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Construction Health and Safety News: 11-15 February 2008

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Prosecution Cases

Contracts manager prosecuted as death involves £1/2m in fines and costs  

A 17-year-old trainee scaffolder fell 18m to his death in 2004 whilst working to construct a scaffold. A contracts manager has been prosecuted for failing to take reasonable care for his health and safety. Work carried out by younger workers must be properly assessed and supervised effectively. HSE has published guidance on the steps that can be taken to minimise the risk to young people at work. See also BBC report on this case. Advice 

Electrical contractor fined after fatal fall through fragile rooflight

Fines and costs of £28k have been imposed on a sole trader following a fatal incident in 2007 when a workman fell 6m through a rooflight. Falls through fragile roofs remain one of the biggest killers in the construction industry, particularly during refurbishment and maintenance work. Advice

Solicitor alleges HSE prosecution was a ‘waste of taxpayers money

The solicitor acting for a traffic management contractor has claimed that an HSE prosecution was a ‘waste of taxpayers money’. The defendant was found not guilty of health and safety offences following the electrocution of two workmen whilst moving a lighting tower which came into contact with an overhead powerline. The company argued that it could not have reasonably foreseen the men’s actions. The case went to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, where it was held that employers were not required to take steps against unforeseeable risks, and that negligent actions by employees were relevant as to whether an employer was guilty. Advice

Prosecution of directors and managers under HSW Act Section 37

HSW Act Section 37 provides for the prosecution of directors and managers. The HSE prosecutions database shows 15 such prosecutions by HSE Construction Division in 2006 to 2007.  HSW Act S37 prosecutions may increase when the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 comes into force in April 2008 as police and HSE investigations will look more closely at the way senior staff managed or organised health and safety. Advice 

Ladder fall during maintenance work leads to fine

 A company has been ordered to pay nearly £4k in fines and costs under after a workman fell 3m from an unsecured aluminum ladder whilst carrying out maintenance work. He sustained a serious back injury. Advice   

Reversing vehicle causes death of young girl 

A council has been fined £125k after it admitted breaches of the HSW Act concerning the death of an 11 year old girl struck by a reversing the refuse collection lorry on her way to school in April 2006. As part of the case Police secretly filmed other lorries reversing at speed six months later. Reversing plant and vehicles continue to be a major cause of construction site deaths and serious injury. Advice

Prosecutions added to the HSE database this week  

The above link finds prosecutions taken by HSE Construction Division which have been added to the database this week. The name of the defendant is shown and you can click on ‘Case’ to view the prosecution subject matter. The records are added 9 weeks after the case has been heard. Two cases added this week involve a collapsing fence and a fall from height.

Fatal And Other Incidents

Engineer electrocuted whilst working on heating system

Seven construction or building maintenance workers were electrocuted whilst working on domestic properties in 2006-2007. Effective electrical isolation is essential to prevent such deaths and the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland (SELECT) has produced a useful short practical guide on the required precautions. Advice   

Crane dismantled 9 weeks after collapse  

A tower crane involved in a collapse has been dismantled for examination 9 weeks after the incident occurred. HSE are looking closely at erection, inspection and examination of tower cranes and the Construction Plant-hire Association has published a draft guide on the maintenance and thorough examination of tower cranes. Advice  

HSE Inspection Initiatives

Inspection of refurbishment projects continues across GB

An HSE ‘blitz’ of refurbishment sites across Great Britain is in progress and early results have shown poor standards leading to sites being stopped. The visiting inspectors are looking for (a) proper planning of work at height (b) correctly installed equipment which is inspected and maintained (c) well organised sites (d) walkways and stairs free from obstructions and (e) work areas clear of unnecessary materials and waste. Advice 

Construction Health and Safety Improvement Framework 2007-2008

Construction industry moves forward with safety improvements

Actions from the construction safety summit in September 2007 are to be taken forward by the Strategic Forum – Health and Safety Group which meets on 25 February 2008 to consider the findings of individual working groups. The working groups have examined three agendas covering (a) sharing information (b) competence and (c) involving the workforce. Agenda 

 Enforcement Notices

Enforcement notices added to HSE database this week

The above link finds prohibition and improvement notices issued by HSE Construction Division which have been added to the database this week. A total of 41 notices have been added. These primarily concerned scaffolding deficiencies, failure to plan work at height, competence on managers, fire precautions and welfare facilities.

Other News

Allegation that underground contractors not qualified  

Bombs found in excavation

Factory explosion leads to manslaughter charges

Collapsing ship gangway which left 16 dead leads to fine in French Court

Quarry worker dies when crushed

Inflatable structure deaths lead to manslaughter charges

 And finally… 

Electrical cable strike could have proved fatal

I hope you find our News Desk to be helpful and informative. Your feedback on the content and format is always much appreciated.

Best wishes

Philip Poynter

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