Water Safety concerns over Legionnaires Outbreak

On the 11th November, Portuguese authorities stated that cooling towers at a fertiliser plant were the likely source of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that has now killed 10 people and infected over 336.  This makes it one of the world’s largest ever outbreaks.  The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak “a major public health emergency”

Environment Minister Jorge Moreira da Silva told reporters

all cooling towers in the affected area near Lisbon had been shut since Sunday to bring the flare-up under control.

Health Minister Paulo Macedo said

the detection of new cases was decelerating, but there will be more in the coming days.

The health ministry released data late on Monday (10th November) that showed the number of those infected had increased from 160 to to 233 from the previous day.  One other person had also died. Three dozen were in intensive care in various hospitals.  Since then these numbers have risen with 38 people still in intensive care.  They have now stated that they believe the risk of contracting the illness to be practically zero.

The authorities were investigating the “possible environmental crime of releasing microorganisms” into the air by Adubos de Portugal, a unit of Spanish company Fertiberia, in the affected area of Vila Franca de Xira, according to Moreira da Silva.

Company officials were not available for comment.

Samples collected over a period of a few days allowed the authorities to

consider with a large degree of certainty that (the bacteria) are associated with cooling towers, not with the water network, and in particular with one installation.

Four parishes in the district of Vila Franca de Xira had the greatest concentration of the cases. One of the infected was a man in Porto, 200 miles to the north, who had worked on the fertiliser plant’s cooling tower.

The disease is contracted by breathing in a mist or vapour contaminated with the Legionella bacteria, which can grow in cooling towers, showers, hot tubs and other water sources.  It is not transmitted directly from person to person.

People already in poor health are the most vulnerable.

While the flare-up is far from being among the world’s deadliest, it is already the third-largest by confirmed cases after the 2001 outbreak in neighbouring Spain, with some 450 cases and six dead, and the 1999 outbreak in the Netherlands, when 32 people died and more than 300 were infected after visiting a flower exhibition in the town of Bovenkarspel.

The illness is named after a 1976 outbreak at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia, which killed 34.

 

Our Water Safety Expert comments:

There are 5 key requirements of the HSE ACOP L8, duty holders need to ensure:

  1. That they appoint a person to be managerially responsible
  2. Identify & assess sources of risk
  3. Prepare a scheme of control measures
  4. Implement, manage & monitor the scheme
  5. Keep records of the precautions taken.

In order to fully discharge their duties under health & safety law, Duty holders should supervise the work of their employees & contractors.

Where organisations are unsure of their duties or do not have the expertise in-house they should seek competent assistance from outside the organisation.

Are Health and Safety failings to blame for Knightsbridge Balcony Death

Tragically, two men died and six other people were injured after part of a balcony collapsed in west London when the railings gave way of a building at Cadogan Square, Knightsbridge, Friday 21st November 2014.  Cadogan Square consists of residential properties, with many of the buildings divided into flats.  The first-floor balcony is believed to have been connected to property number 37, a five-storey terraced building.

The decorative wrought-iron railing appears to have fallen about 3.6m (12ft) to the ground.  The stone base of the balcony appeared to remain undamaged.

London Ambulance Service said that eight people were treated for injuries, one man died at the scene and the other in hospital.  The men who died are believed to be Polish nationals Tomasz Procko, 22, of Greenford, and Karol Szymanski, 29, of Wembley.

Scotland Yard said:

“At this early stage it is believed that a number of sofas were being delivered to the address – which was under renovation – prior to the railings on the balcony giving way.”

A neighbour, Sandra Panagopoulos, said:

I saw somebody lying on the street in front of [number] 37.  I just saw someone lying there and a woman that was desperately trying to help, running into the building and out and all the builders being very distressed walking around here and sitting down…then somebody came and told me that two removal boys fell from the first-floor balcony because the railing apparently fell down. They fell down trying to get a sofa up there.”

Eye witness’ at the scene said that the workmen were trying to pull a couch up to the first-floor apartment with ropes, it was apparently too heavy and the fence broke off and fell on the workmen below.

Sinclair Johnston, an engineer who has worked on another property in the square, said the decorative railings could not be depended upon to support weight.

These sort of constructions are always very fragile and the iron railings can rust. The stone can become fragile and break up so you never really know how strong they are. It’s something that engineers are very aware of.  The ironwork is incredibly heavy so if it falls off it can be a disaster.”

Estate agent Clem Byron-Evans said:

In head leases it tends to say that you are not allowed to move furniture through the ground floor. The ruling was due to the ground floor area in similar properties being communal and residents would be liable for any damage.

 

The Health and Safety Executive and police are investigating.

Police asked that anyone with information contact them on 02087858244 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.

A Quantum Compliance Health and Safety Consultant advises;

Structural inspections by a structural engineer (as required under building regulations) should undertake regular workplace inspections and risk assessments.  If in any case there is a lack of competence to undertake workplace inspections, experts should be brought in to do so.

SME’s Health and Safety failings

According to research carried out earlier this year, Health and safety standards are not being met by more than half of small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK.  The research was carried out on behalf of workplace safety specialists Seton by YouGov.

This was a seasonal campaign intended to boost awareness of health and safety and was commissioned by Seton as part of its on-going season of safety [1].  It was based on a business study of 525 senior decision makers from small and medium-sized enterprises.

Key findings included:

  • 22 per cent of employers that took part think there is no one, or just one individual, at their workplace that has received any type of workplace health and safety training.
  • 60 per cent of respondents suggested their organisation could do more to reduce the risk of accidents occurring.
  • 32 per cent of firms admitted they were aware of at least one accident in the last 12 months that might have been avoided if the correct guidelines and procedures were followed or the right equipment was used.

Seton’s research identified that the biggest restricting factor for health and safety compliance was felt to be time constraints, with 23 per cent giving this as a reason.  Only 19 percent felt that costs prevent them from doing as well as they might.

The transportation and distribution sector came out among the worst industry performers. 73 per cent of workers in this field said they feel that their health and safety needs are “not fully met”, with those in medical and health services just behind on 70 per cent.  Manufacturing and education perform slightly better, with 66 per cent and 65 per cent of workers respectively, feeling that more could be done.

Seton’s figures are quite telling in light of the latest statistics provided by HSE, which estimate that workplace accidents and illness cost Britain £14.2bn in 2012/13. [2] As the main barrier to improving conditions appears to be time. Time and money are best spent focusing sensibly and pragmatically on significant risks, those likely to cause actual harm and damage to property, rather than minor issues.

Competence is another vital factor.  Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to appoint competent persons to aid them in complying with health and safety.  Following the withdrawal of the related Approved Code of Practice L21, HSE now outlines competence requirements in its recently revised publication HSG 65 – managing for health and safety. Within the publication it suggests that the need for competent assistance is tied to the risk profile of the organisation.

In ‘smaller, low-hazard environments’ the owner or other person with knowledge and experience of the business may be suitable to act as competent persons, although they may not be required to have a qualification in health and safety. There are a multitude of free, self-help resources available online, including HSE’s microsite for low-risk business [3] and IOSH’s risk assessment routefinder [4]. It is relatively straightforward to appoint someone within the business to research and understand health and safety issues and then apply what they find to the business. Again, the key is to focus on the significant risks to the business first and try not to overcomplicate matters.

In more hazardous environments, specialist advisers may be more appropriate. Outsourcing health and safety assistance can be a cost-effective way of aiding compliance but it is important to check the competence of any consultants, including qualifications, experience, training, professional memberships and registrations. Also, make sure that they will give practical assistance with issues rather than just identifying what is wrong.

Finally, health and safety compliance brings tangible cost savings to business. HSE case studies [5] repeatedly show that proactive compliance saves SMEs time and money. Despite what the tabloid media would have us think, sensible health and safety is not about being the fun police but should instead be a core business process focused both on saving employers money and keeping employees safe.

References
www.seton.co.uk/putting-the-focus-on-health-and-safety
www.hse.gov.uk/statistics
www.hse.gov.uk/getting-started
www.iosh.co.uk/Books-and-resources/Risk-Assessment-Routefinder
www.hse.gov.uk/business/sme-case-studies

For more information, visit:  www.seton.co.uk

Legislation Updates

Approved Codes of Practice – forthcoming changes

Consultations on proposed ACoPs on the subjects of lifting equipment and pressure systems end on the 14th and 13th October 2014 respectively. Another on confined space work closed for comments on 30th September 2014.
Consultation on Draft Approved Code of Practice – Safe Work in confined spaces
Consultation on Draft Approved Code of Practice ACOP- Safe use of lifting equipment L113
Consultation on Draft Approved Code of Practice – L122 Safety of Pressure Systems
Details of live and past consultations

 

Revision of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and Approved Code of Practice

The expected radical overhaul of the CDM regulations has yet to be given a firm timescale. The planned changes would align the regulations with the minimum requirements of the Temporary & Mobile Construction Sites (TMCS) Directive, make the regulations easier to understand, replace the CDM co-ordinator role with the principal designer and remove detailed competency requirements.

Revision of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations – Consultation Document

Consultation on draft approved code of practice (ACOP) : safe use of lifting equipment (L113)

The HSE are seeking views on this consultative document which looks at the revised version of the Approved Code of Practice (L113) relating to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).

This revision follows the agreement to review such documents identified by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt.

The amends proposed are designed to bring the document up to date with regulatory and other changes and to make the understanding and use of the document easier, particularly with clarifying which equipment is subject to the provisions of the regulations and the role of the competent person. The amendments also accommodate suggestions made in the earlier consultation in September 2012.

The proposed amendment will be of interest to those that work with any lifting equipment provided at work or for the use of people at work, those who employ such people, those that represent them and those people who act as a competent person in the examination of lifting equipment.

Document Summary (Provided by the Barbour Editorial Team)

Asbestos Legislation and Neglect

 

November 2014 NEWSLETTER

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Fines for neglect

Fines for Asbestos Hazard Neglect

On 8th October, health and safety concerns were raised to Westminster Magistrates surrounding a Barnet building firm who were converting an old pub in Victoria Road into flats.

The building firm have been fined after it turned a blind eye to potential asbestos hazards faced by its workers.  Despite previous enforcement actions being issued by the HSE, assurances of improvements were not kept .

Court costs and fines lead to a sizeable payout by MP Builders Ltd.

 

Rulings on Asbestos Damage

The High Court has ruled that Government plans to deduct legal fees from the damages paid to people dying from asbestos exposure are unlawful.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It can take decades to develop, yet people live for an average of just nine months after diagnosis. Around 2,000 people are diagnosed each year, and the numbers are set to increase over the next 30 years.

Many people seek compensation by taking legal action against their former employers or the employer’s insurance company.

 

Asbestos regulation neglect leads to prosecution

Asbestos regulations were neglected and a Hove-based firm has been fined after it removed some of the dangerous material just three weeks after being refused a licence to carry out such work.

For work undertaken at premises in Dyke Road, Hove, between 22 and 25 October 2013, Asbestos Damage Limitations Ltd, was prosecuted at Brighton Magistrates’ Court  for safety breaches.

Read which licence expired and the fines associated with the case.

Myth-busting by the HSE

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.

Phil Jones

All office lights must have a working bulb

An enquirer has been informed that for health and safety reasons all of the lights in their open plan office must have working bulbs in them. Due to a pre-existing eye condition the enquirer has switched off a strip light above their work station for the last three years but this will not now be allowed.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

Customer not allowed a coffee with a child’s meal deal

On a recent visit to a fast food outlet the enquirer was refused a coffee with a child’s meal deal on health and safety grounds, even though the meal was for his adult self.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

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Mandatory Requirements

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is now a mandatory requirement in the UK, requiring all non-SME’s to undertake regular energy audits.

 

Hear from our Asbestos Technical expert Mick Dawson.

We welcome Mick to our team, he brings with him a wealth of experience, qualifications and advise for clients.

Read about Mick HERE

 

We have a new company video!

To view our video and find out what we are all about, follow the link below.

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QcomplianceManagement Information SystemWe are passionate about creating simple, effective, less prescriptive methods in order to assist our clients and potential clients.

Read more information and watch our video explaining Qcompliance.

We have a new brochure and service specification documents available from October.

To request an appointment and to receive this information, please contact our offices.

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Consultation draft approved code of practice : L122 safety of pressure systems

The HSE has launched a consultation which seeks views on the revised Approved Code of Practice to the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 – L122 (PSSR ACOP).

The ACOP has been reviewed and updated. The initial consultation responses (in 2012) proposed minimal changes as the ACOP was felt to be fit for purpose, so HSE has acted accordingly. The consultation asks specific questions on the new format of the ACOP, for example where material has been moved from the introduction to an appendix. The Regulations are unchanged, so there are no new requirements for compliance.

Summary

The consultative document invites views on the revised ACOP Safety of Pressure Systems.  There are no plans to change the Regulations themselves at this time.

This consultation is undertaken in compliance with Section 16 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which requires HSE to consult on revisions to ACOPs prior to seeking Ministerial consent to approve the revised ACOP.
The consultation presents the draft revised ACOP and associated guidance as prepared by HSE, taking into account feedback from earlier consultation, and seeks views on some specific questions. These are set out at the end of the consultative document.

Document Summary (Provided by the Barbour Editorial Team)

Margate firm fined for breaching fire safety law

Managing agent in Cliftonville in Margate has been fined £10,000 for breaching fire safety laws at one of their properties.

Residential property management agents Bridgeford & Co Ltd plead guilty to four fire safety management offences in a landmark case, whereby Canterbury Magistrates Court ordered the company to pay an additional £16,500 in costs!

This is the first successful prosecution of its kind by Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS).  It came after a fire at the property in Cliftonville’s Ethelbert Terrace in April 2012.  Firefighters had to lead a man to safety from a top-floor flat in the four-storey building.

The fire alarm systems within the property failed and due to this, KFRS fire safety officers carried out an investigation which revealed a number of deficiencies placing the residents of the building at significant risk from fire.  It also found that the building had not carried out a fire risk assessment until almost three years after Bridgeford & Co Ltd took over its management.

Their arrangements for inspecting and maintaining the fire safety measures in the building were also found to be inadequate.

KFRS’s senior fire safety officer, John Robertson, said:

“The outcome of today’s case sends out a very clear message to those responsible for managing residential property.  They must have a risk assessment and make sure that the fire safety measures in their buildings are kept in good working order so people’s lives are not put at risk.  This case clearly demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that all buildings in Kent are safe and that where necessary, we will take action and prosecute those who fail to provide adequate fire safety arrangements.  While we provide guidance and advice to help those responsible for building management to ensure their properties are safe and they meet their legal responsibilities, unfortunately we still find unsafe buildings and poorly maintained facilities.  Good fire safety can be achieved by undertaking a Fire Risk Assessment and implementing any findings and recommendations it makes.”

At Quantum, we offer comprehensive fire safety services to residential property managing agents; to view our services please visit our Fire Safety section.