News
for the month of June, 2014

Health and safety myths

3rd of June 2014

Steve Naldrett, director at Ardan Training Consultancy Limited, stated “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have a section on their site to explore the use of Elf and Safety spoils things yet again!!

In this section they review the possible mis-use of Health and Safety as an excuse for not allowing certain activities. We will add these as and when they are published by the HSE.”

 

“If you have any similar concerns please do not hesitate to forward them to the HSE at www.hse.gov.uk/myth/mythofthemonth.htm"

 

Issue

The enquirer was having a cup of tea in a café and was told he could not have a second cup poured into the same cup - instead it would have to be supplied in a new clean one.

Panel decision

This is not a health and safety matter and there is no legislation which would prevent the customer being served a second cup of tea in the same mug. The café may have other reasons for its policy, but the panel applauds the person who raised this example of excessive risk aversion and his well meaning attempt to save on their washing up!

Leicester Square cafe fined £17,000 for cockroach infestation

3rd of June 2014

A popular cafe in the heart of Leicester Square has been hit with a £17,300 fine after inspectors found it was infested with cockroaches.

The Pompidou, owned by Red Tree Productions Ltd, was criticised by inspectors for a greasy kitchen, unmarked food and being “wholly unhygienic,” Southwark Crown Court heard.

Despite warnings from Westminster City Council, the owners failed to improve the cafe, awarded a one-star average on consumer website Yelp.

 
 

The cafe is at 9A Irving Street in the tourist trap between Charing Cross Road and the West End.

Judge John Price fined Red Tree Productions Ltd were guilty of a variety of serious health hazards including a “cockroach infestation, alive and dead.”

“Food-handlers were not instructed or trained in food-handling hygiene matters,” the judge said.

Inaction: the cafe had not improved after being hit with a warning (Picture: Central News) “There was no hot-water in the male toilet and had a missing tap.

“An improvement notice had been served but nothing had been done.”

He went onto condemn the apparently inaccurate accounts filed with Companies House.

“The [company account] figures that have been provided to me simply don't make sense.

“It suggests that the company has not been trading in 2013.

“The evidence is that it has been trading. The evidence before is that it is still trading.”

The judge fined the company £17,300 plus costs of £3,743.90 for eight food safety offences.

Infested: the Pompidou cafe in the West End (Google Streetview) Speaking after the case Steve Harrison, Westminster City Council's Operational Director of Premises Management said: “When we discovered the extent of the health and hygiene problems at Pompidou, we knew we had no option but to close it immediately. The kitchen was filthy, infested with cockroaches and posed a serious threat to anyone eating there.

“The vast majority of the food businesses in Westminster are well run, have good standards and, where needed, Westminster City Council would much rather work with proprietors to improve conditions.

“However, where that's not possible, we will seek legal action. The fine handed down to Pompidou's owners should serve as a warning to any others who don't take their responsibilities seriously.”

Source

North Wales restaurant slammed as 'appalling' for filthy kitchen

3rd of June 2014

Restaurant owner fined nearly £5,000 for breaching food hygiene standards including incorrectly defrosting prawns

 

Ashas takeaway, Rhyl

Hygiene inspectors who made a spot check on a Indian restaurant kitchen found an “appalling” level of filth.

Prawns were in a handwash basin, equipment, work surfaces and wall tiles were dirty, cooked chicken was left at room temperature at the Asha Indian restaurant in Wellington Road, Rhyl, a court heard.

And while the inspectors were there, the neighbour’s cat walked in through the back door.

Photos shown to Llandudno magistrates today showed broken storage container lids, containers smeared with sauces, and prawns defrosting in a tub at room temperature under a sink.

Prosecuting solicitor Stuart Dunn said an unannounced food hygiene inspection was carried out by council environmental health officers last September.

“It soon became apparent the standards of cleanliness were far from satisfactory,” he said.

 

Ashas takeaway RhylAshas takeaway Rhyl  

 

Court chairwoman Jean Bryson told restaurateur Shafaqat Ali they took into account that he had carried out remedial work and improved training and record keeping.

But it wasn’t an isolated lapse – a notice had been served previously.

“You were reckless in that you didn’t comply because of the potential for harm to the unsuspecting public,” she said.

Ali was fined a total of £4,800 for six food hygiene offences and must pay £1,210 costs.

He pleaded guilty.

Mrs Bryson added:”Those photographs did highlight appalling standards.”

Defence solicitor Carla Forfar said Ali had spent up to £30,000 refurbishing the premises. His employees were his father and brother who were now booked on a food hygiene course.

“There’s no suggestion any customer had been unwell,” Mrs Forfar remarked.

The officials had visited on a busy night when the father was cooking.

The cat had been sitting on the doorstep, came in and was shooed away. 

“He’s trying to educate his father which I suspect isn’t an easy thing,” the solicitor said.

“There are DVDs available in different languages. He accepts he should have reacted before he has done. He’s sent his father and brother on training.

“The physical aspects of the premises have been resolved and the training will be resolved.”

 

Ashas takeaway RhylAshas takeaway Rhyl

 

The latest Food Standards Agency inspection, in March, gave the restaurant a food hygiene rating of one out of five. It states on the Agency website: "Major improvement necessary.”

Emlyn Jones, Denbighshire council’s public protection manager, said afterwards: “All food outlets and businesses in Denbighshire are expected to comply with stringent food safety regulations and the council provides a lot of advice and information to businesses, to help protect the well-being of the eating public.

“While the majority of business owners in the county act responsibly and comply with the law, there are some who flout the regulations and this will not be tolerated.

“The council will not hesitate to take court action against those who break the law and the sentence handed out in this case demonstrates the fact that the courts are taking a tough stance, in the interest of the general public”.

source

STEC contaminates a third of private wells in Ireland

6th of June 2014

It’s estimated that 30 per cent of private wells in Ireland are contaminated with E. coli arising from animal and human waste.

Meanwhile, a report by the Health Service Executive (HSE) has found that there is a growing number of VTEC – a particularly nasty form of E. coli.

Analysis shows that Ireland has the highest incidence of  verotoxigenic E. coli, VTEC, or shiga-toxin producing E. coli, in Europe. Since 2011, the HSE has reported a doubling of the number of VTEC cases in Ireland from 284 in 2011, 554 in 2012 and 704 in 2013.

People treated for VTEC are four times more likely to have consumed untreated water from a private well. 

VTEC infection is most common in children and in up to 8 per cent of cases patients go on to develop serious kidney complications.

“These can, on rare occasions, prove fatal.  This is all preventable,” said Dr Una Fallon, Public Health Specialist in the HSE and Chair of the HSE National Drinking Water Group.

The EPA says rural families in Ireland are commonly affected and much of this is because of contaminated private wells. Consumers of water from private wells at much greater risk of VTEC than those who drink water from mains supplies, they said.

“It can take a long time for the bug to clear even after the child has become well,” said the EPA.

The EPA estimate that 50,000 private wells in Ireland are contaminated with human or animal waste which can cause significant threat to people’s health.

David Flynn, Programme Manager for the EPA said that ”people assume that because their water comes from a well or a spring that it’s completely pure and safe to drink, but that is not necessarily the case”.

“Sometimes, we find that people can develop immunity themselves, but visitors to the house, particularly children and the elderly are at risk of getting very sick,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have said that people have to do more to protect their well from contamination and have developed a new assessment tool ‘Protect your Well’.

 

source

Heinz fined after engineer has hand sliced off

9th of June 2014

Global food producer Heinz has been fined for serious safety failings after an engineer had his hand severed when it became trapped in live, unguarded machinery at its Norfolk plant.

 
Alec ‘Alf’ Brackenbury, 49, from Bacton, Norfolk, was servicing a potato peeling machine at Heinz’s Westwick manufacturing plant in Station Road, Worstead, Norfolk, on the first day of a maintenance shutdown on 20 June 2013.
 
As he tried to retrieve a dropped bolt, he climbed down from the peeling machine which was electrically isolated and put his hand into the slurry pump below, which operated and severed his right hand.
 
He was treated at Norfolk and Norwich hospital for two weeks and has had to undergo eight separate operations on the stump. He is now unable to drive, work or even carry out many day to day activities.
 
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, which prosecuted Heinz Manufacturing UK Ltd for a safety breach at Norwich Magistrates’ Court.
The court was told that self-employed engineer Mr Brackenbury was servicing a ‘brush and belt’ peeler, a large machine used to remove skins from potatoes, of which he had previous experience. The machine was isolated and locked off by both Heinz and Mr Brackenbury before he began work.
 
While stripping the peeler down, he dropped a bolt which he thought had fallen through the peeler and into a slurry pump underneath – a single cavity pump with a screw auger at the bottom which removes waste water and peelings when the peeler is in operation. He reached into the slurry pump to retrieve the bolt and the pump started, slicing through his wrist.
 
HSE’s investigation revealed that although the slurry pump appeared to be an integral part of the peeler, it was in fact a separate machine with its own power supply and isolation point. Alf Brackenbury was unaware of this and believed he had isolated the pump along with the peeler at the main distribution box.
 
Crucially, a protective grate bolted on top of the pump to prevent access, was absent, enabling Mr Brackenbury to reach into dangerous parts of the machine including the screw auger. HSE said the guard had possibly been absent for some time.
 
H J Heinz Manufacturing Ltd of Hayes Park, Hayes, Middlesex, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,661 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
 
Following the case, HSE Inspector Tony Brookes, said: "Alf Brackenbury suffered a horrific injury in an incident that was wholly avoidable.
 
"Maintenance activities on production machinery will invariably involve additional hazards beyond those present in normal operation. Mr. Brackenbury was put at risk by Heinz Ltd’s inadequate assessment of risks and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.
 
"It is the duty of the employer to ensure their employees and contractors can carry out their work safely. Sadly in this case Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury.”
 

Masonry company found guilty of corporate manslaughter

9th of June 2014

A stonemasonry firm has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter following the death of one of their employees in February 2010.

 
Oxford Crown Court heard on the 22nd May that David Evans, a 23-year-old stone mason’s mate employed by Cavendish Masonry Limited, was killed when a two tonne limestone block fell off a concrete lintel and crushed him while he was working at a large wall at the Well Barn Estate in Moulsford, Wallingford.
 
Cavendish was found guilty of a gross breach of its duty of care in its management and organisation of its activities at The Well Barn estate, by failing to take reasonable care in the planning and execution of the work.
 
Following the verdict, HSE Inspector Peter Snelgrove, who supported the police-led investigation, said: "David Evans’ tragic death was completely avoidable had Cavendish Masonry Limited properly planned and managed the installation of the heavy limestone.
 
The company will be sentenced later this year.
 

Firm fined after great grandmother’s death

13th of June 2014

A property management firm has been fined £95,000 after an elderly woman was killed by a delivery van in a poorly maintained car park in Cumbria.

Ninety-one-year old Gertrude Donaldson of Ash Meadow Crescent, Kendal, was hit by the reversing van in the Station House doctors’surgery car park in 2009.

EHOs from South Lakeland District Council investigated and found the car park lacked clearly marked areas to separate pedestrians and vehicles. They also found that the parking bays had not clearly marked.

Jaymar Estates Ltd, Cardinal House, St Mary’s Parsonage, Manchester, which managed the car park near, pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety legislation in Carlisle Crown Court on Monday.

It was fined £95,000 and order to pay costs of £50,000.

Judge Peter Hughes said the state of the car park had been a cause of concern for a year.

He ruled that ‘the primary responsibility for the accident must rest with Jaymar itself’. He said: ‘It was Jaymar that was responsible for the overall operation of the car park.’

Ms Donaldson's family said in a statement safety issues in the car park had been raised with Jaymar prior to her death.

It read: ‘We are four years and seven months down the line and only now have they acknowledged their breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act and that this breach made a sufficient contribution to mum's fatal accident. We are happy that the judge has sent a clear message about companies' responsibilities to people's health and safety.’

Ms Donaldson, had seven sons and one daughter, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The family added that they were grateful to the council for ‘pursuing this so vigorously’.

Phil Greenup, public protection manager at South Lakeland District Council, said the prosecution was a warning to companies who have car parks and landholdings not to disregard their health and safety responsibilities.

‘This car park was in a poor condition which did not clearly separate pedestrians and vehicles, which unfortunately led to Ms Donaldson being knocked down and killed by a reversing van. This has been a long running case, we welcome the judge’s ruling, and would once again like to offer our condolences to the family,’ he said.


David Sykes, South Lakeland’s director of people and places, said: ‘We hope this outcome helps the family of Ms Donaldson to find a resolution to what has been a most tragic event.’

Ms Donaldson was born in 1918. She trained as a nurse and served in India during the Second World War with the Queen Alexandra’s Nursing Corps. She married her husband Sidney in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1945. 

 

source

Business group makes case for investing in health

13th of June 2014
The direct costs of employee absence to the economy are estimated at over £14 billion per year – and the CBI’s latest absence survey found that the average total cost to business for each absent employee is £975. Thes CBI says these figures would be higher still if productivity lost due to presenteeism – staff attending work despite being unwell – was included as well.
 
Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, said: "Having healthy staff is an essential part of running a healthy business. Investing in the wellbeing of employees is not only the right thing to do, it has real business benefits. It’s time for businesses and government to work hand-in-hand to move from a reactive to proactive approach on health and wellbeing in the workplace. Encouraging investment that gets people back to work sooner, with less of a burden on the NHS, is in everybody’s interest.”
 
Sue Weir, CEO of Medicash, said: "Developing and implementing a targeted healthcare strategy can help business avoid costly absenteeism and ensure their workforce is a happy, healthy and committed one. That’s why more and more businesses looking to increase output and maximise business performance are putting into place robust health and wellbeing strategies. Offering a health and wellbeing package is an affordable and beneficial means of doing this and of attracting, motivating, rewarding and retaining staff.”
 
The new CBI report – Getting Better: Workplace health as a business issue – outlines exactly how businesses can improve the wellbeing of their staff and provides a practical toolkit to support firms, based on the experience of CBI members to date.
 
Key actions that businesses can take to improve employee health include:
·   Develop joined-up health and wellbeing programmes which factor in emerging public health trends
·   Take a proactive and preventative approach to health and wellbeing to influence employee behaviour
·   Equip managers with the knowledge and support to handle health conditions as swiftly as possible
·   Ensure robust systems are in place to effectively manage absence and the return to work.
 
The CBI is urging the Government to support businesses doing this by:
·   Promoting the new Health and Work Service, and ensuring it’s the default option for employees absent from the workplace for four weeks or more
·   Using tax relief and incentives to encourage employer-funded interventions into health conditions at earlier points, taking the burden off the NHS and getting people back to work sooner
·   Promoting the benefits of flexible working as a route to helping absent employees back into the workplace
·   Continuing to raise awareness of key public health issues.
 
 

EHN alerts council to McDonald’s pink burger

13th of June 2014

Kensington and Chelsea EHOs have launched an investigation after a customer was served an undercooked burger in a McDonald’s branch.

Billy Bridges told the Metro Newspaper last week that the cheeseburger he purchased at a Kensington branch of McDonald’s was undercooked.

‘When I saw what was inside, I just couldn’t believe it. I felt physically sick. The meat was all pink and disgusting. It was rancid. The cheese had melted, so they’d obviously made at least some slight attempt to cook it, but nowhere near enough. Even my mate I was with was put off his food,’ he said.

He added that when he complained McDonald’s he was offered a free value meal.

Kensington and Chelsea Council said it was unaware of the incident until it was contacted by EHN this week but promised to launch an investigation immediately.

‘The council has not received a complaint about the reported incident, but now that we are aware we will be investigating,’ said a council spokesman.

Professor Hugh Pennington, who has chaired two public inquires in E. coli outbreaks, urged the council to urgently establish if the lapse was a specific to the branch or a wider problem.

‘Haccp should be followed at all times because although the risk is low you never know if the next patty contains E. coli,’ he said.

McDonald’s apologised for the lapse in its ‘usual high standards’.

‘At McDonald’s food safety is of paramount importance,’ said a spokesperson. ‘We serve fully-cooked burgers with no red/pink meat or juices using a scientifically verified and approved cooking process.

‘This was the only case reported at the restaurant and a thorough investigation is being carried out, including a review of equipment and employee re-training where necessary.’

The fast food chain added that the restaurant has been contacted by EHOs and was ‘co-operating fully’.

Graham Jukes, CIEH chief executive, said: 'McDonald's are renowned for their exemplar food safety processes and procedures and have a team of EHPs on staff who will I am sure be examining this complaint with Kensington and Chelsea and address in the problems they find.'

 

What about thermometers and piping hot? UK FSA says stop washing that chicken and stop touching yourself

16th of June 2014

The UK Food Standards Agency has issued a call for people to stop washing raw chicken to reduce the risk of contracting Campylobacter, a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning.

The call comes as new figures show that 44% of people always wash chicken before cooking it – a practice that can spread Campylobacter bacteria onto hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment through the splashing of water droplets.

Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting an estimated 280,000 people a year. Around four in five of these cases come from contaminated poultry.

As part of the call – which comes at the start of this year’s Food Safety Week – the FSA has written to production companies that make food programmes, asking them to ensure that people aren’t shown washing raw chicken on TV. The letter, which can be found via the link towards the bottom of this page, has been co-signed by all of the major food retailers.

FSA Chief Executive, Catherine Brown, said: 'Although people tend to follow recommended practice when handling poultry, such as washing hands after touching raw chicken and making sure it is thoroughly cooked, our research has found that washing raw chicken is also common practice. That’s why we’re calling on people to stop washing raw chicken and also raising awareness of the risks of contracting campylobacter as a result of cross-contamination.

The most cited reasons people gave for washing chicken were the removal of dirt (36%), getting rid of germs (36%) and that that they had always done it (33%).

Ann Edwards, 67, from Hertfordshire contracted campylobacter in'97 and is still living with the consequences today. She said: 'After contracting campylobacter poisoning, I was ill for a week before being admitted to hospital with bladder failure. I couldn’t eat and was so de-hydrated that I lost almost two stones in weight. Shortly after, I developed Guillain-Barré syndrome which left me paralysed from the chest down. I was in hospital for seven weeks and even now – 17 years later – I have no movement in my toes and rely on a walking stick. Physically, it has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I urge anyone who is handling chicken to take care and follow the advice given by the Food Standards Agency.'

 

Source

Innocent smoothie manufacturer prosecuted over young engineer's death

16th of June 2014
Gavin Bedford, 24, was helping to dismantle and demolish a section of industrial pipework at the Gerber Juice Company Ltd premises in Llantrisant, where the Innocent smoothie brand was manufactured, on 16 June 2010 when the structure, weighing around 300kg, collapsed and struck him.
 
The electro-mechanical engineer from Porthcawl, a well-known surfing and British trial-biking champion, sustained critical head injuries and died three days later in hospital.
 
Gerber Juice, now trading as Refresco Gerber UK Ltd, was prosecuted after a joint investigation between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and South Wales Police discovered the company had failed to adequately plan and resource the decommissioning work.
 
Newport Crown Court heard on the 16th May that Gerber had closed their Llantrisant factory in 2010 and moved production to Bridgwater in Somerset. Mr Bedford was one of a small number of employees who had been temporarily kept-on to assist teams of specialist contractors in stripping the factory of its plant, machinery and services.
During the decommissioning, the factory had become a construction site with Gerber electing to plan, manage and monitor the project themselves instead of appointing a competent Principal Contractor.
 
As a consequence, Gerber had overlooked various hazardous tasks such as the removal of overhead industrial pipes and their supporting structures. This work consequently fell to the in-house engineers because they had not contracted the specialists to do it.
 
The court was told that Mr Bedford’s work had not been adequately planned, risk assessed, communicated or monitored by management, and that the various safety systems that Gerber used to manage its specialist contractors had not been used to manage its own engineering staff on the same site.
 
The police and HSE investigation established that because no written plan was provided to the Gerber team explaining how the structure was to be taken apart, various bolts and structural elements were removed in an unsafe sequence. This is what led to the eventual collapse.
 
Mr Bedford could have been lying injured for up to 40 minutes before he was found trapped unconscious under the pipes.
 
The Court also heard that a production manager for the juice factory was in charge of the hazardous decommissioning project, despite never having done this work before or having received any formal training. Furthermore, a safety officer only visited once or twice a fortnight and was based in Somerset.
 
Refresco Gerber UK Ltd, registered at Hans Road in London but based at Express Park, Bridgwater, Somerset, was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £75,000 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work &c. Act 1974.
 
Speaking after sentencing, HSE inspector Liam Osborne, said: "Gavin Bedford, a young hard-working and highly-regarded engineer, was killed because of Gerber’s basic corporate failure to plan, manage and monitor a construction project. "Any demolition or dismantling work must be set down in writing and strictly monitored – as the law requires. It is also basic common sense.
 
"If Gerber had given enough time at the beginning to think through what needed to be done, and how it should be done, then Gavin would still be here today.”
Nigel Bedford, Gavin’s father, commented:
 
"This type of work was obviously dangerous and Gerber should have looked after Gavin properly. There was no planning for the job and the area wasn’t cordoned off. The management involved in the work didn’t have a clue what was going on.”
 
Anna Bedford, Gavin’s mother, added: "I am left heartbroken. Gavin was a perfect son. He was a perfect friend. It was as if Gavin was put on this Earth to do such wonderful things; to help anybody that needed him. He touched everyone he knew and he had thousands of friends. I am so proud to have been Gavin’s mother. The world is a poorer place without him.”
 

Apprentice's arm dragged around machine roller

20th of June 2014
The 18-year-old from Buxton had been trying to remove a crease from a roll of silk at Medaax Ltd in Langley when his finger became caught, pulling him in up to his armpit.
 
The company, which trades as Adamley Textiles from its River Mills site, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found workers were regularly exposed to dangerous moving parts of the machine.
 
Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court heard the employee had joined the firm as an apprentice at the age of 17. He had been operating a machine used to dye and wash silk when the incident happened five months later, on 6 November 2012.
 
He was in the process of winding the dyed silk onto a roller so that it could be removed from the machine when he noticed a crease and used his left hand to smooth it out.
 
As he did so, his finger became caught and trapped, pulling his arm into and around the roller. He had to be cut free and suffered injuries and fractures to his arm. He also suffered nerve damage which had limited the use of his left hand.
 
The court was told employees at Medaax needed to lift the cover on the machine to unload fabric but no system was in place to cut the power in an emergency, or to reduce the speed of the rollers.
 
The company has since installed a pull-cord emergency stop device and a ‘hold to run’ button on the machine, which means it automatically stops operating when the button is not being pressed. The machine can also now run at a lower speed for unloading the silk.
 
Medaax Ltd, of River Mills in Langley, was fined a total of £24,000 (£12,000 for each offence) and ordered to pay £4,466.86 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
 
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Deborah Walker said: "A teenage worker suffered injuries because he was let down by the company responsible for his safety.
 
"He was a relatively new employee at the firm but his injuries could easily have happened to other workers as they were regularly exposed to the same hazard.
 
"The risk of workers’ arms being dragged in by machine rollers is well known in the manufacturing industry and it’s vital that firms act to improve safety. 
 

Worker paralysed after falling through unguarded window

20th of June 2014
The 38-year-old, of Beckenham, who does not want to be named, damaged his spinal cord in the incident at Grove Park, in Southwark, on 1 July 2011.
He is no longer able to walk or work and has had to overcome major physical and emotional trauma as he adjusts to life in a wheelchair.
 
His employer Habitat Construction LLP was sentenced on the 22nd May for safety failings following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Southwark Crown Court heard the injured worker was part of a team transforming two former Victorian hostels into four single town houses, a project that involved demolition, refurbishment and new-build activity.
 
During the work windows were removed from the buildings, which HSE established happened in an ad-hoc and uncontrolled manner. They were taken out at various times and for a variety of reasons, but no measures were put in place to prevent a fall through the spaces it created, such as boarding or guard rails. This meant there were open voids for a period of some four to six weeks.
 
The missing windows included several on a raised first floor area, which created openings at just above floor level. The worker fell through one of the missing windows in this area while attempting to connect a temporary electricity supply, losing his balance and plunging eight metres onto the concrete floor of a basement below. The court was told the non-guarding of the windows posed a clear danger and that it put multiple Habitat Construction employees and sub-contractors at unnecessary risk because any one of them could have fallen in a similar manner.
 
Habitat Construction LLP, of Southwark Street, London, SE1, was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £16,620 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
 
After the hearing, HSE inspector Toby Webb commented: "This was an entirely preventable fall that left an employee with permanent, life-changing injuries.
"We found a catalogue of working-at-height risks throughout the site, including the use of simple netting as edge protection to a deep excavation and the removal of windows without installing appropriate protection.
 
"The unguarded windows posed a clear and extremely serious risk, not only for this unfortunate worker but for others at the site who worked near what were effectively open voids.
 
"Sub-contractors were also placed in danger because there was nothing to stop equipment or debris from falling from the window spaces.
"The onus was on Habitat Construction to ensure appropriate safety measures were in place, but the company clearly failed its legal responsibilities in this regard.”
 

Northampton firms in court after worker’s life-changing injuries

20th of June 2014
Labourer Stephen Allibon was walking on fragile asbestos cement sheeting during roofing work on 13 August 2012 when it gave way beneath him. He fell onto a metal pallet and then the concrete floor.
 
He sustained three fractures to his right arm, multiple fractures to his face and head, a punctured lung, damage to his chest and a severe gash to his right leg.
Mr Allibon, who is still unable to work, now has reduced movement in his right arm and right leg, numbness in his left arm, and suffers chest problems and dizzy spells.
His employer, Beekay Scaffolding Ltd, and contractor William Thomas Toone, trading as Industrial Roofing Services (IRS), were both prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified they had both failed to make sure the work was carried out safely.
 
Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard on the 19th May that Beekay had been contracted by IRS to erect scaffolding for a warehouse roof repair in Watford village.
Repair work to the roof was planned in two stages. Protective nets and scaffolding were put in place to the south side to allow repairs to take place there before being moved to the north side to complete the work.
However, poor management meant that when Mr Allibon was moving scaffolding poles from the south side of the roof, there was no edge protection and no netting remaining under the perimeter of the roof where he was walking, nor were the scaffolders using platforms of any kind.
HSE found that both companies had agreed safety precautions in advance of the work but both had failed to ensure they were implemented properly during the course of the work, exposing the workers to extreme risk.
 
Beekay Scaffolding Ltd of Obelisk Rise, Kingsthorpe, Northampton, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,640 after admitting two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
William Thomas Toone, trading as Industrial Roofing Services (IRS), of The Leys, Roade, Northampton, was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,400 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
 
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Richard Lockwood said:
"Mr Allibon suffered very serious injuries, but we could easily be talking about a fatal incident. Simple, straightforward, common sense procedures could have prevented this fall and the severe consequences it has had for one worker and his family.
 
"Both IRS and Beekay Scaffolding fell very far short of a safe and reasonable standard. They were clearly informed of the dangers. If properly used, the precautions would have reduced the risk to a minimal level.
"The dangers of working at height are well-known in industry, yet workers still die or are permanently disabled because of the poor safety standards and lack of safeguards that still exist among some contractors.
 
"It is essential that the hazards associated with working at height are recognised and understood by those carrying out the work.
 

Firms fined for child’s death in electric sliding gate

20th of June 2014
Karolina Golabek was killed when she became trapped between the closing edge of the gate and the gate post outside flats near her home in Bridgend on 3 July 2010.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd and Tremorfa Ltd after finding the gate was inherently unsafe and posed a clear risk.
 
Cardiff Crown Court heard on the 12th June that Karolina was playing around the gates in Brook Court when they automatically closed after a car passed through. Her body was found in the gap between the post and gate a short time later by a resident. .She was rushed to hospital, but died as a result of her injuries.
HSE found that the closing force of the gate did not meet European and British safety standards.  It was in excess of 2,000N, the equivalent to the force created by a weight of 440lbs (220kgs).
 
There were also dangers with the gate structure, which left space for people to get trapped, and there were insufficient safety devices to detect a person in the area that would automatically prevent it closing.  These safety features were incorrectly set.
 
The court was told that John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd had fitted a new electric motor to the gate when a previous motor had broken.  The gate was put back into use despite the fact that there were obvious trapping points.  The firm also failed to properly test that the gate stopped when it met an obstruction, or test the force that the gate closed with.
 
Tremorfa Limited was contracted to maintain the gate. Despite carrying out two maintenance visits, the last one just six weeks before Karolina’s death, the company did not carry out vital safety checks, including closing force measurements.
 
John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd of Phoenix Way, Garngoch Industrial Estate, Swansea, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
 
Tremorfa Ltd, of Pascal Close, St Mellons, Cardiff, was fined £50,000 with costs of £40,000 also pleaded guilty to the same charge.
HSE Inspector Stuart Charles, speaking after the hearing, said:
 
"Karolina’s death has left her family devastated, and yet it could so easily have been avoided.
 
"Both companies walked away from the gate leaving it in an unsafe condition. Both could have prevented this tragedy.
 
"Automated gates are becoming more common and it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate that even small gates can close with significant force. Badly installed and maintained gates are a threat to all pedestrians, but young children are particularly vulnerable because they are often completely unaware of the dangers.
 
"No-one should install or work on automated gates without knowing the relevant safety standards or without having the right equipment to check that the gate is safe after they have worked on it .
 
"If you own or are responsible for managing properties with automatic gates you should ensure they are properly maintained. You should also ensure that those carrying out the maintenance are competent to do so.”