Mesothelioma fund pays out £84m

The Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme (DMPS) was launched in the UK on 6 April 2014 and since then, more than £84m in compensation has been awarded to asbestos victims or their families since.

Updated statistics are released every six months and they show that the average lump sum payment made through the scheme between April and September 2016 was around £141,000, up from £135,000 in 2015/16.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) describes the scheme as a “last resort” for those who contracted the disease due to negligent exposure to asbestos in the workplace on or after 25 July 2012, and are unable to claim compensation because the employer no longer exists and its insurer is untraceable.

An average of 29 people per month between April and September last year applied to the scheme, with applicants predominantly aged between 65 and 79 when they were diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The vast majority (91%) of applicants in the last six months were male. The DWP said this reflects the professions where there was a high risk of asbestos exposure, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, dockers, ship builders and metal workers in the 1960s and 70s.

Dependants of people who died from mesothelioma before they could apply to the scheme can also receive payments.

Penny Mordaunt, the minister for disabled people, health and work, said:

“It is absolutely right that the government steps in to help people who cannot get the compensation they deserve from their former employers. I want to ensure all who might benefit from this scheme are aware of it.”

 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has predicted that around 2,500 people a year will die from the disease until 2020 before annual numbers begin to decline.

London Bus Company fined after fatal ladder fall

London’s largest bus operator, Go Ahead London, has been handed a £600,000 fine after a worker died falling 2.5 m from a ladder. The 56-year-old was using a bungee cord to secure the top of the ladder to the ceiling of a fuel tank when the cord snapped and he fell backwards, sustaining fatal head injuries.

On 26 May 2011, two workers from the engineering maintenance company were due to start the work. But one of the workers phoned in sick and his 56-year-old colleague commenced the work alone. As he fixed the bungee to a lifting lug on the tank’s roof the cord snapped and he fell backwards. He died two days later.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Go Ahead London, which operates Peckham Bus Garage, had commissioned an engineering maintenance company to carry out refurbishment work on the fuel tank at the South London premises. This involved cleaning and repainting it to prevent fuel contamination.  The investigation also found that Go Ahead London had not kept to its own procedures for managing contractors. This covered five key points.

  • First, it failed to properly review the contractor’s risk assessments and methods of work before work started.
  • Second, it failed to notify managers at Peckham Bus Garage that the work was due to take place and ensure that they had key documentation. Third, it failed to train and instruct the garage’s management in the permit to work system for work on the tank. Fourth, it failed to ensure that the contractor was properly supervised on the day of the incident, breaching its own systems for contractor safety.
  • Finally, Go Ahead London allowed the contractor to work on his own when it was unsafe to do so.

The engineering maintenance company (which cannot be named) was also prosecuted. However, the director was unfit to stand trial due to a degenerative mental illness. According to the HSE, there was a concurrent trial for acts and omissions under the Insanity Act. However, after Go Ahead’s conviction, the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the HSE withdrew its evidence as it was deemed not to be in the public’s interest to hold a retrial.

The case was originally heard at Westminster Magistrates’ Court but the case was adjourned a number of times due to the co-defendant failing to attend court due to illness and then not entering a plea. Go Ahead London denied the charges but did co-operate fully with the investigation.

A two-week trial at Southwark Crown Court concluded on 14th February. In passing sentence, Judge Deborah Taylor determined that Go Ahead London’s culpability was medium, with a harm category of 2, reflecting the medium likelihood of harm despite the fatality. In mitigation, she took into account the bus company’s co-operation, and that it had a good safety record. Go Ahead London employs around 400,000 employees across multiple sites.

Newcastle-based Go Ahead London, which operates 115 bus routes in the capital, was found guilty of s 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £78,531.

Employee at DFS knocked out by falling furniture

The national furniture retailer DFS has been fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £15,099 after one of its employees was knocked unconscious when part of an unstable load fell on him.  The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found the company did not manage the risks associated with moving heavy loads between manufacturing locations.  It failed to ensure the work was supervised, despite reports of several near-misses from unsecured loads.

The employee was unloading wooden furniture frames at a DFS upholstery site on 2 July 2015 when an unsecured piece of furniture fell and struck him. The impact knocked him unconscious and he sustained serious head and neck injuries, Derby Magistrates’ Court was told.

DFS pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and s 3 of the Managing Health and Safety at Work Regulation for failing to risk assess the task.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lyn Spooner said:

“The fundamental and systemic failings identified in [DFS’s] health and safety management systems is far from what would be expected from a company of their size who has the ability to deliver higher standards of safety.”

 

A DFS spokesperson was quoted saying:

“The health and safety of our employees is extremely important to us. The employee who was injured, in July 2015, is a valued member of our team; we deeply regret the accident he suffered and we’re very glad that he is back at work in his previous role.

This case has highlighted some areas where, on occasion, our procedures were not as strong as they should have been. Over the last 18 months we’ve invested heavily in health and safety including reviewing our health and safety procedures and retraining all our employees.

We’ve been working in complete cooperation with the Health and Safety Executive as they conducted their investigation and we’re pleased that they, and the district judge, recognise the improvements we’ve made. We fully accept the outcome of this case and we will continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard our employees.

We have a strong manufacturing safety record and this is the first time we’ve had a prosecution of this nature.”

ISO 45001 back on track

After successful discussions in a working group in early February, things seem to be back on track for the ISO 45001 OSH management standard ready for a 2017 launch.   A five-day meeting in Vienna of the 60-strong international PC 283 working group to discuss changes to a revised draft, DIS2, made good progress.

The planned international standard, which will replace BS OHSAS 18001, had been delayed by rejection by international standards bodies of a previous draft, known as DIS1. The slow movement to date on a text that was originally due to be finalised in 2016 led some commentators to predict further delays that would have pushed publication into next year.

The amended DIS2 will be edited by the PC 283 secretariat sent to the national standards bodies for translation. The bodies will then consult nationally on the new version.

This process is expected to take around four months, so a final draft could be published in the middle of the year.  The next meeting is scheduled for 18 to 23 September. If the draft is agreed then, the final text could be published by the end of 2017.

“Overall, there was a great sense of achievement and optimism, given the progress made and level of consensus reached,” said IOSH head of policy Richard Jones, who represented the institution in Vienna.

ISO 45001 will join a suite of management systems standards including ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 for environment and quality systems respectively.