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

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!

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