Construction activity may be on the rise, but sadly it seems the industry isn't completely free of problems just yet as the HSE alarmingly cut back on the amount of safety visits they make to sites. 

Wales in particularly has been hit hard as HSE inspectors cut back visits by 35% - incidentally the same proportion by which its budget has been cut. The information was gained by BBC Radio Wales who submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the HSE. Their inquiry revealed that the number of proactive (i.e. unannounced) inspections dropped from 818 in the 2011-12 period to 529 in 2012-13. The number of prosecutions dropped from three to zero in the same timeframe.

A drop in prosecutions might sound like a good thing and could naturally go hand in hand with less inspections, but alarmingly this has all happened at the same time as a safety blitz in September 2013. During this time, the HSE found that one in three Welsh sites breached safety regulations.

Obviously the news has been of much concern to construction trade unions, with Ucatt regional secretary Nick Blundell warning that the cuts were 'truly alarming'. He added: "Inspections save lives. This fall in inspections is putting construction workers in danger."

He also remarked that with construction finally on the recovery following the long recession, a fall in inspections is naturally going to mean less sites visited. This will be putting new entrants at risk, who are more vulnerable and therefore more at risk of suffering an accident.

This is why it isn't important to know all about health & safety measures on construction sites before starting your new career in the trade. Even the most experienced worker could be at risk, but those fresh out of a construction training course should be wary of what's around them. If you think that your work area is unsafe - don't be afraid to report it.

Via The Construction Index

When it comes to gas fitting, there is nothing more important than safety. Not taking the right precautions can cost people their lives, and installers found guilty of negligence could face manslaughter charges and prison sentences. For an example of just how dangerous gas can be when not properly handled, cast your eyes on the story below.

Two houses were completely destroyed with others damaged yesterday when a gas explosion of currently unknown origin occurred in Clacton, Essex. Thankfully no one was killed in the blast but 10 were injured, with two - a man in his 70s and a woman in her 50s, badly burnt but now in "stable" condition.

Taking place around 8:30am yesterday morning, a total of 10 properties in the street (Cloes Lane) needed to be evacuated along with a further nine in the road behind. Victims were needed to be pulled from the rubble as houses were flattened, with debris blowing across to hit those nearby.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), National Grid and Essex Police/Fire Services will now carry out a full investigation into what caused such a destructive blast. A spokesperson for the National Grid has already said that it did not appear as though there were any faults in the pipes leading up to the three badly damaged houses, however more thorough tests would be carried out once demolition work has been completed. There had also been no mains replacement work done in that area recently, further adding to the mystery of what could have caused it.

Houses were cornered off as a reception centre was set up for those evacuated from their homes. A Facebook group has also been set up to offer support and donations to those who have lost their homes. Access Training wish everyone involved in the disaster a swift recovery and hope that they will be able to return to normality soon.

This is the kind of damage gas negligence can cause. ANYONE dealing with gas pipes at any level should be fully qualified, having undergone the correct gas training course, complete their ACS assessment and joined the Gas Safety register. This is a legal requirement of ALL gas installers and non-compliance is not tolerated. The life of a gas installer can be a challenging, exciting and prosperous one, also one that requires focus, dedication and conscienciousness. Would you want to be the cause of something like this?

Story via BBC News

There's more to being an electrician than simply completing your electrician training course. earning your qualifications and starting work. Another duty is to promote the safe use of electrical appliances and installations, much like the work of charity the Electrical Safety Council. Their latest campaign is calling for retailers and manufacturers to promote awareness after research found hair straighteners are being sold without additional safety devices or information on preventing burns.

Their investigation found that hair straightener burns among children have doubled in recent years, accounting for nearly one in ten burns. It also found that two thirds of parents are not taking the measures to store the appliances away safely. Hair straighteners can reach temperatures of up to 235°C, staying hot for around 15 minutes even after they have been switched off. Many incidents have been caused when toddlers touch, grab or even tread on the hot straightener plates. However it isn't just children who are at risk, as nearly half of all adults surveyed said they have received a burn from a hair appliance before.

However blame does not solely lie with the parents, as the ESC's mystery shoppers investigation also found that none of the high street and online retailers sampled encouraged customers to buy heat proof pouches alongside them. More alarmingly, while most manufactures provided basic safety information with their straighteners, only a third provided any sort of heat proof mat or pouch. Those that were tested varied greatly in quality - with some even smelting once heat was applied.

The ESC are now starting their own hard-hitting campaign to promote awareness and reduce burns among children and adults alike. The campaign, dubbed "Beauty Burns" has already created a powerful video to illustrate the effects of leaving these potentially dangerous appliances unattended around children. The charity will also be giving away free heat proof pouches in an attempt to encourage people to store their hair straighteners properly. To find out more about the campaign, visit its official page at www.esc.org.uk/beautyburns.

ESC spokesperson Emma Apter commented that it was "worrying" these products are being sold without retailers or manufacturers taking reasonable steps to promote safety. She added: "Hair straighteners can cause burns so serious that surgery is required, and children are at even more risk since their skin can be 15 times thinner than that of adults. Retailers and manufacturers must do more to protect their customers."

One of the most important parts of any good roofing course (or construction training course in general) is knowing what the right safety measures are to put in place before you even begin. However unfortunately there are still companies out there that ignore this and eventually pay the penalities - such as this roofing firm that have appeared in court after being filmed breaking the law by the BBC's investigative programme Watchdog.

Oldham firm Renov8 (North West) Ltd. and company director Darren Potts were prosecuted by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) after the show revealed footage of a worker walking around a sloping roof of a property in Droylsden using a pressure washer without any means in place to prevent them slipping and falling the ground below. Mr Potts was filmed watching the work from below. The two men were also seen walking on the roof of another property in Salford, with no scaffolding or other measures in place to prevent injury in the event of a fall.

Further investigation from the HSE found that Renov8 did not have any employers' liability insurance, which is a legal requirement for all firms. This means that had the employee gotten injured, he would have not been able to claim compensation. The company pleased guilty to two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and failing to have employers liability insurance, resulting in a fine of £1000 and £1225 in prosecution costs. Mr Potts himself was sentenced to 200 hours od community service and also had to pay £1225 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matt Greenly said:

"Renov8 should never have allowed work to be carried out on the roofs of the two bungalows without having suitable safety measures in place. Company director Darren Potts risked not only his own life but the life of an employee by clambering around slippery roofs. Renov8 could easily have hired scaffolding for the work but failed to do this, despite using scaffolding on similar properties in the past.  The company also ignored the law relating to employers’ liability insurance, meaning the employee wouldn’t have been able to claim a penny in compensation if he had been injured."

Via HSE

Via Construction Enquirer

Towards the end of September we wrote up a post revealing some of the horrific conditions the Health & Safety Executive had found construction sites in, and now they have returned with even more shocking images of what some workers are subject to.

The HSE are still compiling the final results of their tour across UK building sites (which ran over the course of September), but their initial figures have ALREADY shown that nearly half the sites they visited had some sort of serious safety failing.

This alarmingly high rate has promoted the Unite union to call for increased funding in order for the HSE to carry out more site inspections.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "The HSE's spot checks throughout September are proof that the Executive needs more capacity and funding.

"The extent of the breaches uncovered also shows why trade union health and safety committees are so important in the construction industry and why we need more.

"The ending of the spot checks will be manna from heaven for the worst employers and unfair to employers who work with unions to get it right. The government’s attack on health and safety must be reversed."

Below is the latest batch of pictures released by the HSE:

Wheeled scaffolding precariously balanced at this site.

This site seems to have absolutely no regard for electrical safety.

Would you use this ladder at the top of a four lift scaffold?

I would hardly call this support adequate.

An important part of Gas Safety Week is making sure people know exactly what to do in the event of a gas leak.

Every year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. This highly poisonous gas can't be seen, smelled or tasted, but can kill quickly and without warning. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness and then eventually collapsing and even loss of consciousness. As an invisible gas, carbon monoxide can be extremely difficult to detect. However there are ways that you can determine whether an appliance (such as fires, heating boilers, water heaters or cookers) are dangerous. These include:

  • The pilot light continually blowing out
  • An orange or yellow flame rather than a blue one
  • A discoloured scorched area on an appliance
  • A musty smell or signs of soot
  • More condensation than normal on windows

If you see any of these things, whatever you do DO NOT try to attempt any sort of repair work yourself - you could only end up making it worse. Instead what you should do is call the free emergency gas number on 0800 111 999 and follow their instructions. As soon as you suspect a leak, don't start any flames or operate electrical switches. Make sure to put out any fires, open doors and windows to air out the rooms, keep people away from the area and turn the gas off at the control valve. 

Once you've made the call, a trained operator will log a number of details onto a computer. The kind of questions they'll ask you are:

 

  • Your name and phone number
  • The address and postcode of the suspected gas emergency 
  • How many people are at the property 
  • Where the smell is most noticeable 
  • How long the smell has been noticeable
  • Are any neighbours affected 
  • Any special circumstances or access information
Following that you'll be asked a number of questions to determine the severity of the situation. This information will be recorded and sent off to an engineer to take action if its required.

 

 

One of the ways the Gas Safe Register has decided to mark Gas Safety Week by launching the very first nationwide interactive gas map, which can be viewed at www.staygassafe.co.uk.

This map reveals just how many unsafe gas appliances have been found across the UK, how many gas-related accidents or emergencies have occurred and even how many unregistered gas fitters have been caught preying upon the public. It's the first time this level of information has been recorded and compared across postcodes, and the results aren't looking good for the capital of Wales.

Cardiff ranked second only to Birmingham as the area with the highest number of unsafe homes, at a total of 31.1%. The full top 10 (if you can call it "top" that is) of unsafe places in the UK can be viewed below:

1. Birmingham (34.2%)

2. Cardiff (31.1%)

3. Edinburgh (30.9%)

4. Norwich and Ipswich (27.9%)

5. Coventry (27.8%)

6. Manchester (27.5%)

7. Bedford (27.3%)

8. Glasgow (25.2%)

9. Milton Keynes (24.2%)

10. Bradford (23.3%)

While there may not be a whole lot in it between the places, these numbers are still significantly higher than they should be. So where did the research find is the safest places? Brighton took the prize with just 5% (1 in 20) homes found to be dangerous, followed closely by Liverpool (6%), Southampton (6%), Northampton (7%) and Hull (8%). 

The data inspected just under 100,000 homes in Great Britain in the last three years, and found that one in six homes, the equivalent of 4.28 million households, had an unsafe gas appliance. Appliances in one in 25 homes were immediately dangerous and if left unchecked were at risk of causing a gas fire, explosion, leak or carbon monoxide poisoning.

One in three gas customers in Great Britain (around 7.69 million households) also admitted that they’ve never had their gas appliances checked or maintained, despite eight in 10 people (82%) recognising that it needs to be done to protect them from gas dangers. Gas Safe Register’s inspections further found that gas fires are the most dangerous gas appliances in homes. One in three gas fires checked by the Register were unsafe, compared to one in 11 boilers and one in 13 cookers. Just like boilers, gas fires and gas cookers need to be checked and maintained regularly to remain safe.

The public is also being caught out by cowboy unregistered gas fitters, pretending to be legal engineers. One in 10 people admit they took it on trust that their gas engineer is legally registered and never checked if they were. Nearly 3,000 illegal gas jobs have been investigated by Gas Safe Register since 2010, of which nearly two in three (61%) left victims’ homes unsafe and one in five were so dangerous that the Register had to turn off the gas appliance immediately.

Russell Kramer, chief executive for Gas Safe Register, said: "Gas safety is a life or death matter and something that shouldn’t be ignored. People are aware of the potential risks of unsafe gas work and they know what they should be doing to keep themselves safe, but as our research has found, not everyone is acting on that information. This is why we have launched the gas map. It is the first time that data on unsafe gas appliances and illegal gas work has been compared across postcodes in Great Britain. We want people to realise that gas safety is something that they should take seriously and by bringing it to their doorstep it makes it harder to ignore.

"We hope to see millions of people using the gas map during and beyond Gas Safety Week to get a better understanding of how they can protect themselves. Some areas are more at risk, but even in safer areas there is no room for complacency. You only need to enter your postcode to find out localised information about your area. You can also sign up for a free reminder service to get your appliances checked, so that you don’t forget to do this vital and life saving check every year, and search for registered engineers. Our messages this Gas Safety Week are simple – get your appliances checked every year, sign up for our reminder service and only use a Gas Safe registered engineer. It could save yours and your family’s lives."

If you're a Cardiff gas engineer, its up  to you to help lower this figure and get our city off of the table. Meanwhile, if you're a trainee gas engineer or looking to enter the gas trade, it is essential that you not only get the right qualifications, but get Gas Safe registered so that you are legally permitted to work on gas appliances and installations across the UK. An Access Training gas course will provide you with everything you need - expert tutelage, professional qualifications and the best foundation work possible for you to go on and become Gas Safe. To find out more take a look at our courses page or contact one of our team on 0800 345 7492.

Today The Construction Enquirer have put up a news story concerning the outcome of a Bolton building firm's court case whose scaffolding was deemed to present a risk to the crew.

The firm, R Hamer Ltd, was prosecuted after a member of the public reported the work to the Health & Safety executive. Two workers had been spotted replacing guttering during high winds on what appeared to be unsafe scaffolding, and when an inspector arrive he found the men using two "badly-erected" towers with an unsecured board being used as walkway between them. 

The court was told there was also no edge protection on the scaffolding, such as handrails or toe boards, and the workers were not using harnesses to prevent them being injured in a fall. One of the men was also seen climbing down the outside of the scaffolding rather than using an access ladder. The firm received a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £562 in prosecution costs, which is a rather leniant sentence for something that could have endangered lives.

This news story reminded me of a tweet I had seen earlier last week from @DIYDoctor, which I've shared below:

Falling from heights is one of the biggest causes of workplace death in the construction industry, and can easily be avoided by using safe and secure scaffolding. If you see a construction firm not taking the right precautions, you should report them to the HSE before an accident can happen. Likewise if you're doing a bit of exterior DIY don't think you can just get away with precariously balancing on the roof and a carefully laid out piece of wood like the man above. Otherwise that little job could end up costing you your life.

Temperatures could soar to dangerously high levels in some homes insulated under the government's flagship Green Deal scheme, experts have warned. Energy-saving measures designed to save on winter fuel bills and protect the environment could pose a risk to health during summer heatwaves, they add. Homes in densely populated urban areas such as London are most at risk. The government says it is aware of the problem and is taking steps to prevent overheating in Green Deal properties.

Heat can build up during the day and has nowhere to escape at night leading to poor air quality and a greater risk of heat stress for the occupants which, in extreme cases, can kill. It is vital that homes in the UK are better insulated to help meet carbon emission targets and save on winter fuel bills. But the risk of overheating had been overlooked in the "big rush to insulate and make homes airtight", particularly as more extreme weather events, including heatwaves, are being predicted for the UK by meteorologists.

"Overheating is like the little boy at the back of the class waving his hand. It is forgotten about because the other challenges are so big," he told the BBC News website. Very effective measures are being taken to protect against winter temperatures but by doing that they increase the risk of overheating during summer.

Research by Leicester De Montfort University, suggests top floor flats in 1960s tower blocks, and modern detached houses were most at risk, particularly if they were south facing. Heat was likely to have the biggest impact on elderly or infirm people who remained at home all day, the research suggests. The elderly are going to suffer. Suffering means they are going to die from overheating.

Under the Green Deal, householders take out loans to finance improvements such as double-glazing, loft insulation or more efficient boilers. The idea is that the energy savings they make should more than compensate for the repayments. In total it said there had been 38,259 Green Deal assessments, where customers are given initial advice about what energy improvements they might be eligible for. Of those, 241 households have confirmed they would like to proceed with work.

According to research by a group of leading engineering and climate change experts, published last year, "Green Deal measures could create new problems in the future, with inappropriately insulated properties experiencing poor indoor air quality and significant summer overheating. It said the increased likelihood of summer heatwaves could lead to rise in heat-related deaths from 2,000 to 5,000 per year by 2080 "if action was not taken".

The Department for Energy and Climate Change says it has now issued fresh guidance to Green Deal suppliers to help reduce potential risk from installing energy efficiency measures.

He said there were simple measures anyone could take - whether living in a well-insulated home or not - to keep heat levels down, such as keeping windows closed during the day to trap cool air and opening them at night. Fitting shutters to windows and painting exterior walls white - both common sights in Mediterranean countries - would also help, but were unlikely to be widely adopted in the UK due to the relative rarity of heatwaves.

Here is the link to the full BBC report.

10 ways the UK is ill-prepared for a heatwave

- Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

 

Summer holidays on the Costas are with us once again. Lots of families are jetting off to spend a week or two in the sunshine. All looking to have fun and this will probably mean consuming large quantities of alcohol.

But we have become so reliant on our electrical and electronic gizmos; we all need an adapter to charge them up whilst we are in foreign lands. Our UK standard plugs will not fit into the sockets that we find in our ‘little paradise’.

Off we go to the local supermarket to purchase an adapter – but they are not cheap, so plan B comes into action. Off we go to the ‘cheap’ shop (you know the ones – everything’s a pound!). But is that cheap product safe? Probably not!

The above item is the subject of a “Product Recall” as it has been identified as being UNSAFE.

“The product poses a risk of electric shock because the user comes into contact with live parts when inserting the plug into the socket. The product does not comply with the relevant national standard BS1363.”

What a wonderful holiday – a couple of days in the sun followed by a couple of days in hospital receiving treatment for electric shock and/or electric burns; if you lucky. If you’re not you might be flying home baggage class in a wooden box!

You can’t put a price on safety; remember it might by your child that gets the shock of their lives!

For more information on this and other recalled products visit the Electrical Safety Council website at:

http://www.esc.org.uk/public/guides-and-advice/product-recalls/

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492

Full story: Daily Mail - 'Incompetent' plumber causes gas explosion

A 32-year old plumber is currently in course after he caused a gas explosion which resulted in a home being 'blown from its foundations' and leaving the couple inside with serious burns.

While converting the former kitchen of Martyn Moody and his wife Theresa's luxury home in the Lincolnshire Wolds into a dining room, plumber Daniel Hickling cut off and capped the protruding gas pipe, burying it under the floorboards. However during the work he punctured the pipe and failed to carry out a straightforward check to ensure there had been no damage to it.

Later the couple smelt gas and began searching their home. During this time Mr Moody flicked on a cigarette lighter and the flame ignited, causing a massive explosion with such force that the entire building moved an inch. Mr Moody, a retired construction and electrical tradesman spent two weeks in hospital undergoing skin grafts after suffering serious burns to his hands, arms and scalp. His wife suffered burns to her legs and feet nut was released from hospital after two days.

The home, which the couple had built for themselves in 1993, sustained so much damaged that it had to be almost completely rebuilt. It was a year before the couple were able to move back in. They were also left £100,000 out of pocket after being found to be underinsured on their contents insurance and thus had to cover some of the loss themselves.

Lincoln Crown Court were told by prosecutor James Puzey that Hickley was "incompetent to carry out this work and it was carried out incompetently. That led directly to an explosion which almost destroyed the property and caused serious injury to the householders." It was also revealed that he was not a registered Gas Safe engineer and failed to tell the couple this when he agreed to do the work. However he claims that he did not know he would be working on a gas pipe and as such never put himself forward as properly qualified.

Hickley has admitted to breaching the 1998 Gas Safety Regulations and performing work to an inappropriate standard. Recorder Helen Malcolm QC has adjourned the case to a future date when she will give her ruling on the case following these two days of evidence.

-----

Cases like this are a prime example of why having the right qualifications to do the job is vital. Simply having plumbing qualifications is not enough if you are potentially going to work with gas pipes, as not only are you breaking the law and could potentially face prosecution but you are also endangering the lives of your customers. If you train as a gas engineer, becoming Gas Safe Registered isn't just advised, it is essential proof that you are legally competent to work with gas pipes and gas appliances safely. If you are a plumber and would like to learn more about gas engineering, gaining the qualifications required to be eligable for Gas Safe registration, we at Access Training offer comprehensive gas courses to ensure you are fully trained. To find out more click the link or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

During your construction course you will learn to use many different materials as you prepare for your future career. As you can expect it is therefore important to know of any health and safety requirements when using these materials. Before 1972 the most common element used to insulate buildings was asbestos. Only much later did we find out that breathing this in could result in lung restrictive illnesses and even death.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was commonly used in buildings for insulation, including schools, offices and homes. Asbestos fibres are exceptionally strong and resistant to heat. It is usually found in ceiling tiles, flooring and pipes.

Asbestos only becomes a danger when it is disturbed, causing the fibres to become airborne. This is commonly referred to as friable asbestos (while intact asbestos is non-friable), and lungs are susceptible to breathing in the airborne fibres. Research has yet to determine a safe level of exposure, but one thing is for certain - the more prolonged the exposure, the greater the risk becomes for developing an asbestos related disease.

Asbestos related diseases

There are three diseases that are triggered by inhaling asbestos fibres: Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer. Asbestosis is caused when the fibres are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs. In response, the body tries to dissolve the fibres by producing an acid. While not destroying the fibres, the acid serves to scar the lung tissue. Eventually the scarring can become so severe that the lungs become unable to function. The time from exposure to the manifestation of asbestosis in most patients is between 25 to 40 years.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the outside tissue of the lungs. This cancer is solely linked to asbestos. The time from exposure to manifestation is from 15 to 35 years. Lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos, however the chances of development are greatly increased with smoking. The exposure to manifestation period is again around 15 to 35 years.

The risk of being exposed to asbestos is increased by the presence of construction. Work on ceilings and flooring can cause the asbestos to become friable. This is why non-friable asbestos is often recommended to be left intact and not removed. Asbestos does not just chip away or decompose; it must be physically disturbed to pose a threat to human health.

Asbestos is required to be removed, either before or during a construction project, or due to an accidental disturbance. Health & Safety Regulations require that certain precautions and procedures take place. These regulations aim to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken during an abatement procedure, and all health and safety precautions are taken.

So the answer to the question at the start of this post - how dangerous is asbestos? Very dangerous!

- Richard James