Preventing Contamination

The World Health Organization’s Clean your Hands campaign, which took place on 5 May, by making what is invisible – visible, was recently supported by Public Health England (PHE).

Our hands touch hundreds, possibly thousands of surfaces each day and play a key role in spreading bacteria and viruses, some of which may be harmful to health.  Scientists have termed the means to which these bacteria cause illness as the ‘faecal-oral’ route of transmission.  This quite simply is when we touch surfaces and then put our hands, and the bugs – including ones that are found in human faeces – into our mouths.

Bacteria from faeces are spread around when people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, changing nappies, handling cat litter and similar activities.

Below are a selection of photos, sourced from the PHE website, that were taken after pressing hands onto a growth medium.  Within these, germs of potential faecal origins are able to be seen to grow.  This was done after people had touched everyday objects and contaminated foods or after using the toilet.   They show bacterial colonies grown from contamination on the hands.

Peter Hoffman, an expert in infection control at PHE said: “People may not be aware of how many germs they get on their hands after doing a range of general everyday tasks so this series of photos really helps to highlight this.  Just as contamination was passed from my hands to the growth surfaces in the pictures, so it could be passed from your hands to your mouth, the food you handle or any other route of infection. Washing the hands using soap and water is integral to breaking the cycle of transmission of harmful bugs whether that is in a hospital or in our own homes or work and everyone needs to adopt this very good habit.“

Increasingly being recognised as a major threat to public health, gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses including E.coli O157, norovirus, colds and flu can be a result of ingestion of these bacteria and viruses.  It is also a way in which highly antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be spread around.

The more germs there are, the greater the chance they will cause an infection so hand washing is a method of reducing potential harm.

hand 1  hand 2


For no obligation, expert advice or compliance questions, please contact us on +44 (0) 800 644 4142 or contact us through our website.

Fire Statistics for Great Britain April 2012 to March 2013

Fire Statistics: Great Britain [April 2012 to March 2013]

The latest fire statistics have just been released by the Department for Communities & Local Government.

  • Fire and Rescue Authorities in Britain attended 192,600 fires in 2012-13. This is nearly a third fewer than the year before, due to fewer outdoor fires as a result of above average rain-fall.
  • While only 12 per cent of dwellings report not having a working smoke alarm in England, more than one third of fires occurred in dwellings in Great Britain where no alarm was installed.
  • Three quarters of fire-related fatalities occurred in dwelling fires, the figure fell by 11 per cent (32 deaths) compared to 2011-12.
  • Smoker’s materials (i.e. cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco) have caused the largest share of deaths in dwelling fires, while cooking appliances are the source of ignition in more than half of fires in dwellings.
  • Half of fire deaths in buildings that were not dwellings resulted from smoker’s material or cigarette lighters.
  • The risk of dying in a fire for elderly people (65 and over) is over twice as high as the average for all ages.
  • In the year to 2012-13 fire fatalities rates fell by 10% in Eng-land and by over 20% in Scotland and Wales. Scotland con-tinued to have a higher rate of fire deaths compared to both England and to Wales.
  • Males have higher rates of fire fatality than females, but the gender gap in fire fatality rate narrowed in 2012-13.

These latest fire statistics again illustrate the need to maintain fire safety standards within residential accommodation.  Arranging for suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments by competent people remains at the heart of reducing fire risks to minimum levels”   Phil Jones

For more information and further statistics please visit the Government Website.

For a no-obligation conversation with our Fire Risk Experts, please call us on +44 (0) 800 644 4142 or Contact Us through our website and someone will be in touch with you.


De-regulation for the self-employed

Don’t put yourself at risk when instructing a self-employed contractor.

As part of the Deregulation Bill, the government plans to scrap rules for self-employed in low risk occupations.  These will formally exempt 800,000 people from safety regulation and claims the government will save businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in compliance costs.

Generally speaking, the average rate of fatal injuries at work drops year on year.  The provisional Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures for 2012-2013 show 148 fatalities in main industry but out of the 148, 49 were self-employed.

So any plan to exempt self-employed workers from their health and safety requirements is generally viewed as disappointing, and can only result in confusion and complications – the very things the Deregulation Bill is supposed to be removing.

The self-employed are required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to make sure they protect others from harm resulting from their work activities.  It’s a requirement that is clear and works well.

Phil Jones of Quantum Compliance commented “Regardless of the outcome of current Government thinking, those engaging self-employed contractors will still need to carry out basic health and safety document checks, for example, insurance cover, risk assessments and method statements, to avoid being criticised of failing to adequately appraise the competence of contractors in the event of an incident or accident occurring”.

For more information on the bill you can visit Parliment’s website and view progress on this bill.


Fines for Breaches in Asbestos Regulations

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd, a Suffolk based company were hired by homeowners to carry out kitchen and garage extensions in Ipswich.

During work on the property, it exposed workers and homeowners to potentially fatal asbestos material during work. The conversion work took place between 8th May and 2nd August in 2012.

Ipswich Magistrates court heard (20th May) that upon removal of insulating ceiling boards, that formed fire breaks witin the building, they were removed, broken up and left on the homeowners’ front lawn. the debris was the put into open bags and left. Homeowners’ had to remove these bags themselves, and were only made aware of the potntial hazards of asbestos during a trip with these bags to the local tip.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted the company for breaching asbestos safety regulations.

The court was told a licensed contractor had to undertake waste removal of the remaining asbestos material and conduct an environmental clean under fully-controlled conditions.

Columbus Building Contractors Ltd, of Crofton Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, were fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 8(1) and 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Adam Hills said:

“This is an incident that was entirely preventable. Columbus Building Contractors had worked with this type of material before and had asbestos knowledge. They questioned the presence of asbestos materials in the ceiling but made no efforts to obtain an asbestos survey or take samples for analysis to establish if asbestos was contained within the ceiling.

“After removal, the asbestos material was simply left on the front lawn before being bagged in open sacks and transported to the local tip by the homeowner. Both the workers and homeowner would have been exposed to a significant amount of asbestos fibres during these works.

“It is absolutely essential that assumptions are not made when dealing with suspected asbestos materials. If in doubt, get it checked by a professional before starting any work.

“The dangers of exposure are well-known in the industry. There are long-term health risks associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres including lung cancer and mesothelioma.”

Further information can be found on the HSE website.

Gordon Allan of Quantum compliance comments…”

Heinz fined over safety breach

Alec “Alf” Brackenbury, 49, spent two weeks in hospital and had eight separate operations following the “life-changing injury” in Worstead, near North Walsham, last June. This injury occured at food giant Heinz’s Norfolk Plant. Heinz has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly £10,000 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the engineer’s hand was severed in machinery. He is now unable to drive, work or carry out many day-to-day activities.

Mr Brackenbury was servicing a potato peeling machine at Heinz’s Westwick manufacturing plant, Norfolk, on the first day of a maintenance shut down when he climbed down to retrieve a dropped bolt. Despite the peeling machine being electrically isolated, as he put his hand into the slurry pump below, it started and sliced through his wrist. The HSE investigated the incident and found 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. Mr Brackenbury had not known about this and believed he had isolated the pump along with the peeler at the main distribution box.

The HSE’s investigation also found that a protective grate that should have been bolted to the top of the pump to prevent access was missing. This had allowed the self-employed engineer to reach into dangerous parts of the machine, including the screw auger. The HSE said it was possible that the guard had been absent for some time. H J Heinz Manufacturing Ltd, of Hayes Park, Hayes, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to a safety breach at Norwich Magistrates’ Court and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,661.

HSE inspector Tony Brookes said: “Alf Brackenbury suffered a horrific injury in an incident that was wholly avoidable. 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.”

For expert advice and information on how to avoid injury at work, speak with our compliance experts on +44 (0) 800 644 4142 or contact us online.

The reality of non-compliance

Douglas and Gordon Ltd has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay almost £13,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaches of fire safety law within a block of their flats in London.

After a fire broke out in one of the flats, the London Fire Brigade carried out an audit on the communal areas within the building. The building was found to be in breach of fire safety law in more than one area; including faliure to install a fire alarm system and a failure to ensure that the electrical intake cupboard was locked.

The managing agent pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Southwark crown court on 29 June. The leasehold owner of the premises in Gloucester Terrace, Paddington, Atomlynn Ltd, was fined £33,000 after pleading guilty to one offence under the Order and ordered to pay costs of £6,440.
London Fire Brigade comment; “There had been a fire risk assessment carried for the premesis out but the managing agent and leaseholder had failed to act on its significant findings…These included the failure to make an emergency plan, ensuring that fire doors were self-closing and installing emergency lighting.”

Assistant commissioner for fire safety regulation, Steve Turek, said: “London Fire Brigade will continue to take action against managing agents, lease owners or landlords who do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a prosecution.”

In a statement issued following the sentence, Douglas and Gordon Ltd (D&G) said:

“D&G and its legal and technical advisors were surprised at the level of the fine as they believed the breaches represented a low level of risk, the avoidance of which is the central criteria for implementing fire precautions under the Order.

“The introduction of the Order has caused difficulties for landlords, managing agents, consultants and enforcing authorities alike when it comes to applying the legislation to blocks of flats like Gloucester Terrace. This was demonstrated by the five separate fire risk assessments D&G commissioned for the building, all of which provided different advice. We welcome the Government’s commitment to the provision of new national guidance on fire precautions in blocks of flats, which will be developed by CS Todd & Associates Limited.”

In addition to this the company also said that since 2008, it has worked to ensure that all of the 150 properties it manages are compliant and that its clients are properly advised of their responsibilities.


For no obligation, expert advice or compliance questions, please contact us on +44 (0) 800 644 4142 or contact us through our website.