One of the most important parts of any good roofing course (or construction training course in general) is knowing what the right safety measures to put in place before you even begin. However unfortunately there are still companies out there that ignore this and eventually pay the penalties - 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 to 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 pleaded 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 of 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

With the planned building of millions of new homes across the UK well underway, many are also expecting a rise in new buyers over the next few years as Britain enjoys a well-needed construction boom. 

With this in mind, OFTEC - the group responsible for maintaining standards across the domestic oil heating and cooking industry, is offering some practical advice to those first-time buyers who may soon begin their search for the perfect home. This advice isn't just aimed at buyers of brand new homes either - it's especially geared toward those who may take on an existing home and not know what to look for in terms of their heating/hot water systems. Heating problems may be difficult to spot with the naked eye, especially to someone who hasn't done a plumbing training course or extensive gas training, but OFTEC offer these handy bits of advice to make sure you can walk into your new home with both buyer's satisfaction and peace of mind.

Be sure to check the boiler

Has it has had any problems in the past? When was the last time it was serviced? Boilers should be serviced annually for a number of reasons, mainly to make sure that is running efficiently and more importantly safely. If you are really unsure, it might be worth asking the current homeowner if you can have it looked at beforehand by a professional gas engineer.

Check the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

These give potential buyers valuable information about the property's typical energy usage and costs. An EPC grades the property’s energy efficiency from A to G and contains two particularly important areas - current features and recommendations for improving the home. The current features section lists the most significant energy-related features of the property and gives them a star rating based on cost. The recommendations give more information about each energy efficiency measure recommended and explains in general terms how it would improve the energy efficiency of the home.

How much do you know about the hot water system?

How is it heated? It might be worth checking the water pressure to make sure it is all up to scratch.

Know the warning signs

Occurances such as stained/smoke damaged areas around the boiler and flue are not to be ignored and should be treated VERY seriously. If any properties you view have these, make sure that a registered gas safe engineer doesn't just look at them for your safety - but also for the safety of the current homeowners. Other telltale signs of bad maintenance include leaks and staining on carpets near radiators.

Getting the house properly checked

OFTEC recommend getting valuations, an RICS homebuyer’s report or even a full structural survey. The valuation carried out by a mortgage company is not a survey, and will not inform you if there are any defects that materially affect the property’s value.

 

However the most important thing OFTEC recommend is trusting your instinct. if you think there is something wrong with the property, then don't just discard those feelings. However if you get a good feeling this may be the house for you - minor problems can easily fixed by competent tradespeople, but be sure to make sure the costs aren't racking up before you've even moved in!

Fire service data indicates that over 20% of domestic fires are caused by electrical faults, with this figure increasing during the festive season.

As the festive season fast approaches, some of you will be planning your part in the annual “Battle of the Illuminations” with your neighbours. This year you will want more lights, bigger, brighter, and more colourful for a more dynamic display that will make people stare in amazement.

All of your socket outlets will be put to use, many with multi-way extension leads attached. Will you be checking to see if your installation can safely cope with the extra load? No! Don’t be daft its Christmas, it will be ok!

Will you check the lights to make sure that they are safe to use?

  • Are they the correct type of lights for use outdoors?
  • Are the flex, plug and leads un-damaged?
  • Are the plugs fitted correctly and do they contain the right fuse (usually 3Amp)?
  • Are all the lamps the correct rating (voltage, wattage)?

Or shall we just trust to luck?

Then on one December evening your home becomes the focus of everyone in the neighbourhood. People from all over, standing wrapped in coats and scarves watching the awesome display that is before their eyes. A myriad of multicolour flashing lights illuminating jets and sprays of water as the local fire service battle to save your home!

One small spark is all it takes to start a devastating fire, do yourself (and your family) a favour this Christmas – check your lights (or get a qualified electrician to check then) before you put them up and use RCD’s to protect each ‘string’. A small price to pay to have a Merry Christmas with your family– in your own home!

Season’s Greetings,

- Mark Jenkins.

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here at Access Training. If you would like to take the steps to become a professional electrician, our electrical training courses are the fastest and most effective way to build up the skills you need and gain the necessary qualifications for a prosperous career in the industry. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

December may not seem like the most suitable time to be studying on a trades training course to become a professional tradesman, but the truth is these winter months are actually when plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, bricklayers and roofers are needed more than ever. With the end of the year just around the corner and the cold weather homing in on Britain, government-endorsed standards group Trustmark is warning owners to ensure that their homes are fully prepared before the harsh season hits.

Trustmark have already noted a rise in tradesperson viewings on their online database during October, which saw an a 36% increase in comparison to 2012. Across the trades roofers (32%), plumbers/heating engineers (35%) and electricians (20%) were the ones to see the biggest rise, and with heavy snow forecast until May 2014, these professionals are going to be needed more than ever.

Below is a list of quick spot checks Trustmark recommend doing to help reduce the risk of the winter weather causing damage to your home:

  • Most importantly, you should get your boiler and central heating checked/serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer. By making sure your boiler is in peak condition, it will burn far more efficiently - meaning it'll use less fuel AND be warmer. Checking your boiler/central heating also means that if there is any serious problems, you'll be avoiding any tragedy that could happen.

  • Make sure your insulation is in good quality. Not just your loft, but also look into lag pipes, water tanks and draught excluders.

  • Clean out gutters and outlets of any leaves and debris, followed by checking for any leaks or damage.

  • Look out for any damaged or loose tiles on your roof (from ground level to ensure your safety). Leap an eye out for any leaks or condensation appearing on the ceiling.

  • Make sure no exterior walls have any cracked, loose or missing pointing. If they do, be sure to get it fixed before water can get into it.

They also highly recommend keeping a useful list of phone numbers of tradespeople in your area just in case of an emergency - plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, roofers, carpenters...whoever you might need if a problem should arise.

So if you're a tradesperson yourself, be prepared for your work to be more crucial to homeowners than ever - you never know when you're going to be needed. Alternatively, if you're looking to start a new career as a fully-qualified tradesperson now could be the perfect time to start. An intensive course from Access Training Academies can have you up and qualified in a matter of weeks - just in time to help those in need. To find out more about our range of courses, including plumbing, gas, electric and various construction trades, please give our advisers a call on 0800 345 7492.

The last few days have been a reminder that winter is well and truly here, with the temperature dropping and the country getting its first innings of both frost and snow. Even with energy bills on the rise, it's important to keep warm during this time of the year and make sure that your heating system is working properly. According to Government statistics, the 2012-13 winter period saw the largest excess mortality rate since 2008-09, with deaths coinciding with influenza, RSV and the cold weather.

The run-up to Christmas can be a busy time for plumbers and gas engineers, with consumers coming with all kinds of problems including broken down boilers and frozen pipes. For the tradespeople reading this it'll be good for business, but for the rest of us here is a few pieces of advice to keep away any unwanted costs as well as making sure your home stays warm.

The UK had a pretty good summer this year so it's likely that you haven't turned the heating on for a while, so it'll be good practice to check it regularly to make sure it's all in working order. Suddenly starting it up in a cold snap could result in it freezing up and potentially breaking down. Regular boiler checks by a professional plumber and gas engineer are important and should be done once a year, including servicing according to the manufacturer's instructions. Not doing so not only puts you at risk of forking out for repair costs, but in the case of gas boilers also puts you and your family at risk of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Another handy tip is to bleed your radiators. If you can feel cold patches on them it may be due to some air trapped inside that's blocking the system. It's easy to do and won't require the help of a plumber, but should that fail it might be blocked with something else. In this case the radiator might need a chemical flush and you will require a Gas Safe engineer to get the job done.

Most importantly, and this really goes for any sort of DIY maintenance work - KNOW YOUR LIMITS! If there's something you know that you can't do, don't try and do a botched job of it anyway as you'll end up having to pay even more to get it repaired properly.

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With plumbers and gas engineers needed more than ever during these winter months, now if the perfect time to qualify as a plumber and/or gas engineer with an intensive Access Training course. We not only offer comprehensive training for beginners, but also ACS reassessment to those needing to give their qualifications an update. To find out more contact one of our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness week will be happening between the 18th and 24th of November and industry regulation OFTEC has joined in to urge homeowners to get their boilers checked by a registed technician before the cold winter months arrive in full.

While most associate carbon monoxide poisoning with faulty gas appliances (which received their own focus at the end of September as part of Gas Safety Week), the truth is all fossil fuels can give off the gas. According to statistics from the Department of Health, carbon monoxide poisoning is responible for more than 50 death and 4,000 people being admitted to A7E in the UK every year.

Malcolm Farrow, of OFTEC, comments: "The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is significantly lower with oil-fired central heating but consumers should not be complacent. The key message is that in order to save lives, consumers should have their boilers checked annually by an OFTEC registered technician to make sure they are working properly. We also recommend homeowners install a carbon monoxide detector in their home.

"This is an important issue which we stress to our customers all year round. We want to do all we can to support national Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week and view a carbon monoxide detector as just as important to people’s safety as a smoke alarm – they really do save lives."

More information on carbon monoxide poisoning can be found at www.oilsave.co.uk or by phoning OFTEC on 0845 65 85 080.

Via Installer Magazine

A warning to homeowners of the risks involved in do-it-yourself electrical installations.

Napoleon once referred to Britain as 'a nation of shopkeepers'. Probably not true in modern society, but we still certainly a nation of something - do-it-yourselfers.

More and more people are willing to have a go at things they may have once thought impossible, taking regular visits to the local DIY shop to get parts for little jobs here and there or even working toward bigger projects such as renovating a room or building a conservatory. However, when it comes to plumbing, gas and electrical jobs, such concerns are better left to the professionals. Meaning those certified to carry out the work.

Jobs for an electrician

A homeowner can legally undertake basic electrical jobs themselves, such as installing an additional socket/light or connecting a cooker to an existing connection unit, but not much more than that. Anything more complicated like installing a new shower circuit or a new cooker circuit, legally requires a qualified electrician. If you have any DIY plans that require electrical work, it's always best to check what you are legally able to do before starting.

If you have any doubts on the legality or your capability to do the job safely in the first place, do NOT attempt it yourself and instead seek out the help of a qualified professional. Not only will you be ensuring that the job is done safely and properly, but you'll be saving yourself money in the long run. Hiring an electrician to fix a botched job usually ends up costing more than getting one out to do the job in the first place.

Building Regulations

District councils have responsibility for ensuring that any building works meet the national Building Regulations for efficiency, safety, design and disabled access. Building Regulations must be obtained from the local council before any structural alteration is made to a home. Such regulations are easier to obtain if the homeowner can prove they are going to be using a qualified electrician to undertake the work.

Part P qualified

A Part P qualified electrician is one who is able to sign off their own work in domestic properties. If they aren't qualified, then they'll have to approach the local authority building control to approve their work. This is something that all homeowners should bear in mind when they are looking to hire a qualified electrician.

Risks

It doesn't take much for electricity to kill. Forget numbers like 10,000 volts, the 230 volt domestic supply running through your home is more than enough. Our bodies use electrical signals to control our organs and any excess voltage will interfere with these, causing hearts and lungs to stop functioning and eventually death. Poorly installed electrics can very easily also start fires, resulting in home owners losing everything when their houses are burnt to the ground because of some faulty wiring. And if that work goes against building regulations, you may find the property is not insured and the insurance company is not legally obliged to reimburse them. On average, around 30 people die each year due to low voltage electrocutions and electrical burns. In addition, two and a half million people will receive a mains voltage electric shock every year, and 350,000 will receive a serious injury. Another 46 will die each year as an indirect result of faulty electrical wiring or the poor installation of electrical equipment.

Differing standards

The majority of contractors in the UK are reliable and are certified as such. To become a qualified electrician takes between three and five years of study. Some contractors may however pass themselves off as qualified, citing qualifications obtained in other EU countries. However, the standards in wiring differs across both the EU and the rest of the world, so what qualifies as a qualified electrician in one country is unlikely to be anywhere near the standard required in the UK.

Registers

To find an electrical contractor to undertake domestic tasks, the best place to start is often a register such as the Electrical Safety Register at www.electricalsafetyregister.com. Electricians who register with the Electrical Safety Register must meet a very high industry standard, which means that consumers who use an ESR registered contractor are guaranteed an exceptionally high standard of work. In addition, all work carried out by Electrical Safety Register contractors is guaranteed. Any deficiencies in the work carried out are resolved at no extra cost.

Kick out the Cowboys

Electricians with fake qualifications performing sub-standard work is a continuing problem in Britain. Despite their poor (and often dangerous) results, such workmen still expect to be paid for their work and can get heavy handed if refused, especially against the vulnerable. 
In an effort to show up shoddy workmanship, electrical wholesalers Gil-Lec has set up a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #KickOutCowboys. Anyone who provided poor electrical work can be named and shamed via the Twitter campaign. Twitter users are encouraged to post photographs of poor electrical work, coupled with the name of the individual or company who performed the work.

Via Electrical Contracting News

- Mark Jenkins

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Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here 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.

The results are in from the Health & Safety Executive's month-long tour of construction sites and its not looking good.

Over September the HSE visited a total of 2607 construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place, and found that safety standards were not being met on 1105 sites - that's nearly half of the total amount!

This news doesn't come as a big surprise when you consider the earlier photos the HSE released of some of the sites they visited (which can be seen here and here), but on 644 sites practices were so poor that enforcement action was needed to protect workers. 539 prohibition notices were served ordering "dangerous activities to stop immediately", while a further 414 improvement notices were issued to order a rise in standards. The most common problems identified included failing to protect workers during activities at height, exposure to harmful dust and inadequate welfare facilities.

Heather Bryant, HSE's Chief Inspector of Construction said: "It is disappointing to find a significant number of sites falling below acceptable health and safety standards, where our inspectors encountered poor practice this often went hand in hand with a lack of understanding.

"Through initiatives like this we are able to tackle underlying issues before they become established and we will continue to work with the industry in an effort to drive up standards.

"However those who recklessly endanger the health and lives of their workforce can expect to face tough consequences."

Via Construction Enquirer

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.

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