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CONSTRUCTION HEALTH AND SAFETY NEWS: 12th MAY 2008

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SUMMARY

The News Desk this week includes: falls from height, occupational health, electrical risks, slinging operations and HSE enforcement.

FALLS FROM HEIGHT

Fatal fall of young worker ends in jail sentence for employer

The proprietor of a roofing company has been jailed for 10 months after admitting manslaughter in relation to the death of one of his employees who fell through a rooflight at a retail unit.

Comment: Falls through fragile roofs and rooflights remain one of the most common causes of fatalities during construction work. The advent of safety nets and load bearing rooflights has largely eliminated such deaths on new build projects although deaths still occur during refurbishment work. Clients can and should exert a positive influence over the standards of safety. CDM 2007 requires clients, for even the smallest of projects, to ensure that contractors have suitable management arrangements in place. Where arrangements are unsuitable and a death occurs clients may now find themselves facing a manslaughter investigation. HSE have published guidance on fragile rooflights for the owners and occupiers of buildings. The challenge for the refurbishment industry and HSE is to develop strategies to secure greater client awarenes of and adherence to this guidance. 

Fall during staircase installation has tragic and long-term impact

A principal contractor and sub-contractor have been fined after an incident in which a worker suffered serious head injuries leaving him needing 24-hour care for the rest of his life. Fines and costs of over £40k were imposed after the workman fell from a concrete staircase during installation. The work involved lifting equipment and was not carried out safely.

Comment: The fall in this case is believed to have been from a height of less than 2m which illustrates the serious and permanent disability that can be caused by such low falls.

Work on open joists leads to serious injury, fines and compensation

A house builder has been fined £10k after an employee fell through open joists to a concrete floor below. The firm were also ordered by the court to pay a compensatory award of £5,000 to the injured workman who suffered serious injuries and has been unable to work since the incident. Fall arrest measures were not installed to prevent the injury.

Comment:  In the last 5 years there has been expansion in the range of precautions available to protect against internal falls on new homes. HSE advise that collective measures to prevent falls (guardrails and working platforms) are preferred although fall arrest e.g. soft landing systems are often the most practicable option to prevent such falls. The cost relative to the risk is such that suitable precautions are required on all projects no matter how small or how long the work will last. 

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

Joiner exposure to asbestos in school causes mesothelioma death 

A coroner has found that a former joiner who came into contact with asbestos while working at a school died from malignant mesothelioma. His widow told the inquest that her husband had worked with asbestos for some 25 years. He was engaged on rebuilding and refurbishment work at the school and would have worked with roof sheets, asbestos tiles and pipe lagging.

Comment: This tragic death highlights a continuing risk to joiners, plumbers, electricans and other trades who may be exposed to asbestos when working in existing buildings.  Refurbishment work should not start until the client has provided information on the presence of any asbestos materials within the structure. Where during the course of work unknown materials are encountered the work should cease and the materials assessed.

Dust and manual handling of kerbs good practice case study

HSE has published a case study showing how one contractor has reduced the risks from dust and musculoskeletal disorders during the cutting and manual handling of kerbstones.

ELECTRICAL RISKS

Workman dies when electrical substation explodes

An electrical supply worker died and a nearby hospital power supply was lost following an explosion at an electricity sub-station. The subsequent fire engulfed a building containing electrical switching equipment and a transformer.

Guidance for scaffold contractors on avoiding risk from overhead powerlines

Anyone carrying scaffold poles or erecting/working on structures is at increased risk of contact with live electrical conductors. The guidance produced by the Energy Networks Association provides useful practical advice for scaffolding contractors.

LIFTING OPERATIONS 

Working under raised loads

Is it reasonable to suggest that crane operators should design worksites so that tower cranes never lift loads over workers? In this article the lifting operations manager of a major crane hire company explores what can and has been done short of an absolute ban on working under loads being lifted.

Comment: It is right to try and avoid working under raised loads although as the article suggests this is not always practical. Fatal injury experience shows that most loads fall because of poor slinging and it this area that requires equal attention.  Project teams must ensure that slingers are trained, competent and sling loads safely. Competent major contractors follow clear guidance on safe slinging.

HSE ENFORCEMENT

Prosecutions added to the HSE database in the last week  

The above link finds prosecutions taken by HSE Construction Division that have been added to the database in the last week. Two of the three cases added relate to defective working platforms. The third case concerns a fatality where there appears to be have been no offence other than that concerning Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI).   

Enforcement notices added to the HSE database in the last week

The above link finds the 66 Prohibition and Improvement Notices issued by HSE Construction Division and added to the database in the last week.  

OTHER NEWS

Explosion during refurbishment works

European campaign on risk assessment

Excavator bucket crushes foot

Shipyard crane collapse injures three

AND FINALLY …

Safety helmets have limited use!

CONTACT

For further information, advice and feedback please contact Philip Poynter by telephone on 01462 612 381 or by email

END

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