Leading safety bodies and practitioners have jointly called on the UK government to halt deregulation of safety and health legislation in light of the Grenfell Tower fire.
More than 70 leading organisations and figures from the UK’s safety and health profession, including IOSH, the British Safety Council and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, penned an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to “scrap the government’s approach to health and safety deregulation and think again”.
The group has also pressed the Government to complete its review of Part B of the Building Regulations 2010 – the regulations which cover fire safety in and around buildings in England – as a matter of urgency, and to focus on improving safety in the forthcoming parliament.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM), National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH), Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Unite the union have also backed the letter, alongside senior OSH professionals from organisations including Park Health and Safety, Skanska and Thames Water.
“We believe it is totally unacceptable for residents, members of the public and our emergency services to be exposed to this level of preventable risk in modern-day Britain,” the letter states.
“At this crucial time of national reflection and sorrow, we urge all politicians to re-emphasise the need for effective health and safety regulation and competent fire risk management. These are fundamental to saving lives and sustaining our communities.
We believe it is vital that this disaster marks a turning point for improved fire safety awareness and wider appreciation that good health and safety is an investment, not a cost.”
The fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower public housing block on 14 June gutted the majority of the building; 79 people are listed as dead or missing. Fire experts have drawn attention to the fact that part B of the Building Regulations 2010, has not been thoroughly reviewed since 2006, though most other parts of the regulations have been revised at two-yearly intervals.
In calling on the government to complete its review of Part B, the signatories add:
“Together, we offer our organisations’ support in undertaking the review – we all have valuable links to experts in this area who can advise on best regulatory outcomes. In the meantime, we welcome the government’s commitment to act and to implement the interim findings of the forthcoming public inquiry.
You have it in your power to remove immediately a further risk to people at work and outside of the workplace – unwise deregulation – which threatens public and worker safety.”
The letter has been posted on at the IOSH site where additional signatories are invited.
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
There have, understandably, been strong public reactions to the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower and its tragic consequences – the largest civilian loss of life from a single event in the UK since the Hillsborough disaster.
The occupational safety and health community is deeply saddened and disturbed by the Grenfell Tower fire and all the lives it claimed. We believe it is totally unacceptable for residents, members of the public and our emergency services to be exposed to this level of preventable risk in modern-day Britain.
Central Government and the Kensington and Chelsea local authority share responsibility for building standards and their enforcement locally, as well as for the funding and management of the maintenance of social housing. These responsibilities must be backed up with good, essential regulations.
However, for many years, Ministers and others with influence over them have called for regulations, including in health and safety, to be axed as a matter of principle. Arbitrary rules were imposed to establish deregulation of health and safety, such as a requirement to abolish two health and safety regulations (and more recently, three) for any new one adopted.
This mind-set has meant that, even when it was recommended and accepted that mandatory fitting of sprinklers would make homes or schools safer, this was rejected in favour of non-regulatory action. In practice, this approach favours inaction.
Good, well-evidenced and proportionate regulations in health and safety, based on full consultation, are developed and adopted because they save lives and protect people’s health and wellbeing. They are not “burdens on business” but provide essential protection for the public from identifiable risks.
At this crucial time of national reflection and sorrow, we urge all politicians to re-emphasise the need for effective health and safety regulation and competent fire risk management. These are fundamental to saving lives and sustaining our communities.
We believe it is vital that this disaster marks a turning point for improved fire safety awareness and wider appreciation that good health and safety is an investment, not a cost.
We call on the Government to accelerate and confirm the timeframe for completing its review of Part B of The Building Regulations 2010 and to include a focus on improved safety in the forthcoming Parliament.
Together, we offer our organisations’ support in undertaking the review – we all have valuable links to experts in this area who can advise on best regulatory outcomes. In the meantime, we welcome the Government’s commitment to act and to implement the interim findings of the forthcoming public inquiry.
You have it in your power to remove immediately a further risk to people at work and outside of the workplace – unwise deregulation – which threatens public and worker safety.
We, leaders in health and safety in the UK, call on you to scrap the Government’s approach to health and safety deregulation and think again. This could be announced immediately, it does not need to await the results of a public inquiry, and is the least that the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire deserve.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is hoping the election result will mean the end to a round of cuts that would have cut fire and rescue service funding in half over the course of a decade.
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU, said:
“Millions of voters supported policies that just two years ago were condemned as fringe ideas – re-nationalising the railways, scrapping student debt, building new homes. Jeremy Corbyn has shifted the political debate decisively in favour of working class people by working towards what is fair and just. It seems that the Tory party’s austerity agenda may have had its day.
The Prime Minister called this election in the most cynical way, for the benefit of party interests alone. It has been an utter disaster, a gamble that has backfired. Millions have rejected the endless attacks on living standards and public services. People are sick of seeing their wages cut, facing a future where young people cannot get a decent job or a decent home. Theresa May now has no mandate to continue with the policy of endless cuts that put the safety and health of the public at risk.
Jeremy Corbyn’s personal rating has risen throughout the course of the election campaign, as has support for Labour, and there is now significant backing for the radical change offered by Labour’s policies under Corbyn. The FBU wholeheartedly welcomes the rapid change of direction that is needed to make our country a safer, fairer place. Our members are very proud of the fire and rescue service, but it now needs investment, not more decimating cuts.”
An 87-year-old resident fell from her first floor window and died at a residential care home in Surrey. Coppice Lea Nursing Home has been fined almost half a million pounds.
Guildford Crown Court heard that the tragic incident happened in the early hours of 3 October 2013 at Coppice Lea Nursing home in Surrey, which is owned and managed by Caring Homes Healthcare Group Limited. The woman fell about four metres through her window. She was reported missing at 1am and found two hours later. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The HSE investigation found that the window restrictor in place, which normally prevents the window from opening fully, was easily overridden and therefore not fit for purpose.
Caring Homes Healthcare Group Limited of The Colchester Business Park, Essex, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £450,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,762.44.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Rebekah Dunn said:
“It was clear from our investigation that the window restrictor was simply not doing the job of preventing the window from opening. It is alarming, and tragic, that an 87-year-old woman with dementia was able to defeat it.
Caring Homes therefore failed to ensure the woman’s safety, which is particularly important given its unique position of trust. All windows that are large enough for people [to fit] through should be restrained sufficiently to prevent such falls. The 100mm benchmark should only be allowed to disengage using a special tool or key.”
Police say it is known that six people have died and more than 50 are in hospital after a huge fire raged through the night in Grenfell Tower, North Kensington. The 24-storey block, which is still not fully extinguished, looks at risk of collapsing.
So far, firefighters have rescued “large numbers”, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “a lot” of people were unaccounted for.
The first reports of fire in the tower, came in at 00:54 BST. Three hours later, people were still being evacuated from the tower, the police said.
Eyewitnesses accounts described people trapped in the burning Grenfell Tower, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved. It’s also been accounted that eyewitnesses saw lights, thought to be rom mobile phones or torches, flashing from the top of the block of flats. Trapped residents were also sen at windows, some holding children.
Eyewitness Jody Martin said:
“I watched one person falling out, I watched another woman holding her baby out the window… hearing screams. I was yelling at everyone to get down and they were saying ‘We can’t leave our apartments, the smoke is too bad on the corridors.'”
Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, managed to escape.
“As I was going down the stairs, there were firefighters, truly amazing firefighters that were actually going upstairs, to the fire, trying to get as many people out the building as possible,” he told the BBC.
He said he was alerted to the fire not by fire alarms but by people on the street below, shouting “don’t jump, don’t jump”.
Michael Paramaseevan, who lives on the seventh floor with his girlfriend and young daughter, said he ignored official advice to stay in your home.
“If we had stayed in that flat, we would’ve perished. My gut instinct told me just to get the girls out. I wrapped the little one up because of the smoke and I just got them out.”
Another resident, Zoe, who lives on the fourth floor, said she was woken by a neighbour banging on her door.
“The whole landing was thick with smoke. The smoke alarms weren’t going off but the way it spread so quickly from the fourth floor, all the way up to the 23rd floor was scary.”
Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC that Questions will need to be answered over the safety of tower blocks. He also said he was devastated by the horrific scenes, attended by more than 250 firefighters and 100 ambulance medics.
“We can’t have a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained,” he said.
Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union said something had clearly gone badly wrong with fire prevention procedures at the building. Firefighters would normally fight a fire in a tower block from the inside, going up the fire escape, and fighting using the internal dry-rising mains, he said, but that’s not been possible in this case.
The Met Police has set up an emergency number on 0800 0961 233 for anyone concerned about friends or family.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said the cause of the fire was not yet known and it was too early to speculate on the building, although it was structurally safe enough for her crews to be working inside.
She urged all residents to make sure they had reported themselves to police so that the authorities know they are safe.
G&S Roofing Ltd has been fined £80 thousand for safety failings related to working at height in August 2016.
A number of concerns were raised by members of the public about work being carried out by the company, which twice ignored written advice to address the issue of working at height in an unsafe manner. Concern was raised by a member of the public who contacted HSE after seeing operatives working unsafely at height.
When inspectors visited the site they found workmen working on the flashings of a chimney from a ladder resting on the pitch of the roof at the unguarded gable end of the two storey house. The did not identify the correct measures that would help prevent a person falling from the gable end of the building. Despite the HSE issuing a prohibition notice, the company took no action to rectify the dangerous working conditions.
G&S Roofing Ltd of Pembroke Lodge, 3 Pembroke Road, Ruslip was found guilty in its absence to breaching Regulations 4(1)(a) and 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by virtue of Regulation 3(b). The company was fined a total of £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,574.
HSE inspector Rebekah Dunn said:
“The dangers associated with working at height are well-known and G & S Roofing had a duty to protect all operatives from the risk of falling from height. Despite repeated advice, the company failed to put in adequate precautionary measures.
“It is vital for duty-holders to ensure that all issues related to health and safety are suitably addressed, particularly when the issues are highlighted.”
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Manchester Crown Court have fined two family run companies after admitting health and safety failings at a site in Manchester, where they were carrying out a basement conversion.
Hatters Taverns Limited had appointed sister company Hatters Hostel Limited as the main contractor for the basement conversion beneath a hostel at 50 Newton Street, Manchester. The project involved stripping out and refurbishing the basement into a bar venue.
An unannounced visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was conducted to inspect the ongoing refurbishment works. During the visit it was discovered there had been no asbestos survey carried out before tradesmen started stripping out the majority of the space.
Hatters Taverns Limited of 50 Newton Street Manchester pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £10,000.
Hatters Hostel Limited of 56-60 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £24,000 and ordered to pay the combined costs for both defendants of £10,232.50.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matt Greenly said after the case:
“Both Hatters Hostel and Hatters Taverns have failed in their duty to protect their workers, subcontractors and visitors to his site from harm. Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 4000 people per year in the UK.
The requirement to have a suitable asbestos survey is clear and well known throughout the construction industry. Only by knowing if asbestos is present in any building before works commence can a contractor ensure that people working on their site are not exposed to these deadly fibres.
The cost of an asbestos survey is not great but the potential legacy facing anyone who worked on this site is immeasurable. Exposure to asbestos fibres can potentially cause life shortening diseases in the long term and Hatters Hostel Limited and Hatters Taverns Limited should have taken more care to protect workers from a totally preventable exposure. This case sends a clear message to any company that it does not pay to ignore well known risks on site.”
Laing O’Rourke, a major construction firm, was fined £800,000 at Southwark Crown Court after a worker accidentally reversed a dump truck, fatally crushing his brother.
The company failed to ensure that the workers had a permit to use the vehicle and did not properly oversee and manage the operation.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the brothers, Paul and Philip Griffiths, were nearing the end of their shift on 2nd October 2014 when the accident happened at the site of a new multi-storey car park at Heathrow’s Terminal 2.
A team of night-shift workers, including the Griffiths brothers, was called to deal with a scissor lift, which had broken down.
The HSE found that the power supply to the wheels on the scissor lift had failed and as a result the wheels were locked, needing an engineer to unlock them. As airport operations were due to start, the most practical solution was to call for a driver to collect a dump truck from the holding area where the firm’s construction equipment was stored and tow the scissor lift. A competent driver had been called but was feeling unwell and, as his shift was ending, he refused. Philip Griffiths, who was not authorised to drive the dump truck, collected the vehicle.
In the inquest to Philip Griffiths’ death, held at West London Coroner’s Court on 13 June 2016, Ieuan Evans, a machine operator for Select Plant Hire – a Laing O’Rourke subsidiary, told the court that he had been involved in initial attempts to tow the scissor lift away but had then left the scene, on the understanding that an engineer was being called.
In the inquest, reported by Get West London Evans said that he thought that the Griffiths brothers were also leaving, but then realised they were not and assumed they were “giving it another go”.
At the inquest, Paul Griffiths said his brother had attempted to tow the scissor lift with the dump truck before he took over, and that he was not aware of anyone telling them to stop. The HSE investigation found that the site manager had left the scene by the time of the incident.
When the incident happened, Philip Griffiths had shortened the strop that connected the dump truck to the scissor lift. His brother was operating the vehicle when his foot became stuck between the brake and the accelerator. Philip Griffiths was standing between the truck and the scissor lift and was fatally crushed when the truck suddenly reversed. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The HSE found that neither worker had a permit to operate the dump truck and that Laing O’Rourke had failed to properly oversee and manage the operation.
Laing O’Rourke Construction of Crossways in Dartford, Kent, entered an early guilty plea on the 14 December 2016 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to breaching reg 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
At Southwark Crown Court, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith determined the company’s culpability as medium, with a harm category of 1 (a high likelihood of harm). Laing O’Rourke had systems but they were not sufficiently adhered to. In mitigation, he took into account the firm’s acceptance of responsibility and its high level of co-operation with the HSE.
Laing O’Rourke’s turnover placed it in the large organisation category range, with a starting point of £1.3m and a category range of £800,000-£3.25m. Taking into account the firm’s early guilty plea, Judge Loraine-Smith reduced the fine by one-third and ordered Laing O’Rourke to pay £800,000 with £10,000 in costs.
HSE inspector Jack Wilby told IOSH Magazine that since the incident Laing O’Rourke had improved its systems for reporting, recording and checking the training records of operatives on site.
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