Health and Safety cannot become ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in the hybrid working environment

Malcolm Tullett, Founder of health and safety consultancy Risk and Safety Plus, looks at how the coronavirus pandemic has affected how we work and looks at what line managers and employers should be doing to help hybrid workers.

Malcolm Tullett

For many of us, working life as we knew it may never return to the pre-COVID ‘normal’ and whether you are an employer or employee, a new, different workplace will need to be navigated.

The big questions about who, when and how to bring staff back to the workplace need careful and sensitive consideration and are already challenging the skills of many line managers, employers and business owners.

During the coronavirus pandemic, employers’ health and safety obligations remained the same and in place for staff irrespective of their work location. Individual assessments should have been carried out for all remote workers to make sure their ‘home’ environment was safe and appropriate for the duties and tasks they needed to perform, with regular contact and check ins agreed and implemented too.

Organisations adapted and prioritised how to manage their businesses and staff, both on-site and remotely, but with restrictions lifting and furlough ending, a lack of care within duty of care responsibilities may well prove costly.

It is likely that a hybrid work model will be the workplace of the future, with managers needing to adopt a more individual, empathetic and flexible approach to every staff member. Any ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality will need to be replaced with an ‘out of sight, mindful’ mentality. Line managers may well need additional training to ensure they have the right skills and methods to effectively support the wellbeing of their teams whilst also protecting staff performance and productivity for the business.

Safety and health practitioners have a huge part to play in this COVID bounce-back era and could be the driving force for replacing the duty of care tick box mentality with a more intuitive and empathic care management system.

Health and safety practitioners are uniquely placed to use their skills, experiences, training and instincts to help their clients and employers prioritise staff wellbeing, which is essential to keeping people and property safe. Whilst it may seem ‘safer’ to keep some staff working from home to avoid exposure to possible COVID infection, that should not be the sole or top consideration. Enabling clients and employers to carry out the appropriate risk assessments regarding staff members’ health and safety either at work or at home will help them make informed decisions.

Individual staff needs and circumstances need to be considered alongside data and external factors and should not exclude a manager’s own gut feeling. It is essential that the ‘care’ element of the duty of care is properly in place.

Regular and effective communications are vital to hybrid working models and its essential to find ways to keep strong cohesion within work teams. If someone is not in sight, and working remotely, they may well need more management support and time – not less!

Prior to COVID, loneliness and isolation were recognised as contributors to mental health issues such as depression and often attributed to older people. COVID restrictions have shown that isolation and loneliness can hit anyone irrespective of age and circumstances and that it will certainly impact on staff efficiency and productivity, not to mention possible increases in lost working days.

So, has hybrid working changed how health and safety practitioners approach clients?

We do have room to be optimistic about the new developments. As a health and safety professional, I have always tried to find solutions for my clients by consciously looking at their issues and requirements through their eyes and then balancing that with the regulations and health and safety objectives.

It also means that my own company, has seen the need to add new products, transform existing service offerings and recruit additional expertise. We do the heavy lifting for clients by offering a complete and comprehensive solution to all their needs. It’s important to remain fully compliant when rules and regulations are under constant review and often change with little notice. But providing exceptional and adaptable health and safety services takes much more than that. Health and safety is highly regulated and rightly so, but COVID has introduced additional burdens to managers and employers which require a response that goes beyond simply meeting those rules.

During the last 18 months, my business has seen a greater demand for HR support and expertise and indeed, health and safety organisations seem to be playing a significant part in wellbeing education and implementation. The evolving role of health and safety professionals in this hybrid and ‘new different’ is very exciting and we all need to embrace it for the benefit of our clients, employers and the sector in general.


About the author

Malcolm Tullett is a seasoned Health and Safety expert with over 25 years of experience advising Principal and Senior Managers about health and safety. With a background working in the London Fire Brigade, and as the founder of health and safety consultancy Risk and Safety Plus, he is well versed in helping organisations adapt the art of caring into health and safety processes, extending it beyond the basic compliance. His recently released ‘Risk It’, a comprehensive guide to helping anyone with a duty of care for people and property use their intuition to revolutionise risk taking and health and safety practices.

Source: SHP Online

Suicides among unskilled workers rose in 2020

There was an increase in suicides among unskilled construction occupations in 2020, according to new data for England published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Within elementary construction roles, 94 people died by suicide, the highest level for a decade. Similarly, a 10-year peak was seen for suicides within construction operatives, with 59 deaths recorded.

This contrasted with a decline in suicides among skilled construction workers, which fell to 276 in 2020, down from 302 suicides in 2019. Despite the decline, skilled construction and building trades continued to trend as the highest sector of deaths among the ONS’s categorisations of occupations.

New Foundation Employee Counselling chief executive Marc Preston said that the message of mental health awareness reached the tier one firms, but did not penetrate the majority of the construction world and the masses of supply chains that supported it. The former quantity surveyor-turned psychotherapist said: “Tier one companies seem to grasp the nettle, and seem to be having quite good mental health policies, access to counselling, giving some good support. But there’s a limited number of people that work for tier one [firms]. The construction industry is made of tier fours and fives.”

He added that, while the tier one companies employed white collar workers, the supply chain ran deep. He emphasised the need for project-based counselling that covered the subcontractors who are going in and out of the site.

Research carried out by the Glasgow Caledonian University, commissioned by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity, found that rates have been steadily climbing in recent years, rising from 26 per 100,000 in 2015 to 29 per 100,000 in 2019. Lighthouse chief executive Bill Hill said at the time that manual workers operating as sole traders could be a factor in the rise: “It is worrying that our support is not reaching the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ workforce,” he said.

Bam Construct released a new video this week that aims to raise awareness and understanding of suicide risks in construction. The company noted that the construction industry continues to see a disproportionately high number of suicides each year, and said the video has been released “as a free resource to highlight the issue and provide guidance for anybody affected”. It has been made available ahead of today’s World Suicide Prevention Day.

Source: Construction News

Mental Health Awareness

Our one day course provides delegates with the knowledge, confidence, and ability to identify and support colleagues experiencing mental health issues. And importantly, direct them to suitable professional and non-professional sources of help.

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Occupational Health

Our Occupational Health training programme has been developed to help ensure construction companies become and remain compliant with UK legislation.

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Helpline

The Lighthouse Construction Industry Helpline can be called for free 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0345 605 1956 in the UK, or 1800 939 122 in the Republic of Ireland.
Lighthouse also has a free app where workers can access information that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

Construction activity slows as costs continue to rise

Construction activity slowed in August, as the tight availability of materials affected the volume of work, the latest IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index shows.

The index posted a score of 55.2 in August, down from 58.7 in July. A reading above 50 indicates work levels are still increasing, but August’s reading was the lowest since February.

New work that had been delayed due to Brexit and the pandemic was started during the month, but survey respondents said clients’ confidence had been dampened by limited material availability and inflation volatility. Two-thirds of respondents said delivery times increased in August compared with July.

Hiring also slowed to its lowest level in four months, as firms struggled to meet rising labour costs.

Overall cost inflation increased in August and hit its second-highest level on record, surpassed only by the rate seen in June.

Gareth Belsham, director of property consultancy Naismiths, said the industry was “becoming a victim of its own success”.

“Soaring prices of key building materials, not to mention patchy availability and lengthy delays, have forced some construction firms to admit to clients that they simply cannot keep up with demand for building projects,” he said. Buyers reported that problems with transport and freight availability were compounding existing material delivery problems.

Civil engineering saw the slowest growth for the fourth month in a row, scoring 54.8. Commercial construction was the best-performing category, at 56, although this was the slowest rate of expansion for six months. Housebuilding recorded a rating of 55.

Despite the overall slowdown in growth and ongoing cost inflation, construction companies remained “highly upbeat” about their prospects for the coming 12 months, according to the survey. The positive sentiment was underpinned by expectations of more new work hitting the market in the months ahead.

Beard Construction finance director Fraser Johns said the current volatility made good supply chain relationships even more important. “It puts real emphasis once again on relations with supply chains – ensuring prompt payment, for example – and requires a proactive approach in terms of multi-stage procurement and working more closely with customers to keep them well informed about the situation,” he said.

“We don’t look to be turning a corner any time soon on the supply crisis, so it’s key for the industry to pull together and collaborate right through the supply chain to try to lessen the impact of these issues.”

Surveyors have forecast material prices could rise another 10 per cent over the next year.

Source: Construction News

Housing minister: ‘Construction must drive for better quality and safer buildings’

Housing minister Eddie Hughes is an enthusiastic member of the CIOB and believes the institute has a vital role at a time of rapid change for construction. Will Mann caught up with him.

Eddie Hughes has an anecdote about housing quality which arguably sums up many of the problems that have plagued the industry recently.

“Not long after joining parliament,” recalls the housing minister and Walsall North MP, “I was chatting with then CIOB CEO Chris Blythe, and he showed me photos of his daughter’s new-build flat. There was a carbon monoxide detector in it – but in the wrong place, the hall not the kitchen. And this struck a chord with me because I had just introduced a private member’s bill, pushing for carbon monoxide alarms to be mandatory in new homes.

“At Chris’s daughter’s flat, the site manager had ticked the box by installing it – but may not have known that it was serving no useful purpose. This feels like a metaphor for some of the things that have gone wrong in the construction industry due to dreadful quality assurance.”

Hughes will be addressing these issues and plenty more following his appointment in January as minister for housing and rough sleeping. His background – he is a CIOB member, worked in social housing and chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment – made him an obvious candidate for the role. Since arriving in Westminster, he has been in regular contact with the CIOB and says the institute deserves great credit for “the work it has done to raise quality standards”.

Consumer guarantees

Among his key ministerial responsibilities are the New Homes Quality Board and the New Homes Ombudsman. Provision for the ombudsman will be introduced through the Building Safety Bill. 

“Developers have not paid enough attention to quality, or they have cut corners, or individual trades have,” says Hughes bluntly. “That’s one side of the problem.

“The other side is consumer rights. If you buy a new home, you should have the same kind of guarantee as when you buy something like a kettle. When people buy a new home, they’ve got a certificate that seems to offer a degree of assurance – but that can be false. People feel like they have more rights of redress than they actually do.

“This is where the New Homes Quality Board and the ombudsman come in.”

The board was set up earlier this year and in June launched a consultation on its quality code. Developers signing up to the code will have to offer homebuyers greater protection, including an effective aftercare service to deal with any snagging problems customers may have. If buyers are not satisfied, they can refer their complaint to the voluntary ombudsman being set up by the board.

In addition, legislation is continuing its passage through parliament.  The Building Safety Bill includes provision for the ombudsman scheme which will, in future, be a legal requirement for developers to join. The ombudsman will investigate and determine complaints and require developers to provide redress where complaints are well founded.  Developers may receive sanctions where they breach the requirement to be a member of the scheme when they build and sell new homes. 

“It’s important that people can buy a new home and have some faith in the quality of workmanship and know there is the opportunity for redress,” says Hughes.

“Developers will have to sign up to the code, which sets standards for their behaviour and the quality of product they deliver. From the consultation on the quality code, I think the housebuilding sector is enthusiastic about this. Those builders who are currently producing a quality product feel maligned by those who are not.”

Driving up standards

And for developers who continue to deliver an inferior product, are there sanctions available?

“If you are a developer persistently not meeting those standards you’d signed up for, your ability to develop would be restricted,” answers Hughes.

“But the purpose of the ombudsman is not about enforcement, it is about driving up standards,” he continues. “And I feel that when developers know all of their peers have signed up to this code, they will feel more pressure to comply.

“And there is a financial imperative here too, because if they get things right in the first place they won’t have go back and fix them later.”

Making the Building Safety Bill law is only “a first step towards implementation”, Hughes notes, with secondary legislation to follow.

“It will be important the industry embraces the changes put in place through the legislation,” he says. “And I see organisations like the CIOB at the forefront of that. Every construction professional needs to be aware of the legislation and the drive for better quality and safer buildings for people to occupy in the future.”

Also part of Hughes’s brief is the Social Housing White Paper, which aims to give residents a greater voice, including on building work.

“Previously, housing repairs would involve a relationship between a few people at the registered provider and the construction company,” says Hughes. “Now everything has to track back to the tenant. They should have the opportunity to input whenever construction or refurbishment touches their lives. For new-build homes, that will include involvement in design, layout, choice of materials.

“We also want tenants to have better information on the performance of the people who
carry out maintenance and repairs to their homes; tenants should expect anyone working in their home to treat them with respect. As a private homeowner would expect of any tradesperson in their home.”

Do these softer communication skills come naturally for construction professionals?

“No!” replies Hughes with a laugh. “I say that as a civil engineer, by training. We naturally see construction as a series of problems to be solved rather than thinking about what’s going to happen to the product once we’ve left. The process needs to be made more personable.”

Changes in the industry

Social housing has been one of Hughes’s passions, though he entered the sector almost by accident. He graduated in civil engineering in 1992, during a full-blown recession, when none of the major construction companies were recruiting.

“There was a housing site near where my folks lived in Birmingham, and I literally walked on to the site and asked ‘Have you got any jobs going?’” Hughes recalls. “There was a theodolite set up and a guy said, ‘Can you operate that?’, and I said ‘I certainly can’. He said, ‘Come back tomorrow then’.”

He went on to become chair of Walsall Housing Group and describes his work as construction director at the YMCA Birmingham – overseeing the building of 34 homes, a sports hall and conference centre – as the professional achievement which gives him the most pride.

Hughes has seen “massive change” during his time in the industry, noting “attention to safety on site is now paramount”, but feels it remains behind in other areas: “Diversity has increased to a degree, but not substantially enough; the whole industry needs to act as salespeople, encouraging females and anyone from minority backgrounds to believe they can have a career in construction.”

Hughes voted for Brexit and believes construction now has to step up to address the its skills challenges.

“Previously, there wasn’t the same motivation to invest in training, as building companies could draw in skilled trades from mainland Europe,” he says. “Now, that responsibility sits squarely with the industry.

“Let’s face it, construction is full of innovative and creative people who come up with solutions to the varied problems they face – this one shouldn’t be insurmountable.

“I’m open to the industry approaching the government with an idea to promote construction careers. That’s something I would love to do.”

Hughes is an enthusiastic “cheerleader” for the CIOB and believes the institute has a vital role at a time of such rapid change for construction, with the building safety bill landing, digital change marching on apace, and resourcing issues.

“CIOB membership plugs you into a broad range of really useful information – whether it’s net zero skills, new technology, health and safety, materials shortages – which is a way industry professionals can keep up with what’s going on in the industry,” Hughes says. “I also found that really useful as a backbench MP.

“Another of the benefits and requirements of membership is CPD,” he says. “People need to appreciate the value of that, particularly in the context of building safety and other industry changes. It is one of things that has informed my career in construction since I joined the industry nearly three decades ago, and it should be part of how any young construction manager plans their career.”

Source: Construction Manager Magazine

‘Homes worse than cars for carbon emissions’

Business and construction groups have mounted a new lobbying campaign to wrestle £4bn funding from government to tackle energy efficiency in the UK’s ‘leaky homes’.

The National Housing Federation used its latest research, which confirmed that England’s homes account for more carbon emissions every year than is produced by all of the country’s cars, in a plea for the £3.8bn energy efficiency funding in the autumn Spending Review.

The research calculates for the first time that England’s 25 million homes – which produce 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year – emitting the equivalent of the average annual use of 28 million cars. There are 27 million cars in use in England, which produce 56 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

The publication of the research from the NHF comes as a major coalition of consumer and industry groups sent an open letter to the prime minister urging government action on energy efficiency.

Citizens Advice, Which?, Aldersgate Group and the Federation of Master Builders are urging the government to work with them to address the obstacles currently faced by consumers and ensure lessons from previous energy efficiency schemes are learned.

Despite recent improvements, current consumer protections are not ready for the pace and scale of the work needed to improve millions of UK homes, the letter says.

If we don’t start making serious progress on decarbonising and retrofitting our homes, we won’t achieve the government’s target of net zero by 2050. It’s critical that we act now. – Kate Henderson, National Housing Federation

The coalition is calling on the government to take the opportunity to fix these gaps through its upcoming Net Zero Strategy and put in place a long-term strategy to help households overcome the barriers to adapting their homes for the net zero transition.

Meanwhile, the NHF said that government funding would help landlords change energy efficiency at scale and “unlike private landlords and homeowners they can retrofit whole streets, estates and even neighbourhoods simultaneously”.
It said: “In 2019 alone more than 100,000 social homes had their energy efficiency improved, but government funding would enable housing associations to go further, getting the two million homes they own and manage to EPC C by 2030 and setting them up to go on to be fully carbon neutral.

“Achieving carbon neutrality for these homes would be the equivalent of taking 1.8 million cars off the road indefinitely – the equivalent of all of the cars in Manchester and Birmingham combined.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “If we don’t start making serious progress on decarbonising and retrofitting our homes, we won’t achieve the government’s target of net zero by 2050. It’s critical that we act now. Independent and government experts have made it clear that without serious urgent action, we’re looking at a global climate catastrophe.

“Housing associations are already planning to invest billions in retrofitting their homes, but we can’t do it alone. However, with support from government, there’s a clear opportunity here to retrofit millions of homes at scale and pace. That’s why it’s vital that the government delivers on its pledge of £3.8bn for retrofitting social homes in the Spending Review this year. We can then work together to help the country lead the way in climate-friendly, net zero housing.”

Source: Construction Manager Magazine

Workplace gas explosions have doubled in the last five years, according to research

Data from a recent study highlights that 2019-20 was the worst year for gas explosions in the workplace, injuring 35 people and killing eight.

Health and safety experts, CE Safety, has analysed data to reveal the injuries and fatalities caused by gas safety failings in the workplace.

The analysts broke down the HSE data, looking into how carbon monoxide leaks, gas explosions and other instances have affected people at work from 2015 to 2020.

2019-20 was found to be the worst year since 2015, with 41 gas explosions injuring 35 people. That’s a 58% increase, and out of 11 fatalities over the last five years, eight of those occurred in 2019-20 alone.

However, 2016-17 saw the most people sadly injured by an explosion, with 39 recorded.

The analysts also looked at carbon monoxide poisoning data in the workplace. They found that there’s been a 34% decrease in carbon monoxide poisonings since 2015, with 96 instances, no fatalities being recorded, and 151 non-fatal injuries.

Compared to 2015-16 in which 146 recorded events of carbon monoxide poisoning, resulting in 225 non-fatal injuries and seven fatalities – the most fatal year since in the last five years.

The data also highlighted the impact of ‘other exposures’ in the workplace.

CE Safety found that injuries from unburnt gas more than doubled, from six reports in 2015-16 to 13 in 2019-20.

Also in 2018-19, there were six events of ‘other exposures’ resulting in an increase of 117% in the last 12 months. No fatalities were recorded, but the analysts found that these exposures did cause 41 injuries over the last year, with 2019-20 being the worst, recording 15 instances.

The full analysis can be found here.

Click here for more on carbon monoxide awareness from the HSE.

Source: SHP Online

Vaccination policy guidance for employers published

Build UK has published new guidance for construction employers on developing and implementing a vaccination policy for staff.

The guidance covers key questions such as whether or not a company needs a vaccination policy, whether employees can be asked if they can be vaccinated, whether records about employee vaccinations can be kept, and whether job applicants can be required to declare if they have been vaccinated or not.

It has been compiled with the collaboration of Citation, which operates Build UK’s HR and health and safety helpline.

Its publication comes as government guidance on self-isolation has changed. As of 16 August, the requirement for fully vaccinated adults or under-18s in England to self-isolate if notified by the NHS of contact with a positive covid-19 case has been removed.

Build UK has revised its flowchart for companies on what to do if a worker has covid-19 or has to self-isolate as a result of the change.

Andrew Eldred, ECA director of employment and skills, welcomed the change to isolation rules. He said: “The latest change will be a huge relief to employers, many of whom have seen their workforce decimated as a result of the need to self-isolate following an NHS ping.

“However, these changes do not signal the end of the pandemic, and we still need to wait for further reductions in R rates and other national and regional indicators before we can think about lowering our guard. We are encouraging employers to stay registered with NHS Test and Trace and to support employee testing.”

Source: Construction Manager Magazine

PUWER equipment breaches increase by 40% on construction sites

The Building Safety Group (BSG) has reported a 40% increase in PUWER equipment breaches occurring on construction sites during the first half of 2021. BSG’s latest figures were obtained following 8,500 independent site inspections that were conducted between 1st January and 30th June. The 40% increase was identified when comparing Q1 with Q2 figures.

PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It places duties on people and companies who own, operate, or have control over work equipment. PUWER regulations are enforced by HSE inspectors during regular checks. An improvement notice will be placed on a piece of equipment if a health and safety inspector feels that it has not been subject to inspections and risk assessments detailed under PUWER. In these instances, the inspector will tell the business owner what actions they need to take to comply with PUWER regulations and give them a period of 21 days to put these actions into place. If the actions are not followed within this period a prohibition notice will be enforced, preventing the owner from using the equipment.

BSG’s inspection report comes at a time when the HSE is increasing its focus on enforcing PUWER regulations, following concerns that the condition of some machines may have degraded because of long periods of inactivity due to COVID-19. This can lead to equipment corrosion and possible seizure, putting workers at greater risk.

No. of PUWER breaches occurring on construction sites Q1 & Q2 2021

Building Safety Group Ltd

The consequences of not adhering to PUWER regulations were made tragically clear in 2017 when a construction equipment-hire company was prosecuted, following the death of an employee. AGD Equipment Ltd, based in Warwickshire, received an £800,000 fine after a worker was killed. The case, which was brought before Warwick Crown Court, revealed how Mark Seward was testing a hydraulic cylinder when the cylinder cracked under pressure, exploding, and sending metal fragments flying. One of these hit the employee in the head. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found that AGD Equipment had not told Seward the safe working pressure for the cylinder. The task was not adequately supervised, and the company had not erected protective screens to stop staff being injured by projectiles.

AGD pleaded guilty to breaching regs 12(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER 1998) and 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), for failing to risk assess the task. AGD Equipment was fined £800,000 and ordered to pay costs of £28,711.

Andy Harper, Technical Support Manager at BSG commented: “Businesses need to look at PUWER regulations closely and make note of what is considered ‘work equipment’ which is a ‘catch all’ term that covers any tool, appliance, or piece of machinery that could potentially pose a risk to employees.” Andy added: “PUWER regulations require a competent person to periodically inspect each piece of work equipment to ensure it is fit for use, and to officially record their findings for future reference. With more complex pieces of machinery, instructions on how to use the equipment, alongside any potential safety issues, should be made available to all equipment users.”

For further information about PUWER and how these regulations apply to your business,
please contact us: buildingsafetygroup@bsgltd.co.uk

Note to Editors

Information Sources:
BSG’s Non-Compliance Reporting Index (NCRI)
HSE Report: Construction statistics in Great Britain, 2020
PBC Today: Health & Safety News

About BSG
The Building Safety Group (BSG) is the UK’s largest construction safety group offering
consultancy, training and non-compliance reporting services. We are a ‘not for profit’
organisation which has been in business for over 50 years. For more information, please visit
www.BSGltd.co.uk

About BSG’s Non-Compliance Reporting Index (NCRI)
BSG’s ‘Non-compliance Reporting Index’ (NCRI) is the only known real-time, reporting
service which compiles high volume health & safety non-compliance data, collected for and
on behalf of the construction industry through site inspections.

Construction’s role in tackling climate change ‘crucial’

Construction has a “crucial” role to play in tackling climate change and will need to work together to achieve the greatest impact.

That’s according to Robert Spencer, Aecom’s business line director – ESG, following the launch of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has issued a stark warning of irreversible and unprecedented climate change brought about by human activity unless the world acts quickly to reduce emissions.

UN secretary general António Guterres warned the report is “a code red for humanity”, which set out how the planet could be hit by increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts, and flooding without rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPCC found that cutting emissions, starting immediately, to net zero by the middle of this century would give a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C in the long term and help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The report is the first major review of climate change science since 2013 and comes ahead of the COP26 climate change summit, which is due to be held in Glasgow from 31 October until 12 November.

Spencer said: “The latest IPCC report sends the clearest message yet on the need for urgent action if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change. COP26 will help clarify where investments and activities should be prioritised, transforming promises into funded and much-needed, widespread action.

“As an industry, the greatest impact will be felt through our collaborative action. We must use our collective expertise, working with clients and supply chains, to play our crucial part in tackling the climate and biodiversity emergencies. As a knowledge-based sector, we will need to use our skills and capabilities to raise awareness and provide training and solutions that will rapidly support our clients and communities on their journeys to net zero.”

He added: “It is no longer enough for organisations to set ambitious net zero carbon targets without a clear pathway for how to achieve them by 2030. As a business, Aecom has signed up to science-based targets, which are independently validated and assessed, and we urge others to do the same – investment and delivery is all important in these next short years.

Graham Harle, chief executive officer, Gleeds, said, “As governments around the world react to the continuous impact of the covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time for us to re-examine our carbon footprint and our responsibilities to address the long-term effects of climate change. The built environment sector has responded swiftly to the impact of covid-19, and through the Science Based Targets initiative, we have the opportunity to build resilience for the future, by aligning our recovery efforts with a drive to reduce carbon emissions.”

Source: Construction Manager Magazine

Fall protection: where, when and how to choose self-retracting lifelines

There are many scenarios where working at height is unavoidable and some of the most hazardous tasks involve working on elevated surfaces or structures – and selecting the correct fall arrest solution is critical. Jon Rowan explores where, when and how self-retracting lifelines should be deployed.

Despite big advances in risk awareness and safety technology, falls from height remain a significant cause of injury and death. According to the HSE’s figures for fatal injuries in Great Britain for 2019-20, 29 workers suffered fatal injuries as a result of falling from height – just over 26% of all UK fatalities in the workplace.

Over the last five years, falls from a height have accounted for 26% of all fatal accident injuries (an average of 37 per year). More than 60% of deaths when working at height involve falls from ladders, scaffolds, working platforms, roof edges and falling through fragile roofs.

Hierarchy of control – identifying the situation

The hierarchy of fall protection is the starting point to determine what type of approach to working at height and/or fall protection system is required – and why.

  • The preferred solution to all fall hazards is elimination.
  • Passive fall protection: Physical barriers like guardrails around unprotected edges, for example.
  • Fall restraint systems are erected in such a manner that a fall cannot occur. They use PPE to restrict the worker’s range of movement so they cannot physically travel to the fall hazard.
  • Fall arrest systems are erected in such a manner that a fall can occur, but the fall is arrested within acceptable force and clearance margins. A suitable rescue procedure would then need to be implemented.

Why self-retracting lifelines?

One of the most effective and widely used fall arrest solutions today is the self-retracting lifeline (SRL). Accounting for around a fifth of the €420m fall protection market, SRLs are replacing lanyards and rope grabs as they typically last longer, retract on movement, offer faster lock-on and are easier to store.

A synthetic line or metallic cable attached to the worker’s harness automatically extends and retracts from a floor or overhead anchored container unit as the worker moves. In the event of a fall, the product will ‘lock-on’ to arrest the force of the fall, and an energy absorption system will then limit the impact of that force on the body of the worker in the harness.

SRL systems and the working environment

One of the first factors to consider when specifying the correct SRL system is the application and environment. What are the atmospheric conditions? In a coastal location, for instance, continuous exposure to saltwater vapour poses the risk of accelerated corrosion for metal parts.

Similar corrosive hazards can be present in petrochemical sites, posing potential degradation risks for SRL plastics and composites. SRL specification options available from MSA, for example, include the use of sealed SRL casings, military-grade plastics and high-grade S4 stainless steel components that provide additional barriers against corrosion.

Understanding SRL anchors

An SRL is there to provide a fall arrest point. It will always be attached to an anchor which may be in different locations:

  • Overhead anchor point: this is the standard way to attach an SRL – to a carabiner or point above the workspace. This approach is traditionally seen when there has been an investment in infrastructure, and the benefit is that in the case of a slip or trip, there is less distance to fall.
  • Foot level anchor point: a foot or deck level tie off – positioned at foot level, with the SRL attached. This is a more common approach and is in many ways easier to use as nothing needs to be lifted overhead. However, it does mean that if the worker falls, the product is at a 90-degree angle to the fall. On many sites edges of roofs and structures can be sharp, so a foot level anchor must always be tested and ‘edge rated’.

Understanding your anchor point is the first step in making an appropriate product choice – you need to consider where the anchor is, how far it is away from the working point and how far away it is from the edge. Being conscious of fall clearance is also vital – having knowledge of distance means you can allow enough space for a fall to happen in the safest way possible. Once these things are understood, you can make an informed choice on safety equipment, such as SRLs.

Match the solution to the application and value of product

There are a vast number of situations where fall protection is necessary, and it’s important to consider the individual differences between applications. For example, working with solar panels on a rooftop or servicing an aircraft wing will require care to prevent equipment causing damage. Using a synthetic web lifeline will minimise the risk of damaging products and surfaces.

SRLs are used in a range of applications and industries

Conversely the presence of sharp edges that could sever a fabric line necessitates use of a high-grade steel cable. Similarly, a construction site may have abrasive concrete dust that will degrade synthetic lines, requiring a steel cabled solution.

SRLs are also inherently versatile and used across a range of industries and horizontal, overhead and leading-edge applications. From vertical access via pylons, turbines, water towers and confined spaces in general, to loading and maintenance bays, assembly lines, silos, rooftops and the building and construction industry at large, SRLs can help to take the guesswork out of equipment selection.

Another factor to consider is fall clearance – the minimum vertical distance required between a worker’s feet and a lower level, which can also vary at different points on the working area. A self-retracting lifeline can accommodate significant variance since it remains under tension and automatically adjusts the line. As an example, the latest addition to MSA Safety’s V-Series SRL range offers a new maximum line extension of 30m.

How quality design enhances lifetime performance and reduces cost

Ultimately, the design of an SRL directly impacts safety and whole service-life cost. Employers have a duty of care to reduce risks faced by their workers. While technically all products are certified to the same standard, the reality is that not all are created equal. Entry-level, economy priced PPE is much less likely to offer the same performance and durability as higher quality, more premium solutions.

Trying to minimise expenditure at the outset can be a false economy. Investing in the best equipment can yield lifetime savings and result in lower total cost of ownership. For example, equipment that is inherently designed to be serviceable in the field and minimise repair times can dramatically reduce costly downtime and delays.

Smart retraction dampening technology which, in some instances can reduce cable retraction speed by up to 3m/s, can also not only increase safety but limit damage to the product and surroundings, thus minimising downtime and further maximising product lifespan.  

Jon Rowan is product line manager at MSA Safety.

Source: Construction Manager Magazine

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Environment Agency warns construction over plastic waste

The Environment Agency has warned construction businesses they must deal with plastic waste properly to stop illegal waste exports.

The EA said it was “increasingly aware” of plastic film and wrap originating from construction and demolition sites being sent overseas illegally.

Despite being classified as ‘green list’ (waste of low risk to the environment), construction waste was often contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and wood, posing a risk to the environment and human health overseas, the EA warned.

Although those convicted of illegally exporting waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence, the EA told construction firms that they too could face enforcement action.

Malcolm Lythgo, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “We are seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by our officers.

“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations. It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else – even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly.

“We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”

Steps to ensure construction and demolition waste is handled legally:

1. Construction businesses should check what’s in their waste

  • Different waste types need different treatments and so must be correctly categorised to ensure it goes to a site that is authorised to handle it safely. Businesses can also check if their waste is hazardous as different rules might apply.
  • If you are removing the waste yourself, you must be a registered waste carrier. Registration can be carried out here. When a waste collector is transporting your site waste, you must check they have a waste carrier’s licence from the EA.
  • You must also check that the end destination site any waste is taken to is permitted to accept it and has the right authorisations in place. Keep a record of any waste that leaves your site by completing a waste transfer note or a consignment note for hazardous waste which record what and how much waste you have handed over and where it is going.

2. Waste management industry must adhere to export controls

  • Contaminated C&D waste plastic – including low-density polyethylene (LDPE) wrap and film – must be exported with prior consent from the EA as well as competent authorities in transit and destination countries.
  • Those involved in the export of such waste must ensure that it meets the requirements set under the relevant export controls, such as being almost free from contamination; the destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste; and waste is correctly managed once received.

Source: Construction Manager Magazine

Roofer and scaffolder sentenced following fatal fall from height

A roofer and a scaffolder have been sentenced following a fatal fall from height at a two-storey terraced house on Rosevine Road, Wimbledon.

Philip Drinkwater and Anthony Bradley were working on the roof, which was accessed using a ladder and scaffolding that had been erected by Dean Glen, Southwark Crown Court heard. Later that day, on 26 November 2018, Mr Drinkwater asked his co-worker, Mr Bradley, to help him move some slates up onto the roof using an electric hoist. While he was carrying out this operation, he fell approximately six metres through a gap, which was adjacent to the hoist and landed on the ground where he died almost immediately.

The HSE’s investigation found that Mr Glen had erected the scaffold leaving a 1.17m gap in the edge protection at the ladder access point without fitting a scaffold gate. Mr Glen had erected the scaffold when not fully qualified to do so and it did not comply with industry standards or legal requirements. Mr Drinkwater was in charge of the roof work, which he allowed to proceed despite the gap and unsafe ladder access. He lacked the training to manage health and safety on the site and failed to appoint a suitably qualified scaffolder to erect the scaffold.

Philip Drinkwater (trading as Prestige Roofing) of Meldone Sheephouse Way, New Malden pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,318.

Dean Glen (trading as DDP scaffolding) of Woodroyd Avenue, Horley pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,318.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Kevin Smith: “The tragedy of this incident was that it was totally avoidable.

“Preventative measures were inexpensive and required little time or effort. Reducing the size of the opening in the guard rails and installing a self-closing scaffold gate would have stopped this man from falling to his death. A scaffold gate costs around £40 and only takes a few minutes to install.

“Those involved in scaffolding and roof work on smaller sites need to be aware of the potentially devastating consequences of failing to put basic safeguards in place.”

Source: SHP Online

GB work fatalities up by almost a third

Covid disruption, wide-scale furloughing of workers and a 10% reduction in weekly hours worked has been accompanied by a 28% year-on-year increase in the number of work-related fatal accidents, according to Great Britain’s annual fatality statistics. 

In the 12 months to 31 March 2021, 142 workers in Great Britain lost their lives at work, rebounding from the record low of 111 seen in 2019/2020.

At the time, last year’s low was partly linked to Covid depressing economic activity in February and March 2020. But this year’s figure – also rising above the five-year average of 136 workplace fatalities – suggests that Covid-related sickness absence, wide-scale furloughing and the displacement of workers into new roles could have comprised safety standards at work.

Construction, agriculture and manufacturing all recorded a fatal accident rate in 2020/21, exceeding the five-year average figure for those sectors, with construction seeing 39 deaths (above the 2016/17 to 2020/21 average of 36), agriculture 34 (28) and manufacturing 20 (18). 

‘HAD THE NUMBER OF OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE RELATED COVID-19 DEATHS BEEN INCLUDED WITHIN THE HSE’S LATEST STATISTICS THE OVERALL FIGURES WOULD HAVE BEEN MARKEDLY HIGHER’

At the same time, while asserting that the pandemic ‘makes interpretation of comparisons with earlier years difficult’, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) quotes figures from the Office of National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey suggesting a 10% reduction in hours worked in 2020/21 due to the effect of furlough, and that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) cumulatively affected 11.4 million roles up to March 2021.  

Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety at IOSH, said: ‘Increases in fatalities are very concerning, but we must also remember that lockdown restrictions in 2019-2020 may have be a contributing factor to the previous year’s record low figures rather than improved risk management and prevention in the workplace.

‘Workplace deaths are only ever the tip of an iceberg of health and safety failure, which is why we encourage employers to ensure that they are managing the safety and health risks in their workplaces. This includes any new risks that may be presented through new operating models, new technology or equipment, and so on.’

Anna Naylor, a principal associate at law firm Weightmans, also highlighted the paradox of a higher death rate taking place against a background of reduced economic activity. 

‘The fatal accident data for February and March 2020 showed a relatively low number of fatalities as compared with other recent time periods. This suggests that the pandemic would ultimately have a positive impact on the number of reportable workplace deaths (bearing in mind that Covid-19 deaths are not included within the HSE’s fatality statistics). More workers were switching to working from home and millions benefited from the furlough scheme.

‘However, this improvement has not materialised. The HSE pointed to the difficulties comparing the statistics for 2020/2021 with data from previous years where the British economy was more settled but one only has to consider the steep decline in the total number of hours worked from April 2020 onwards to see a troubling picture emerge. 

‘In essence there were fewer hours worked and yet more workers sadly lost their lives. The reason for this is unclear, it could potentially be due to new methods of working having to be swiftly introduced or it could be due to the pressures of the pandemic overshadowing traditional workplace safety matters.’

But even if the economic background was different – with furloughed workers turning to new occupations, or those displaced by redundancy joining the ‘gig’ economy – the causes of accidents were familiar. 

As in previous years, the three most common causes of fatal injuries were falls from height (35), being struck by a moving vehicle (25) and being struck by a moving object (17). Together, the trio accounted for more than half of fatalities in 2020/21.

As in previous years, nearly all the fatalities – in this case 138 out of 142 – were to men.

The proportion of fatal injuries among the self-employed increased from 31% in 2019/20 to 38% of worker fatalities in 2020/21, even though the self-employed account for 16% of the workforce. 

In terms of the number of fatalities per 100,000, the sector with the highest fatal injury rate was agriculture, forestry and fishing at 11.37 – a level that also shows a marked deterioration from the sector’s five year average rate of 8.44. 

The waste and recycling recorded the second worst figure, at 2.57, but this represented a significant improvement on the five year average of 7.02. 

The HSE calculates that the 142 fatalities reflects an incidence rate of 0.43 deaths per 100,000 workers – an increase of 26% on the figure of 0.34 calculated in 2019/20. 

But the workforce calculation figures include those who were temporarily furloughed, and so over-estimate the number of workers actually ‘at work’, suggesting that the rate per 100,000 active workers would be higher than the reported figure. 

Recognising this, the HSE also offers an alternative measure that looks at the fatality rate per 100 million hours worked: here, standardising against last year’s figures shows a greater percentage increase in fatalities between 2019/20 and 2020/21 of 40%.  

However, the regulator argues that both measures, when viewed against the levels recorded in the recent past, indicate a ‘generally broadly flat fatal injury rate in recent years’.

Forty-one of the 142 deaths, or 30% of the total, were to workers aged 60 and over. As this group makes up just 11% of the total workforce, the figures again underline the association between older workers and fatal risk. 

But Covid may have brought one unexpected upside: the toll of deaths among members of the public linked to work activities was noticeable lower, with 60 killed in work-related incidents in 2020/21 compared to 92 the previous year. 

According to the HSE, this statistically significant drop ‘almost certainly reflects the lockdown restrictions in place on the British public over the course of the year’.

The statistics exclude deaths from occupational diseases or linked to occupational exposures (including COVID-19), as well as fatal road accidents while working or commuting, and fatal accidents among workers who were travelling by air or sea. 

Anna added: ‘It is also noteworthy that the headline figures only scratch the surface in terms of the overall numbers of workers who lose their lives as a result of being at work. The figures exclude for example deaths from occupational diseases, the armed forces, accidents on the public highway and incidents which occur in the air or at sea. 

‘Had the number of occupational exposure related Covid-19 deaths been included within the HSE’s latest statistics the overall figures would have been markedly higher.’

With confirmation that all remaining restrictions will be eased in England from Monday, IOSH has called for caution around the return to workplaces.

Source: IOSH Magazine

Director lied about forklift incident which left driver paralysed

A director who lied about how a lorry driver sustained life-changing injuries has been ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.

Richard Ellwood, owner of Dickies Pet Centre in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, misled his insurer following an incident in which a delivery driver was left paralysed.

On 25 June 2018, a palleted load of pet bedding (pictured above) was being unloaded from a delivery lorry by a forklift truck driven by Ellwood. He lifted the load with its lifting forks too closely together, meaning they went into the wrong apertures in the pallet and could not support the load properly.

He then manoeuvred the truck with the forks still raised, and the load – which weighed more than 800kg and was 2.5 metres tall – fell onto the lorry driver.

The driver sustained fractures to his neck vertebrae which means he cannot move from the neck down, and has a permanent need for 24-hour care to assist him with everyday tasks, even breathing. As a result, his life expectancy has been reduced.

Investigators from West Norfolk Council told Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court that the company had not assessed the risks, did not have a safe system of work for the unloading of delivery vehicles, Ellwood had not been trained in the operation of forklift trucks since 2005, and Dickies Pet Centre’s forklift truck had long been operated without access to any copy of the manufacturer’s manual.

‘BUSINESSES USING SPECIALIST EQUIPMENT TO HANDLE GOODS, SUCH AS FORKLIFT TRUCKS, SHOULD ALWAYS ENSURE THEY OBSERVE SAFETY WARNINGS IN MANUFACTURER’S MANUALS AND KEEP STAFF PROPERLY REFRESHER-TRAINED’

In the aftermath of the incident, Ellwood told his insurer’s independent safety investigator that the load had fallen because the pallet had broken. Later he told a different story, also blaming the pallet, while still concealing the misplacement of the forks.

District Judge King said that the provision of this inaccurate information aggravated his and his company’s offending and increased the sentences passed upon each of them.

The defence accepted that Ellwood had acted dishonestly during the investigation, and said that whilst he did not set out to cause an accident or injury, it was accepted that his actions, or lack of actions, led to the injury to the lorry driver.

Dickies Pet Centre had previously pleaded guilty to an offence, contrary to section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, of failing to fulfil its duty under section 3(1) of the Act to ensure those it did not employ were not exposed to risk by the way it ran its business.

Ellwood had previously pleaded guilty to an offence, contrary to section 33(1) and section 37(1) of the Act, of being a director who consented to or connived in the company’s offence, or to whose neglect that offending was attributable.

Because of his early guilty plea, the Judge gave him credit by way of not imprisoning him, and sentenced him instead to a 12-month Community Order with a 200-hour unpaid work requirement.

Dickies Pet Centre’s fine was also reduced because of its plea, but its high culpability, the fact that the most serious level of harm was risked and was visited on by the lorry driver by this offending, and the aggravation of the inaccurate information, meant that even so, and taking into account that it was a very small company with no previous health and safety breaches, the fine was £115,000. 

The company was also ordered to pay the more than £70,000 costs of the investigation, which the Judge said was much more extensive than it needed have been had the inaccurate information not been given.

‘Deliveries of substantial goods between businesses involve a number of well-known safety risks, especially where forklift trucks are used to handle the goods,’ said Vicki Hopps, environmental health manager at West Norfolk Borough Council.

‘Businesses using specialist equipment to handle goods, such as forklift trucks, should always ensure they observe safety warnings in manufacturer’s manuals and keep staff properly refresher-trained.’

Source: IOSH Magazine

Buildings under 18m no longer require EWS1 forms after independent research finds “no systemic risk of fire in blocks”

Following new advice from fire safety experts commissioned by the Secretary of State earlier this year, the Government has set out that EWS1 (External Wall System) Forms should no longer be requested for buildings below 18m.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, made the announcement on 21 July, following the advice that “makes clear there is no systemic risk of fire in these blocks of flats”, according to the expert report.

The report recommends that residents are reassured as to safety, and a more proportionate approach is urgently instituted, requiring action by all market participants.

A group of major high street lenders has committed to review their practices following the new advice; HSBC UK, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and others have said that the expert report and Government statement paves the way for EWS1 forms to no longer be required for buildings below 18m and will help further unlock the housing market.

The Government has said it welcomes their support, but is now calling on others to demonstrate leadership by working rapidly to update guidance and policies in line with the expert advice.

Robert Jenrick

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “This announcement is a significant step forward for leaseholders in medium and lower-rise buildings who have faced difficulty in selling, anxiety at the potential cost of remediation and concern at the safety of their homes.

“While we are strengthening the overall regulatory system, leaseholders cannot remain stuck in homes they cannot sell because of excessive industry caution, nor should they feel that they are living in homes that are unsafe, when the evidence demonstrates otherwise.

“That’s why I commissioned an expert group to further examine the issue, and have already agreed with many major lenders that lower-rise buildings will no longer need an EWS1 form, and the presumption should be that these homes can be bought and sold as normal.

“We hope that this intervention will help restore balance to the market and provide reassurance for existing and aspiring homeowners alike. The Government has made its position very clear and I urge the rest of the market to show leadership and endorse this evidence based safety approach.”

The expert advice was commissioned by the Secretary of State after witnessing what Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, has described as extreme risk aversion, which has left leaseholders across the country receiving costly bills for remediation that is not necessary.


Read the full response from the expert advisors on building safety in lower-rise blocks of flats, here.


It states that fire risks should be managed wherever possible through measures such as alarm systems or sprinklers, and that the overwhelming majority of medium and low-rise buildings (those under 18m) with cladding should not require expensive remediation.

The intervention is designed to reduce needless and costly remediation in lower rise buildings and is part of wider efforts to restore balance to the market, helping flat owners to buy, sell or re-mortgage homes.

There is a longstanding legal duty on the Responsible Person for all purpose-built blocks of flats to have an up-to-date fire risk assessment. Moving forward, where the Responsible Person has identified fire safety issues they should update their fire risk assessments to determine any actions required. This could include measures such as installing sprinklers or alarms and in exceptional cases, remediation to ensure buildings are safe and people feel safe.

To help with this, new guidance for the risk assessment of external wall systems will be introduced. The PAS9980 will ensure that fire risk assessments are consistent, proportionate to risk and actions to manage risk are cost-effective, and the Consolidated Advice Note will be withdrawn.

For buildings under 18m which do require remediation, the Government will introduce a financing scheme so that no leaseholder will have to pay more than £50 a month for the cost of replacing unsafe cladding. Further details of this scheme will be set out in due course.

At present, there is no confirmation on expected timelines for this move to be fully implemented, while others have highlighted concerns for those who have already paid for remediation measures and whether they will be eligible for refunds.

Industry response

Welcoming the support from the fire safety profession and from major lenders, Dame Judith Hackitt (one of this year’s IFSEC Global Top Influencers in Fire Safety) said: “I am pleased to see the support and commitment to returning to an evidence-based proportionate approach to fire and building safety. It’s critical, given the significant – and in many cases unnecessary – impact this is having on people who live in and own homes in blocks of flats. What’s needed now is for the remaining bodies and lenders to get onboard so we have a collective, fact-based system that is reflective of the reality of the situation and reassures leaseholders that they, their homes and their investments are safe.”

The move has been backed by the National Fire Chiefs Council and the Institution of Fire Engineers.

CEO of the Institution of Fire Engineers, Steve Hamm, said: “The IFE supports the expert statement issued today. We expect this will lead to a significant reduction in the demand for the EWS1 process from mortgage valuers, particularly for buildings under 18m in height.

“Today’s statement will support competent fire engineers to use their professional training, judgement and expertise to assess buildings based on professional appraisal of risk. This should enable a move away from the often risk-averse and overly cautious approach that has been seen in many cases.

“We welcome the commitment of all parties to ensure a proportionate and evidence-based approach to fire and building safety for all buildings along with the increased scrutiny to be provided by the new Regulators and the gateway approval process, which we expect will lead to improved levels of safety, providing comfort and reassurance for residents and homeowners as well as the wider market.”

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), Mark Hardingham said: “We fully support this new advice and welcome the challenge to those who are applying an overly risk-averse approach in many buildings below 18m. We expect this will start to redress the balance where disproportionate measures have been put in place to manage fire risks. We want to ensure that buildings are safe and will work closely with fire and rescue services to apply the advice for buildings in their area.”

The Government says it has also set out plans for developers of high-rises in England to contribute to the cost of remediating safety defects. A consultation published today outlines that the levy will be applied when developers seek permission to build certain high-rise residential buildings of 18 metres or more in height.

The money recouped would be designed to contribute towards fixing historic fire safety defects, including unsafe cladding, protecting leaseholders and taxpayers from shouldering the burden of remediation costs.

The Government is calling for views on the proposed design of the levy, which was first announced earlier this year as part of multi-billion-pound package to fix unsafe cladding on high-rise residential buildings, alongside wider financial and regulatory support.

The Government has also confirmed that the Building Safety Fund will reopen for applications in Autumn for any eligible buildings that missed the original deadline in June, with more details to be published in the coming months.

DOWNLOAD: Fire safety in 2020 eBook – A year of challenges and change

This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.

Source: SHP Online

Building Safety Bill: Familiar concepts, ‘but much to learn’

Last week saw England’s Building Safety Bill finally make its way into Parliament; the first formal legislative step in the government’s vow to ‘deliver the biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years’.

For those already steeped in building safety, there are lots of familiar concepts; identified roles to be appointed, information to be shared and activities to be co-ordinated. A structure quite clearly rooted in CDM. But there is also plenty that is new and much that needs to be done – some of it now.

In this article, we look at some of the key provisions.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE BILL?

The new law is designed to achieve greater accountability for fire and structural safety issues throughout the complete lifecycle of a building; from design through construction to occupation and beyond.

WHICH BUILDINGS ARE INCLUDED?

The bulk of the Bill addresses the risks posed by ‘higher risk’ buildings, but some sections have wider application.

Higher risk buildings are high rise; either more than 18m from ground level or at least seven storeys. The Bill then captures different building types. For example:

  • for the purposes of the design, construction and refurbishment requirements properties with at least two residential units, care homes and hospitals are to be included;
  • for those parts of the Bill relating to occupation of a building, this covers residential properties only – again with at least two residential units.

WHO ARE THE DUTY HOLDERS?

The new regime will impose responsibility for compliance with building regulations on CDM duty holders including the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor. These duties will be in addition to existing duties under the CDM Regulations relating to construction site safety.

The Bill also introduces new in-occupation roles for higher-risk buildings:

  • Accountable Person (AP): this will typically be the person or organisation that is responsible for common parts of the building. In multi-occupancy situations, there may be more than one AP, in which case there must be co-ordination and communication between them and a Principal AP must be identified. APs are primarily responsible for the fire and structural safety of higher risk buildings. This includes managing the “golden thread” of information.
  • Building Safety Manager (BSM): appointed by the AP, the BSM is responsible for the day to day management of fire and structural safety.

The Bill provides some shape to these roles but further regulations are expected to fully detail the legal obligations.

All appointees – whether under the Bill or CDM – must be competent to fulfil their respective roles and work is underway to produce a suite of national competence standards.

WHAT IS THE ‘GOLDEN THREAD’?

One of the key changes the Bill introduces is a ‘golden thread’ of information about a building which is to be created and maintained. This is ‘to ensure the right people have the right information at the right time to ensure buildings are safe and…risks are managed throughout the lifecycle’ of a property.

To achieve this, the Bill creates three ‘Gateways’ at which information must be recorded and stored:

  • Gateway 1: planning authorities will require a Fire Statement to ensure that fire safety considerations have been incorporated into design proposals.
  • Gateway 2: the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) will require information to show how the development, once built, will comply with Building Regulations. Work cannot commence until the BSR is satisfied. This replaces the current “deposit of full plans” stage.
  • Gateway 3: this is the equivalent to the current completion or final certificate stage and applies once construction is complete. There must be an assessment to ensure the work has been carried out in compliance with the law and with the previously submitted information. The information is then handed to the AP.

HOW WILL THIS BE REGULATED?

The BSR has already been set up on an interim basis within the HSE. Peter Baker has been appointed as Chief Inspector of Buildings and will lead the new regulator. Read IOSH magazine’s interview with him here.

The BSR will implement a new, more stringent regulatory regime for higher risk buildings and will oversee their registration and inspection. This includes:-

  • decision making during the design, construction, occupation and refurbishment of higher risk buildings;
  • regulation of Building Inspectors and Building Control Approvers – the BSR will establish and maintain a register;
  • assisting and encouraging competence amongst those working in the built environment;’the power to issue ‘Stop’ and “Compliance’ Notices where there are breaches; and
  • the ability to prosecute businesses and individuals.

WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN?

The government expects it will be at least nine months – April 2022 – before the Bill becomes law. The new regime will then be introduced over the next 12 to 18 months, meaning that the bulk of the changes will be in place by October 2023.

However, Gateway 1 will be introduced on 1 August 2021. Those involved in planning will therefore need to be ready for that imminent change.

WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the changes proposed. But for safety practitioners, the concepts are familiar and well established.

Key steps to take at this stage include:

  • Complete an inventory of your estate to ensure you understand which of your buildings are potentially impacted.
  • Identify which elements of the Bill apply to your organisation and think about how you will comply and how you can positively demonstrate that you do. Will you need additional training? Will you need more resource? Will you need to recruit? Will you need professional advice? Will you need new partnerships with others who can help you comply?
  • Set out a plan for your organisation’s compliance based on the specific risks presented by your property portfolio. This will need to be a living document that can be adapted as we learn more.
  • Monitor the progress of the Bill and the associated Regulations and guidance. Much of the detail is still to come.

Whilst the Bill is not yet law, the intention from the Government is clear – from the early introduction of Gateway 1 to setting up the interim regulator – these changes are coming. The businesses that prepare early will be best placed to adapt.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?

Yes! The Bill is enormous in its scope and reach and will need detailed review in affected organisations.

And there’ll be more. We are still to see all of the implementing regulations that put the detail into the new roles, we are also expecting statutory guidance around competence and there are related reforms in fire safety legislation too. Monitoring developments is now key in the months ahead.

Rhian Greaves is legal director and Claire Moore is an associate in the regulatory – safety, health and environment department at DAC Beachcroft

Source: IOSH Magazine

Five tips for managing hot weather hazards

Alex Minett looks at the challenges associated with working in hot weather and offers some tips for employers to mitigate the risks. 

1. Recognise the risks

There are both short-term and long-term risks associated with working in hot weather, particularly for outdoor workers. For example, sunburn can cause temporary discomfort while repeated exposure can lead to skin cancer. UV light can also affect both short-term and long-term vision.

Heat stress can include relatively minor issues such as heat cramp and heat rash along with more severe conditions such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The effects of heat exhaustion can be reversed when treated quickly but a blood temperature rise above 39.5°C can turn into heatstroke, which is a medical emergency.

Dehydration is also common and can lead to dizziness and confusion, which can affect a worker’s ability to do their job safely.

Training, including first aid training and toolbox talks can help to ensure workers are able to recognise and respond to signs of heat-related conditions in themselves and others.

2. Identify anyone at increased risk

Hot weather poses a risk to everyone, but some people are more susceptible to its damaging effects than others. For employees working outdoors, fair skin, freckles, a large number of moles and a history of skin cancer are all additional risk factors.

When it comes to high temperatures, people with pre-existing illnesses such as a heart condition, those on some medications, and overweight individuals, pregnant women, and older workers will all potentially be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of heat. Check the HSE’s Heat Stress checklist to identify individual heat-related risk factors and if necessary refer to occupational health workers or clinical healthcare professionals for further advice.

3. Understand the legal requirements

Currently, the workplace regulations governing temperature only apply to indoor working, not outdoor. However, unions are increasingly campaigning to address this. This is no surprise given that the UK’s 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2002 and 2018 was the hottest year ever recorded.

During heatwaves or very hot weather spells, consider whether outdoor work can be cancelled, postponed or scheduled for cooler times of day.Alex Minett

Despite there currently being no upper temperature limit, all employers have a duty to protect the health & safety of the workforce under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The risks of working in hot temperatures, or exposure to the sun, must also be assessed and controlled under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which cover specific obligations for heat.

Other regulations employers must comply with include the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, which stipulate PPE must be suitable for the risks, the workers using it, and the working environment. Failure to address the risks associated with working in hot weather can also be harmful to productivity and worker morale.

4. Take steps to reduce the risks

It’s always best to start by eliminating or reducing a hazard. During heatwaves or very hot weather spells, consider whether outdoor work can be cancelled, postponed or scheduled for cooler times of day. Evaluate whether any physical work can be substituted for work using machinery. Where outdoor work offers little to no shade, consider installing temporary shade tents or awnings. 

5. Monitor & manage the risks

The HSE’s thermal comfort checklist is a useful tool to help with conducting risk assessments during hot weather. Technology that monitors physiological signs of overheating and heat stress via sensors in armbands and other wearable devices can also be useful.

There are also plenty of interventions that can help manage the risks. Provide drinking water and encourage workers to hydrate regularly and take frequent rest breaks in shady areas or air-conditioned facilities. If working in direct sunlight is necessary, provide high factor sunscreen for application on all areas of exposed skin.

Appropriate PPE such as hard hat neck shades or Legionnaires hats with a flap and brim to protect the ears and neck, long-sleeved, cool clothing and protective eyewear with UV filters as well as breathable safety footwear can all help workers stay comfortable and protected. Cooling vests that can be ice-cooled like ice packs and cooling bandanas, towels and wraps can also be helpful.

Alex Minett is the health and safety compliance lead at the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS).

Source: Construction Manager