Principal contractor fined for safety failings

Malik Contractors and Engineers Ltd, a London based construction company has been fined for safety failings after complaints from the public

Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard how the company were working at a site St John’s Way in Corringham, Essex in 2016 as the principal contractors for the development of a public house and 24 flats, when concerned members of the public contacted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Acting on the public concerns, HSE carried out three inspections of the site. On each visit the inspectors and visiting officers found numerous breaches of health and safety legislation, including dangerous electrical systems, unsafe work at height across the site, and no fire detection alarm. There was no fire-fighting equipment, despite workers sleeping on site.

As a result HSE issued four Prohibition Notices (PNs) and three Improvement Notices (INs) on the firm.

Malik Contractors and Engineers Ltd of Neasden Goods Depot, Neasden, London, was fined a total of £52,000, and ordered to pay £4,415 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Regulation 13(1) of The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector David King said:

“This case highlights the importance complying with enforcement action. Duty holders have the responsibility to provide their workers with appropriate training and equipment so they can work safely. In this case Malik Contractors failed to do so.

It is essential those responsible for construction work understand they are also responsible for the health and safety of those on and around the construction site, and ensure suitable and sufficient arrangements are in place to plan..”

Further information can be found on The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015

Two workers killed in a fortnight 

Windfarm safety criticised after the deaths of two wind turbine technicians in two weeks.  The deaths have prompted Unite the Union to call for action to improve workers’ welfare and safety on windfarms.

A 32-year-old Spanish worker was killed on 29 March when he plunged from a wind turbine in East Renfrewshire, Scotland.  The turbine, which is part of Scottish Power Renewables’ (SPR) 539MW Whitelee onshore windfarm, was under maintenance by GE at the time of the incident.

The fatality came just a fortnight after Portuguese worker Antonio Linares, 37, fell to his death inside a turbine that was being built at SPR’s Kilgallioch onshore windfarm in South Ayrshire.  The victim was employed by Gamesa, a wind turbine manufacturer which, along with Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is investigating what happened.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Steve Dillon said:

“In recent years there have been far too many deaths and injuries involving windfarms. These installations are usually in remote locations and there is a concern that these tragedies have not received the same focus if they had occurred in more populous areas.

Swift action needs to be taken to improve workers’ safety and wellbeing and to understand how these incidents occurred. The Health and Safety Executive needs to bring together all concerned to learn the lessons and improve safety and welfare in this sector.”

 

The deputy chief executive of trade association RenewableUK, Maf Smith, said in a statement:

“All wind turbine manufacturers, installers and owners regard health, safety and wellbeing as the very highest priorities, and work diligently to ensure that they meet extremely rigorous health and safety standards.

In these rare but tragic circumstances it’s important to ensure that our industry learns from incidents and implements any lessons promptly. A full investigation is currently under way.

The wind industry works closely with the HSE to ensure that the highest standards are maintained and constantly improved on. We understand that the organisations involved are working with the HSE to establish the exact circumstances of the incident and ensure that the appropriate action is taken.”

Immigration Centre death

Ghanaian national Prince Kwabena Fosu was found dead on the concrete floor of his cell in Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, 6 days after he arrived, on 30 October 2012.

Two companies could be charged for breaching safety law after a man died at a west London immigration detention centre.

GEO Group UK, which managed Harmondsworth at the time of the incident, and Nestor Primecare Services, which was responsible for its health services under contract to GEO have had criminal charged authorised against them by The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Both companies are alleged to have breached section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Deborah Cole, director of Inquest, a charity focused on deaths in custody or detention, said:

“We hope this trial will shine a spotlight on the closed world of immigration detention, the treatment and standards of care of detainees, staff training and culture.

It will also afford much needed scrutiny on the privatisation of detention services and how multi-national companies are held to account when people die in their care.”

Cuts are blamed for 15% increase in fire-related deaths

The Fire Brigades Union says its members are

increasingly angry about how they are being treated by the Government.

According to the union, the Government cuts are to blame for a rise in fire-related deaths in England last year.  Official figures show that 303 people died in fires during 2015/16, up 15% on the previous year.  Response times to all types of serious fires also rose, in some cases by as much as one minute and eight seconds.

The Fire Brigades Union said the figures reflect the real impact that cuts have had on the ability of firefighters to do their job in recent years.

Matt Wrack, the union’s general secretary, said:

“I think fire crews are increasingly angry about how they are being treated by this Government.  Firefighters are praised when they rescue people, they deal with particularly difficult incidents, but all the time their job is being undermined by cuts.

There has been a record number of fire station closures, fire engines being cut and 10,000 firefighter jobs go.  So that means people are left running the service on a shoestring.”

According to the Home Office, overall response times have increased gradually over the past 20 years.  The response time to the most serious types of fires, including dwellings and road vehicle fires, show an average rise of 31 seconds in 2015/16 compared to 2010/11.

In 2015, 85-year-old Choi Yip jumped to his death from his burning flat in Camden after the London Fire Brigade took 13 minutes and 21 seconds to arrive – double the target time.  The nearby Belsize fire station had recently closed and fire crews were also dealing with another large blaze in north London.

Karl Kosmo, who was Mr Yip’s friend and neighbour, believes the outcome could have been different.  He said:

“I’m sure that if they had arrived in time, as they used to do before then, definitely Mr Yip would still be alive.”

An inquest ruled Mr Yip’s death was accidental.

London Fire Brigade said it is working hard to reduce the number of fire deaths.

The Government admitted the rise in deaths over the last year is “worrying” but said it was too early to tell whether or not it was a one-off fluctuation – adding that, long-term, the number of fire deaths is down.  It also said the number of fire call-outs has dropped by 50% over the last 12 years, in part due to an increase public safety awareness.

Brandon Lewis MP is minister for policing and the fire service, and he insists the fire services were well-funded.

He said:

“Any loss of life or any tragedy is one too many. None of us want to see that happen, which is why we have to make sure we continue to have well-resourced teams.  Actually our fire service is well resourced – for example, the fire service has actually increased its reserves by around £600m in the last few years.”

 

The Government is looking for further savings within fire services and is also looking at giving responsibility for fire and rescue services to police and crime commissioners, a move which is controversial with firefighters who fear control will be taken away from them.

From preparing for possible terror attacks, to educating the public about fire risks, the responsibilities for firefighters is growing. The worry is that this extra work – coupled with cuts – is costing lives.