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.

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.

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.

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.”