Courts overrule Asbestos NHS costs laws

The Supreme Court was asked to settle the matter of whether or not a firm in Wales, whose staff are treated for asbestos-related illnesses, were to be required to reimburse the NHS. This came after the insurance industry challenged the assembly’s right to pass legislation on the issue in 2013.

The Supreme Court agreed with insurers who claimed an assembly law passed in 2013 was outside its competence.

The court said Welsh ministers had no right to impose charges to fund the NHS, and insurers should not be given extra liabilities for asbestos exposure which long pre-dated the bill.  Firms in Wales whose staff are treated for asbestos-related illnesses will not be required to reimburse the NHS.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) welcomed the judgement.  A spokesman said;

The Welsh Bill would have seen increased insurance premiums for Welsh businesses but no extra compensation for mesothelioma sufferers.  The insurance industry remains committed to doing all it can to help the victims of this terrible disease and would be happy to work constructively with the Welsh Government on this issue, as it does on other public policy.”

Pontypridd AM Mick Antoniw, who first proposed the bill, said he was “gutted” at the ruling, having projected that the measure could have raised £1m a year for the NHS in Wales.

The bill had been referred to the Supreme Court by the Welsh government’s Counsel General Theodore Huckle after objections from the insurance industry.  The Welsh government said it would give “careful consideration to this judgment”.

Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler called for “greater clarity” so everyone understood what laws the assembly could pass.

New Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015

New Construction (Design & Management) Regulations are to come into force on the 6th April 2015.  Due to this, it is vital that you have comprehensive health and safety advice to stay abreast of what is certainly a significant shift in health and safety regulatory regime, and a huge legislative development within the industry.
There are thirty nine changes coming into force.  What follows is a brief overview of the principle regulations ;

Simplification of the Regulations:  The HSE proposes to make them clearer and easier to understand. This is largely aimed at small to medium projects which tend to use Small Medium Enterprise (SME’s) companies.

CDM Coordinator role replaced by a ‘Principal Designer’: When the regulations come into force a Client will need to appoint a ‘Principal Designer’ for all projects involving more than one contractor (trade contractor) on site at one time.  Any Designers appointed should not carry out any work beyond initial design unless the Principal Designer has confirmed that the Client is aware of their duties.

Principal Designer and Principal Contractor appointed for all projects with more than one “trade” Contractor on site: The Client must appoint both the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor in writing, otherwise they are deemed to be carrying out these roles

Duties to be applicable to domestic projects: It is proposed for projects involving more than one contractor that the Principal Contractor will normally assume the Client duties. The domestic Client can choose to appoint the Principal Designer for the project. If, however, they do not make this appointment, the first Designer appointed during the preconstruction phase is the Principal Designer for the project. If so, the Principal Designer will be answerable to the Principal Contractor in their role as ‘Client’ for the project and will be responsible for liaising with them.

Construction phase plan is required for all projects: The Client is to ensure a Construction Phase Plan provided by the Contractor or Principal Contractor is in place before any works commence.

‘Explicit competence’ requirements removed: The Client will need to ensure those that are to be appointed (i.e. Designer, Contractor or Principal Contractor and Principal Designer) can demonstrate appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision.

Threshold for notification: The Client will need to notify the HSE of projects before works commence if they will exceed 30 construction days with 20 or more workers working simultaneously or if the project exceeds 500 person days.

Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision (IITS) requirements: Anyone working on a construction project should be able to demonstrate capability and have the necessary resources to fulfil legal duties. They must provide sufficient information in relation to the preparation, provision and, where necessary, revision of health and safety information such as Pre-Construction Information, Construction Phase Plans and Health & Safety Files.

The current Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) will be substituted with HSE and Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Industry Guidance: The latest proposal is that a mini ACoP will be published after the legislation goes through on 6 April 2015.  Meanwhile HSE Legislaton Series and CITB Industry Guidance will be available from January 2015

You can view full information on legislative changes on the HSE website.  Reference: HSE and  RLB

Fire lands Essex firm in court

Safety breeches were uncovered  at an Essex firm’s Rainham site.  Court action and fines were issued for neglecting safety after a fire involving a brazier and a drum of thinners.

CLB Refridgeration Ltd, which cleans and refurbishes industrial-size refridgeration containers, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Southwark Crown Court after its investigation.  The court heard (17 Feb) that a 25-litre drum of paint thinners was involved in an incident in October 2012 where a fireball erupted in a brazier at the company’s site in Ferry Lane.

HSE told the court that CLB Refrigeration Ltd failed in its duties to assess and control the use of paint thinners.  The company was not aware how workers were using the dangerous substance and were also unaware that a brazier was being used to burn rubbish.

The investigation identified that after refurbishment, thinners was being used to clean marks off the containers and that when the skips were full the employees would sometimes burn material they had removed from the refrigeration containers in the brazier.  It was also found that the company had not properly assessed the risks involved in using and storing paint thinners, and had fallen far below the standard of controlling the risks. CLB Refrigeration failed to ensure it had full knowledge of all the chemicals on site, how they were being used and failed to undertake an assessment of the risks involved.

CLB Refrigeration Ltd of Parkside, Woodside, Grays, Essex, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and was fined a total of £22,500 and ordered to pay £9243 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Monica Babb said:

“CLB Refrigeration Ltd should have been aware of what dangerous substances their workers were using, and how. A proper risk assessment was key to making sure that suitable, effective control measures were in place and the brazier was removed from site.”

Tenants put at risk of poisoning by landlord

The lives of a young family were put at risk by their landlord who failed to have their gas boiler regularly serviced and checked, a court has heard.

A mother, her partner and young child moved into the property in Polwhele Road, Newquay, in July 2013, but were not supplied with a copy of a gas safety record by their landlords, Andrew and Deborah Hopkinson.

A year later, the tenant asked about a safety inspection of the boiler but no inspection took place.  In June 2014, the family noticed a gas smell and called in Wales and West Utilities, which isolated the boiler.  A Gas Safe registered engineer later inspected the appliance and issued an “Immediately Dangerous” notice on the boiler.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted and, following an investigation, prosecuted Mr and Mrs Hopkinson at Truro Magistrates’ Court on the 12th February 2015.

The HSE investigation found six instances of the landlords’ gas safety checks not taking place within the legally required 12 month period, with the dates ranging between five days and 15 months overdue.

The gas boiler, which was at least 11 years old, was last serviced on 19 December 2012!  The owner’s manual recommends annual servicing of the boiler. It had not been serviced for 18 months when it was isolated for safety purposes and found to be producing high levels of carbon monoxide.

Andrew and Deborah Hopkinson, of Chynowen Lane, Cubert, each pleaded guilty to two breaches of gas safety regulations. Mr Hopkinson was fined a total of £7,000 and ordered to pay £209 costs. Mrs Hopkinson was also fined £7,000 with £209 costs.

HSE Inspector Simon Jones, speaking after the hearing, said:

It was fortunate that this incident did not lead to death or injury for the tenant or her young family.  Landlords must ensure annual safety checks are carried out on gas appliances at their properties and ensure they are serviced and maintained in good working order.

Tenants can sign up to a free reminder service at staygassafe.co.uk to make sure their landlord or managing agent is carrying out their duties of getting an annual gas safety check. Tenants whose landlords have failed to carry out annual gas safety checks and provide a record can contact HSE at www.hse.gov.uk/contact.

Managing agents can be sure that their tenants remain safe, their properties legally compliant and fines avoided with a few simple procedures.  Quantum Compliance provides simple legal compliance procedures, ensuring you can focus on your business.

Please view our video explaining how your compliance matters can be easily managed.

Qcompliance – Management Information System.

Unsafe asbestos removal lands company in court

After removing asbestos insulation board without a licence and failing to protect its workers from falls of up to four metres, a Suffolk building company has been fined.

When working on at a farm building in Waltham, Essex, workers were potentially exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres and only provided with baby wipes or access to a hose for decontamination!

A concerned member of the public, notified the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), concerned that unsafe work was being undertaken at the farm building.

HSE’s investigation found LJW Cladding Ltd did not have a licence permitting it to remove asbestos, despite telling the farm owner it held the necessary approvals. None of the workers were trained to work with licensed asbestos and were also placed in danger of falling from height while removing the fragile asbestos boards.

HSE also found that the work, carried out between 26 and 28 February 2014, was woefully lacking in safety measures.  Asbestos insulating boards were broken from their fixings with wholly inadequate attempts to prevent the uncontrolled release of fibres. There was no use of an enclosure and the respiratory protective equipment provided to workers offered insufficient protection.

Instead of a full three-stage decontamination unit required for such work all the workers had access to were baby wipes and the farm’s cold water hose. Contaminated overalls over normal clothing continued to be worn while the workers took their lunch break on site and also meant they could have taken asbestos contamination home with them each night.

The investigation also identified the workers were at risk of falls of up to four metres owing to absent or inadequately installed safety netting and a harness and inertia reel being used inappropriately.

LJW Cladding Ltd of Evesham Close, Ipswich, Suffolk, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3365.50 plus a £120 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

After the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Dominic Elliss said:

LJW Cladding’s incompetent actions led to its employees being potentially exposed to asbestos fibres at a much higher level than would have been possible had a competent licensed contractor been used.

In addition there was a serious risk one of them could fall from or through the fragile roof because of the firm failed to provide effective safeguards. Too many workers continue to be seriously injured from falls in exactly this type of refurbishment project.”

If you have any queries regarding asbestos and safe, legal requirements for removal, contact Quantum Compliance.  You can also view our related services by visiting out asbestos management section.

Workers Death leading to prison sentences

William Ward, 56, from Handsworth, Sheffield, sustained catastrophic crush injuries in an incident at European Metal Recycling Ltd’s Kingsbury depot in Warwickshire on 12 October 2011.  Warwickshire Crown Court heard today (4 Feb) that Mr Ward was working for and alongside brothers, Stuart and Dennis Cheesman, also of Sheffield, to cut and dismantle two large steel barges using oxy-acetylene torches.

The two subcontractors have been handed eight-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, after Mr Ward was killed when part of a 33-tonne metal barge he was dismantling collapsed on top of him.  Mr Ward had finished cutting through the outer skin of the barge’s hull and had moved inside the now unsupported structure to cut some supporting braces when the side collapsed in on him. The married father of two died at the scene.

The brothers failed to ensure the barge was adequately supported to prevent a possible collapse, and did not properly assess or manage the work.  Stuart Cheesman, 42, of Mauncer Lane, Woodhouse, Sheffield, and Dennis Cheesman, 47, of Greenwood Avenue, Sheffield, both pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  They were each sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months, ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community. They must both also pay costs of £3,000 each.

The sentencing follows the sentencing of European Metal Recycling Ltd on 19 December 2014, who were fined £150,000 after HSE identified serious flaws with the method of work being used to dismantle the barges.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Mark Austin said:

Stuart and Dennis Cheesman recruited Mr Ward to work for them as a burner and were responsible for his safety and for ensuring the barges were being dismantled in a safe manner.  Our investigation found Stuart and Dennis Cheesman neglected their responsibility and Mr Ward has paid the ultimate price with his life – a terrible and senseless loss that was completely preventable had the work been better planned and managed.”

 

England football star Stuart Pearce is blowing the whistle on asbestos

England football star Stuart Pearce is blowing the whistle on asbestos after revealing he could have breathed in the deadly dust while working part time as an electrician during his early football career.  The former electrician backs Health and Safety Executive asbestos safety campaign after revealing ignorance over hidden killer.

The Nottingham Forest manager and former Newcastle and England left back fears his ignorance about the fatal fibre when he worked for four years as an electrician, means there’s a real possibility he could develop a deadly asbestos related disease in the future.  He is now backing an asbestos safety campaign by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) urging all tradespeople to be aware of asbestos and take sensible measures against the hidden killer.

HSE estimates 1.3 million tradespeople are still potentially at risk of being exposed to the microscopic fibres that can prove fatal if breathed in.  While safe work with asbestos has come a long way since Pearce was working as an electrician in the early 1980s, it remains a very real danger today.

Pearce said:

“I was working as an electrician for four and a half years and it’s chilling to think I could have been exposed to it without knowing, we were simply ignorant about the risks back then.  Today there’s no excuse – most people know how dangerous asbestos is but many think it’s a thing of the past, it’s not, it’s still there. It can be found in walls, ceilings, even floor tiles and guttering – basically in any type of building built before the year 2000.

Making sure you’re aware of where it can be found and how to deal with it safely, even on basic jobs like drilling holes or sanding, really could mean the difference between life and death.

It can be so easy to breathe in this deadly dust and it may be years until you realise you’ve been affected. Every tradesperson that falls victim to asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis is one too many, especially if it’s a result of ignorance. Let’s make asbestos deaths a thing of the past.”

For more information on asbestos safety please visit the HSE website or contact Quantum Compliance.