As the cold weather plummeted into the minus degrees last week, Union leaders called for outdoor work to cease in freezing conditions.

Currently, there is no legal maximum or minimum temperature for working outside. Guidance exists purely on suggestions on administrative controls and simply what to wear- don’t remove clothing to expose bare skin in hot conditions; cover up with gloves and hats when the cold snaps happen.

It is surprising that guidance from the HSE does not exist past this point when there are so many jobs that occur outdoors in all sectors- including agricultural, arboricultural, construction, services and even entertainment.

Working outdoors in extreme cold can lead to Cold stress. This occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Types of cold stress include: trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia.

With this in mind, Union Chiefs at UCATT have written to major house builders demanding the introduction of guidelines for working in extreme weather conditions for construction workers.

They argue that “the NHBC makes it clear that mortar should not be used below 2°C, whilst construction workers should put their gloves on, get out there and suffer.”

UCATT Acting General Secretary, Brian Rye, said: “It’s a complete indictment of an industry that has temperature guidelines to safeguard materials but none whatsoever for the workers. This must now change.

“We have written to the NHBC to ask them to inject some humanity into the industry and provide clear temperature and extreme weather guidelines for constructors to apply to workers.

“In an age when we no longer send young children up chimneys to clean them, we should equally not be forcing construction workers to work in inhuman conditions. If it’s too cold for mortar- it’s too cold for mortals!”

For now, we shall have to be content with the HSE’s Thermal Comfort Checklist.

Two people are currently trapped and more than 50 have been injured after a tram overturned in south London, the city’s fire brigade has said.

Crews freed a number of people but two remain inside the tram, which derailed in Croydon just after 06:00 GMT.
Transport for London (TfL) said the incident, involving a two-car vehicle, happened on a bend inside a tunnel, near Sandilands Tram stop.

The Met Police described it as a “serious incident” and have confirmed that they have arrested the Tram driver.

They have also confirmed that there has been “some loss of life”, but have yet to release any more information. Local news reports suggest as many as six people are feared to have been killed.

Hannah Collier, who lives nearby the incident site, said she heard “a big crash” and saw people being carried away on stretchers.

Ms Collier said: “I was in bed watching the election when I heard a big crash, which I thought was the wind.

“Then I heard people shouting and then the emergency services arriving.

“Later I saw at least one person being brought out on a stretcher.”

The Tram began operation in May 2000 as Croydon Tramlink, becoming the first tram system in London since 1952. More than 27 million passengers used the service in 2015/16.

The Rail Accident Investigation Bureau is investigating the derailment.

The latest figures from the HSE into Health and Safety at Work have been released. The HSEhave used estimates based on self-reports from the Labour Forces Survey.

The Key figures are as follows:

Occupational health

In 2015/16:

  • 1.3 million workers suffer from work-related illness
  • 0.5 million suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders
  • 0.5 million suffer from work-related stress, depression or anxiety
  • 2,515 deaths from mesothelioma

In 2015/16 there were 30.4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and non-fatal workplace injuries.

In monetary terms, this cost business £14.1 billion in 2014/15 – excluding the costs of long latency illnesses, like cancer, and new cases of work-related illness cost £9.3 billion in the same year.

Fatal and non-fatal injuries in numbers

In 2015/16:

  • 0.6 million non-fatal injuries to workers
  • 72,202 non-fatal injuries to employees reported by employers
  • 144 fatal injuries to workers
  • £4.8 billion- the annual costs of workplace injury in 2014/15.

Construction and Manufacturing related injuries are down 0.9% and 6.8%, whereas illnesses are up 11.79 % and 0.7%.

This would suggest that health and safety cultures in workplaces are now recognising the risks of injuries and taking precautions to prevent them, whereas general health has now taken a back seat. This would also explain the HSE’s reasoning behind their focus this year on small refurbishment projects where dust, silica and asbestos are major health hazards.

As per previous years’ results, the UK has the least fatal injuries when compared to other large EU economies, including Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain and France.

However, the UK comes in second place when looking at the percentage of self-reported, work-related injuries and health problems resulting in sick leave.

The HSE’s summary of statistics can be downloaded here.

It can start with nothing more than a cut; but the effects of sepsis can be life destroying. Yet every year in the UK there are 150,000 cases of Sepsis, resulting in 44,000 deaths- more than bowel, breast and prostate cancer combined.

What causes Sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by the way the body responds to germs, such as bacteria, getting into your body. The infection may have started anywhere in a sufferer’s body, and may be only in one part of the body or it may be widespread. Sepsis can occur following chest or water infections, problems in the abdomen like burst ulcers, or simple skin injuries like cuts and bites.

Sepsis is a life threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It leads to shock, multiple organ failure and death, especially if not recognised early and treated promptly.

Sepsis can be caused by a huge variety of different bugs, most cases being caused by common bacteria which we all come into contact with every day without them making us ill. Sometimes, though, the body responds abnormally to these infections, and causes sepsis.


Awareness of sepsis and the signs is still low, but a new film about the condition and its devastating effects on life hopes to change this.

Starfish follows the true-life story Tom Ray, who believes he has food poisoning, but is belatedly diagnosed with multiple organ failure and sepsis, necessitating the amputation of his legs from the knee and his arms from the elbow.

Promoting the film on ITV’s This Morning, Tom told presenters Ben and Holly about his ordeal which stemmed from a cut in the gum from a dentist- ‘I just started feeling incredibly ill, very confused, very sick with a very high temperature and feeling like I was going to die. I woke up in a coma five months later.’

The family say Tom’s disability destroyed their lives and they were forced to sell their house. Tom is now back in work with a ‘very understanding’ employer.

Such is the scarring to Tom’s face that his wife, Nic, hasn’t been able to kiss her husband since. Despite years of operations to rebuild his face, Tom remains disfigured.

So what are the signs?

As with most life-threatening conditions, speed is the key when it comes to recognising the signs and taking action.

The main symptoms include:

• Slurred speech, which is triggered by a lack of blood supply to the brain.
• Mottled or discoloured skin anywhere on the body.
• Extremely painful muscles due to a lack of oxygen.
• Passing no urine in one day, as the kidneys stop working properly.
• Severe breathlessness. The body senses there isn’t enough oxygen getting to the brain, so it increases the ‘drive’ to breathe to increase it.
• Chronic tiredness and swelling of the affected area.

Earlier recognition of the condition could save 14,000 lives each year in the UK.

For more information, visit

A roof panel caved in at Manchester’s Victoria Station injuring several people.

The new 15,000 square metre roof is made up of around 400 translucent, plastic panels to allow light into the station concourse. The panels, made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, are used regularly in construction projects due to being light, yet strong. The same material was used to make the domes at Cornwall’s Eden Project.

However, a roof panel gave way earlier this week when it could no longer support the mass of rain water that had built up airing a heavy downpour. The panel tore above platforms 1 and 2, releasing gallons of water onto commuters below.

2 people were knocked to the ground and suffered minor head injuries, whilst around 30 others received a good drenching.

The roof, which was part of a £44m upgrade last year, was designed by architects BDP who have won awards for their work, including the Piccadilly Station refurbishment. BDP designed each of the 400 panels to be unique, using the latest modelling technology to create one of the biggest structures of its kind in the country.

Contractors from Northern Rail have secured the damaged roof panels and cordoned off the area below to ensure that no other passengers are at risk from a repeat of the incident.

Mr Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, said: “Either this was caused by a failure in the design, a failure in the construction or a failure in the manufacturing, but either way millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was spent on this roof and this collapse isn’t good enough.

“An immediate investigation is needed to establish how this could have happened months after so much public money was invested upgrading the station.”

It remains unclear whether the cause of the crack was down to a flaw in the material or design – or whether it was constructed incorrectly. The most popular theory according to the M.E.N is that it was caused by seagulls pecking at the roof, weakening the panels. The reason they were pecking? They were drawn to the smell of McDonalds via a nearby ventilation unit.

The investigation continues.

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.”

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.


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.


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.

The Transport Select Committee published a critical report in the summer, claiming that the government should not proceed with ‘all lane running’ schemes while major safety concerns exist.

The group of cross party watchdog MPs has launched a new attack on the Department for Transport after they approved an all lane running scheme on a 32-mile stretch of the M4 before its response to their report could be considered.

Officials are eager to press ahead with the smart motorway plans, which are already in operation on sections of the M42, M1, M6 and M5. It is their plan to boost capacity without widening roads.

Plans are place to convert the hard shoulder into a running lane on around 300 miles of motorway, with a programme of 30 schemes costing £6bn over the nine years.

However, the Committee has argues that the conversion of the hard shoulder into a permanent running lane is a radical change to the nature of motorways and it would create a real challenge for motorists.

Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman said: “The Department for Transport is blatantly ignoring the safety concerns set out in our report. We had barely had the response to our report before the government endorsed an all lane running scheme on the M4.”

She continued: “The committee isn’t arguing with government about the need for more capacity on our motorways, or their statement that motorways are our safest roads. But we take real issue with the government’s assertion that all lane running schemes on motorways are no different to other types of roads without hard shoulders.

“Motorways are a different class of road and drivers have different expectations when using them. The Committee remains concerned about the size and spacing of Emergency Refuge Areas. While we are pleased that Highways England has committed to a review, the M4 proposal should not have gone ahead until the review is complete.”

Ellman concluded by saying: “We are not the only people who are worried about this incarnation of all lane running schemes. In the course of our inquiry, there was genuine concerns raised by the emergency services, road workers and recovery operators. The government cannot ignore them.”