURRY UP!’ he yelled as I started to trudge towards the hill, carrying a 25kg rucksack and a 5kg rifle, I’m sure I muttered something about my perception of his parentage as I was on my way.

As I approached the door to the range hut I could see a bright red sign that read ‘Hut 5b, for access call the range warden’, I noted down the instruction and the range wardens telephone number in my notebook and set off back down the hill, my kit rattling and shaking as I bounded back towards the angry Corporal. ‘Well, what did it say?’ he demanded, I reached into my pocket and read the instruction complete with telephone number from my notebook, confident in the knowledge that my punishment was over, ‘Incorrect’ he replied with a knowing look in his eye, ‘Off you go again!’ he instructed.

As I stomped up the hill again, the straps of my rucksack cutting into my shoulders and the rifle getting heavier with every step, I pondered what I could have got wrong? I probably copied one of the numbers down wrongly. I arrived at the door and looked, and checked and wrote it all down again, I even made a sketch map of the door and drew the sign on it. Confident that I had the numbers in the right order, I set off back down the hill at breakneck speed. As I marched back towards the Corporal, he announced ‘You had better not read out the same as last time’, ‘Turn around and get back up there!’ he barked, ‘This time go to the FRONT door!’ It hadn’t occurred to me that the small hut atop this hill would have two doors. As I arrived, I went straight to the other side, and true enough there was another door there. I looked for a similar sign to the door that I had previously visited but none were there, all that greeted me was some spray-painted graffiti.
I turned and headed back down the hill, wondering what would happen next. I tentatively approached the Corporal anticipating another run up the hill and recited the only legible statement amongst the painted nonsense –

FAIL TO PREPARE – PREPARE TO FAIL

‘Good Lad’ he praised me ‘Find out who said that and tell me when we get back into camp.’

It has been cited to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. That phrase stuck with throughout my military career, and now as a Health and Safety Professional it still resonates strongly in everything that I do.

It is so simple, by failing to prepare for what life throws at us, when it happens, invariably failure is an outcome. Unfortunately, failures in relation to the Health, Safety and Welfare of our work force can be incredibly costly both in financial terms and ultimately in terms of life.

Planning of tasks and work activities is a fundamental part of any Safety Management System as illustrated by the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ model recommended by the Health and Safety Executive guidance document HSG65 – Managing for Health and Safety.

As part of our Membership Service scheme, HCS Safety can help you with your safety management system and help you prepare for your success.

 

By Leon MaidmentHealth and Safety Consultant

 

PASMA (Prefabricated, Access, Suppliers and Manufacturers Association) have been working closely with the HSE for over 30 years ensuring employees are competent to work at height on specialist access equipment.

PASMA have several different courses aimed at different types of equipment, there isn’t a one size fits all course.
The reason for the different courses is a mixture of the requirements of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and British/European Standards.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 Regulation 5 states; “Every employer shall ensure that no person engages in any activity, including organisation, planning and supervision, in relation to work at height or work equipment for use in such work unless he is competent to do so or, if being trained, is being supervised by a competent person.”

To ensure you are compliant, your employees should attend the following PASMA Course dependant on the equipment they use;

To ensure you are compliant, your employees should attend the following PASMA Course dependant on the equipment they use:
Work at Height Essentials – For employees using work at height equipment.
Low-level Access – For operatives using access equipment below 2.5 Metres (Podiums, Roomates and Low Level Towers).
Towers for Users – Employees constructing 3T & AGR Towers.

A note to site managers- Always check the back of the PASMA Card to see what the operative is competent to erect and use.

 

UK’s airline giant, British Airways, has been fined for exposing employees to injury risks at a Scottish airport through a series of health and safety failings.

BA left employees at risk of hand arm vibrations while they used tools as they fixed planes in the firm’s workshop at Glasgow Airport.

It failed to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments on drills, impact hammers and sanders being used to carry out repairs. There was also a lack of an investigation into the effects of using the hand-held tools, which meant workers could have suffered as a result.

Hand arm vibration (HAVs) can cause tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the affected persons’ hands. The effects are irreversible.

BA should have systematically checked and recorded the exposure by workers to the vibrations from hand-held tools, potentially exposing the workforce to the risk of injury whilst working within the workshops.

BA admitted in court that it had failed to carry out the legally required protocols between July 2005 and August 2012 at the British Airways Limited premises at Glasgow Airport. It was fined £6,500.

A spokeswoman for BA said: “We take our responsibility to our colleagues very seriously. As soon as the issue was identified we took immediate action to limit the time they use these tools.”

SAFER SITES TARGETED INSPECTIONS

Coming to a street near you

HSE construction inspectors will be carrying out unannounced visits to sites where refurbishment projects or repair works are underway.

This year the Initiative is being undertaken as a series of two week inspections across the country, beginning 3 October 2016 ending 4 November 2016.

During this period inspectors will ensure high-risk activities, particularly those affecting the health of workers, are being properly managed.

These include

  • risks to health from exposure to dust such as silica are being controlled
  • workers are aware of where they may find asbestos, and what to do if they find it
  • other health risks, such as exposure to noise and vibration, manual handling and hazardous substances are being properly managed
  • jobs that involve working at height have been identified and properly planned to ensure that appropriate precautions, such as proper support of structures, are in place
  • equipment is correctly installed / assembled, inspected and maintained and used properly
  • sites are well organised, to avoid trips and falls, walkways and stairs are free from obstructions and welfare facilities are adequate

Where serious breaches of legislation are found then immediate enforcement action will be taken, but inspectors will also be taking steps to secure a positive change in behaviour to ensure on-going compliance.

Health and safety breaches with clients and designers will also be followed up to reinforce their duties under CDM 2015 and to ensure that all dutyholders with on site health and safety responsibilities understand and fulfil these.