The accessories we buy may not be what they seem. Counterfeiting is big business, it is estimated that 10% of all world trade is counterfeit! In the UK that amounts to £30m of counterfeit electrical goods enter the supply chain.

Since 2000 15 million counterfeit products have been seized, mainly circuit breakers and wiring accessories. The vast majority of these counterfeit goods come from China, but some have been found to originate in Dubai and East Africa.

Counterfeit items are hard to spot, they may carry a well-known brand name and all the certification markings, the biggest difference may be the price! The items will not have under gone any form of testing, and they will not meet the required BS standards.

See the full article in Electrical Contracting News.

- Mark Jenkins

 

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.

Via Construction Enquirer

We mentioned earlier this month that the Health & Safety executive would be taking a tour of building sites across the UK to catch out any that had "less than adequate" facilities. No more than a few weeks later, their inspections have produced some rather shocking results.

So far their tour, which runs from the 2nd September until the 27th, has revealed that nearly half the sites they have visited have some sort of safety failings. Out of a total of 1000 sites, that's a very high number. Many of them had also been issued with enforcement notices.

 UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) General Secretary Steve Murphy said: "These figures demonstrate the dangers faced by construction workers on a daily basis.

"While these initiatives by the HSE are very welcome, inspectors are only visiting a small percentage of all the construction sites in the country.

"These findings demonstrate why the HSE needs more resources to conduct this type of inspection in all parts of the country throughout the year."

Below you can see some pictures of some of the sites they visited:

A prohibition noticed was served on this extension work after exposed scaffolding was found, putting workers at risk from falling through on to the building works.

 

An improvement notice was served here as site management fell below safe standards.

 

Unsafe excavation work here led to a Prohibition notice.

 

Is this the kind of hygiene facilities you should be finding on a construction site?

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Are you looking to switch careers and join the construction industry as a carpenter, bricklayer, plasterer, tiler or decorator? Not sure where you can get the qualifications to join this exciting, challenging and rewarding sector? An Access Academies training course could change your life. With the help of our expert teaching staff, you'll work through an intensive construction course that gets you the required qualifications to become a professional tradesman. To find out more, have a look at the courses pages on this website or contact us on 0800 345 7492.

This week the British Lung Foundation is launching a new campaign "Take 5 and Stay Alive" to promote awareness of the dangers of asbestos, particularly among tradespeople who may be dealing with it every day.

According to official statistics, on average six electricians, four plumbers and eight joiners in UK die from asbestos exposure every week - making it the single greatest cause of work-related deaths. Though the use of the material was banned in 2000, any building made before then may contain it as it was commonly used as insulation. While undisturbed asbestos is relatively harmless, when disturbed the fibres can become airborne. When inhaled, asbestos fibres can cause a range of illnesses - including the terminal chest cancer mesothelioma. The tiny invisible particles stick to clothes, meaning that as well as risking their own lives, workers can be unknowingly putting their family members, colleagues and friends at risk.

The "Take 5 and Stay Alive" campaign aims to ensure tradespeople have the knowledge to identify asbestos and what type it is, with them then being able to assess correctly whether they have the right training and equipment to deal with it safely.

British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said:

"Twice as many people die from asbestos-related illnesses than on the roads each year in Britain. It's the biggest work-related killer, and the numbers of deaths associated with it are rising each year.  Sole traders and people working for small companies are often under particular pressure to take jobs and deliver quickly, and this can sometimes put them at particular risk of asbestos exposure.

"But it's not just tradespeople putting their own lives at risk. If asbestos is disturbed the particles can affect others too, and we know several women who have died after years of washing their husbands' contaminated overalls.

"Our Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign aims to give tradespeople the tools to act responsibly. We want to ensure they can identify asbestos wherever and in whatever form it might be present, and know how to deal with it safely. Our message is simple - taking just five minutes to assess the situation could save your life, and keep your family, friends, clients and business safe from exposure to potentially fatal asbestos dust."

More information on Take 5 and Stay Alive can be found on their website, which contains plenty of information about the different types of asbestos, where it can be found and the illnesses it can cause.

In addition to this campaign, former electrician Alan North has uploaded a video to YouTube describing his experiences after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma earlier this year. While this is unaffiliated with the BLF's work, it shares the same message about the dangers of mishandling asbestos. You can view the video HERE.

It wouldn't be right to support Gas Safety Week without taking some time to talk about who set up the campaign - The Gas Safe Register. If you've been reading our posts you'll already know that joining the Gas Safe Register is a legal requirement of all gas engineers if they want to work on gas installations and appliances in the UK, but what else do you know about them?

The Gas Safe Register is the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey and was appointed by the relevant Health and Safety Authority for each area. It replaced CORGI as the gas registration body in Great Britain and Isle of Man on the 1st April 2009 and Northern Ireland and Guernsey on the same date the following year.

The main focus of the Gas Safe Register is improving and maintaining gas safety to the highest standards, however its utmost priority is keeping you and your family safe. Their team make sure all gas engineers on the Register (totalling over 125,000) are fully qualified to work with gas. It works to protect the public from unsafe gas work through a number of different means, including;

  • A dedicated national investigations team tracking down individuals working illegally
  • Regular inspections of Gas Safe registered engineers
  • Educating consumers and raising awareness of gas safety
  • Investigating reports of unsafe gas work 

The Gas Safe Register highly advise that you always find an engineer that is part of the register. You can check this by asking to see their Gas Safe ID card, which will contain a unique license number. The front of the card will also display these important details:

  • The engineer's photo
  • The start and expiry dates
  • A security hologram
  • That engineer is from the business you employed

Meanwhile, the back of the card will also have printed on it whether that engineer is qualified to do the work you've hired him for and whether these qualifications are up to date. Should that fail, you can also check online or phone the Register on 0800 408 5500. This number is also the one to call if you suspect a fraudulent gas engineer.

How do I apply for a Gas Safe ID card?

First, you need to submit the name, address, phone number and trading title of your business to the Gas Safe Register. Then, you'll need to provide your National Insurance number and the National Insurance numbers of any engineers working for you. Once you've paid for your Gas Safe Id card, and the necessary checks have been done, it will be sent out to you.

What are the Gas Safe ID card categories?

Depending on what level of qualification you have, your Gas Safe Id card will show one of two categories, domestic or commercial work. This indicates the type of work that you're qualified to do. If you've got a gas engineer attending your property, but you're not sure if they're qualified for the domestic or commercial work at hand, you can ask to see their Gas Safe ID card to check this.

Can the gas safe register review gas work?

If you feel that gas work carried out at your home is unsafe, you can raise your concerns with the Gas Safe Register directly. They will record the problem and can even arrange an investigation of the problem. Once the investigation has been done, a report can be sent to you and your gas engineer so that any problems can be dealt with appropriately.

If you're unsure how to find a Gas Safe Registered engineer in your area, you can also contact the Gas Safe Register for their recommendations. They can highlight gas engineers and professionals in your local area that may be able to carry out a service for you.

So there you have it, a little bit more about the Gas Safe Register and what it does. If you need gas work done always be sure to check your engineer is registered, and if you're a register remember that being part of it is a legal requirement!

To mark Gas Safety Week, Access Training are offering 20% off our professional gas course from now until the end of September. To take advantage of this offer all you need to do is quote "GASWEEK" when speaking to one of our course advisors. You can contact them on 0800 345 7492.

Towards the end of August the Electrical Safety Council revealed that DIY errors are the cause of almost half of all serious electrical shocks in UK homes.

Their survey, which took results from both electricians and consumers, found that many DIYers in fact CAN'T do it themselves and are in fact causing themselves extensive and expensive repairs that need to be done by a professional electrician. And that's if they're lucky - they're also risking both their lives and their family's lives.

These over-confident "Dive-in" DIYers are not only attempting simple jobs either, as one in five respondants without any form of electrical training said that they were confident enough to try their hand at installing new lights. One in ten even said they'd even have a go at new wiring!

So where is this added sense of bravado coming from? Well it's partly coming from relying on the advice of friends and family, who usually aren't electrically qualified themselves (over half surveyed admitted to this) but there's also another source - the internet. Two fifths said they happily turn to Google for advice, using "how-to" video guides from YouTube rather than getting proper training or calling in a professional.

But even with this factors considered, it usually comes down to the stereotypical male bravado. two fifths of men say they feel a responsibility to do electrical and DIY jobs, and almost half of all men are likely to try a job themselves or ask a mate, before seeking help from a professional.

In addition to these facts 2,000 electricians from across the country were asked about their experiences and the results were equally as alarming. 82% said repairing failed DIY efforts costs the homeowner more overall in the long run. Even worse, one third said they had seen or been involved with fixing DIY which had resulted in fires, serious electric shock or serious financial cost to repair.

Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council, said: “As budgets continue to be stretched, many people will look for the easy solution but we have found this can often be more costly in the long term and can also pose severe risks. There is a lot of good advice out there on how to go about tasks safely but you must make sure the advice you take is reputable. For the small tasks that you are not sure of and for all the major jobs, my message is DDIY – Don’t Do It Yourself – get a professional in. You can find a registered electrician in your area by searching the Electrical Safety Register.”

DDIY even has some minor celebrity backing in the form of former Changing Rooms DIY expert Andy Kane (aka "Handy Andy"). He said: He said: “I’m well known for my DIY skills and love getting stuck into a good project. But when it comes to electrical DIY I always get professional advice and help. I don’t think it’s unmanly to want peace of mind for yourself and your family. Even when you are carrying out simple DIY jobs like putting up pictures, it’s important to be aware of the potential danger electricity presents in the home.”

So next time you're thinking of installing some new kitchen lights or doing a bit of rewiring, stop and think whether it's really in your ability to do that. Either swallow your pride and get a professional electrician to do the job properly, or consider getting real electrician training so you can do it yourself with REAL confidence. As well as offering training courses to those looking to become a professional electrician, Access Training can also give DIY enthusiasts the knowledge, skills and qualifications they need to do extensive home rennovating. To find out more visit our courses page or call us on 0800 345 7492.

It looks like the Gas Safe Register aren't the only ones calling for safety awareness this month.

Following (but unrelated to) yesterday's news of the Health & Safety Executive cracking down on a Bolton building firm's unsafe scaffolding, HSE inspectors have announced that they are launching a month-long safety campaign on smaller reburbishment jobs across Britain.

Unannounced inspections will take place on sites where refurbishment or repair works are underway, focusing on working at height and work which could expose builders to harmful dusts. However their inspections will also take a look at whether adequate welfare facilities such as toilets and handwashing facilities have been provided.

Heather Bryant, HSE Chief Inspector of Construction, said: “Too many people die or are seriously injured every year on Britain’s construction sites as a result of entirely avoidable incidents.

“Just as importantly, workers are unnecessarily being exposed to serious health risks, such as asbestos or silica dust, which can have fatal or debilitating consequences.

“Often we find it is smaller companies working on refurbishment and repair work who are failing to protect their workers through a lack of awareness and poor control of risks.

“This initiative provides a chance to engage with these firms to help them understand what they need to do, so they can put in place the practical measures needed to keep people safe. “However, let me be clear – if we find evidence that workers are being unnecessarily and irresponsibly put at risk we will not hesitate to take robust action. Companies who deliberately cut corners can expect to feel the full weight of the law.”

Via Construction Enquirer

 

Are you looking to switch careers and join the construction industry as a carpenter, bricklayer, plasterer, tiler or decorator? Not sure where you can get the qualifications to join this exciting, challenging and rewarding sector? An Access Training course could change your life. With the help of our expert teaching staff, you'll work through an intensive construction course that gets you the required qualifications to become a professional tradesman. To find out more, have a look at the courses pages on this website or contact us 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.

 

As of the 1st July 2013, all bathroom products covered by Harmonised European Standards will be required to have the familiar marking pictured above fixed to them or their packaging.

This comes with the introduction of new legislation from the CPR (Construction Products Regulation) that will be in place throughout Europe. These changes are mandatory and failure to comply could lead to an up to three months prison sentence and/or a fine of £5,000 per incident. Products will also need to bear a type, batch or serial number, with technical documentation being retained for a period of ten years after the product has been sold.

While the CE mark is NOT a quality mark it does however indicate that the product is fit for its puporse. It is a key indicator of compliance with European legislation and enables it free movement throughout the European market.

Chris Taylor-Hamlin, technical director of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, said: 

"It’s a serious issue. Fortunately members of the BMA have been fully informed, through our technical committees, for over 12 months about the requirements of the new Regulations and have been able to plan changes to their inventory - it’s one of the many advantages of membership. But we have heard of some horror stories of suppliers who have been blissfully ignorant of the changes and are now having to spend thousands having their products tested and relabelled. It’s hit their bottom line.

"CE marking is a necessary burden. It outlaws non-compliant products, and highlights those suppliers who have no infrastructure for recording keeping and batch marking. These new regs mark a major step change in our industry."

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

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