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

Interested in learning more about height safety?

Check out some of our training courses:

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

Building Safety Bill published, outlining ‘biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years’

The Building Safety Bill has been published, outlined by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick as the next “key step in an extensive overhaul to building safety legislation”. The reforms are set to create “lasting generational change and a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained”, affirms the UK Government.

construction sites through blurry construction sites at sunset.

The Building Safety Bill, which was first announced in draft form in July 2020, has been published with the aim of giving residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughening sanctions against those who threaten their safety. It has been described as ‘the next key step in an extensive overhaul to building safety legislation.’

The Government has published a full transition plan for the Bill, here.

Read the full 218-page Building Safety Bill, here.

Who does Building Safety Bill apply to?

The provisions set out in the Building Safety Bill will apply to building owners and the built environment industry, such as those who commission building work and who participate in the design and construction process, including clients, designers and contractors.

The Bill creates powers to introduce new design and construction requirements that apply to high-rise residential buildings, hospitals, and care homes of at least 18 metres or at least seven storeys. The Bill also introduces new occupation requirements for existing and new high-rise residential buildings of 18 metres and above (or at least seven storeys).

Those involved in the commissioning, design, construction, or refurbishment of high-rise residential and other in scope buildings will have new formal responsibilities to comply with building regulations.

Powers within the Building Safety Bill will be used to make regulations that place duties on those who procure, plan, manage and undertake building work. These regulations will be made using secondary legislation and will be subject to consultation once the Building Safety Bill has gained Royal Assent.

When did the Building Safety Bill change?

The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on Monday 5 July 2021. MPs will next consider the Bill at Second Reading. The date for second reading [at time of writing] has not yet been announced.

What does Building Safety Bill mean?

The Building Safety Bill contains six parts and nine schedules addressing a range of issues relating to building safety and standards. The Bill makes a number of changes to existing legislation, most notably the Building Act 1984.

Some of the key provisions of the Bill include the following:

New Building Safety Regulator

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is established as the Building Safety Regulator, to underpin the key regulatory reforms in the new building safety regime. Headed up by Peter Baker and housed in the HSE, it will be responsible for overseeing the “safety and performance of all buildings,” ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings of 18m and above are effectively managed and resolved, taking cost into account.

This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.

These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure high standards are continuously met, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary.

The Government has published a full transition plan for the Bill, here. 

Read the Government’s explainer on the Building Safety Bill, here.

Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings at HSE, welcomed the Bill’s introduction. He said it “will give HSE the tools to deliver its important role as the Building Safety Regulator and is an important step in setting out what will be expected of future duty holders.

“Everyone involved in higher risk buildings from design, construction and day-to-day operations will manage and control building safety in a way that is proportionate to the risks. This will ensure these buildings are safer for those who live in them and they have a stronger voice. I encourage duty holders to use the Bill’s introduction in preparation for the new, more rigorous regulatory regime.

“The Building Safety Regulator will continue to work with industry and others to deliver the new building safety regime to ensure that residents of higher risk buildings are safe, and feel safe, in their homes now and in the future.”

Earlier this year, SHP’s sister title, IFSEC Global, spoke to Peter Baker about his plans for the role. You can read that interview, here.

The Building Safety Regulator will have two objectives focused on securing the safety of people in and around buildings and improving building standards. It will also regulate in line with best practice principles including being proportionate, transparent, and targeting its activity at cases where action is needed.

The Building Safety Regulator has three core functions. These are:

  1. Implementing a new, more stringent regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings. This means being the building control authority in England in respect of building work on higher-risk buildings and overseeing and enforcing the new regime in occupation for higher-risk buildings. The Building Safety Regulator will have powers necessary to involve other teams including Fire and Rescue Services to assist it in making regulatory decisions.
  2. Overseeing the safety and performance of all buildings. This has two key aspects:
    • Overseeing the performance of the building control sector. This will involve developing key performance indicators (KPIs) related to building control work, data collection and powers to impose sanctions for poor performance.
    • Understanding and advising on existing and emerging building standards and safety risks including advising on changes to regulations.
  3. Assisting and encouraging competence among the built environment industry and registered building inspectors.

The Building Safety Regulator will be responsible for all regulatory decisions under the new regime during the design, construction, occupation, and refurbishment of higher-risk buildings.

The Bill provides the Building Safety Regulator with the power to establish and maintain committees to advise on building functions.

Dutyholders

The Bill allows for a new dutyholder regime to be incorporated across the lifecycle of higher-risk buildings. This is based on the principle that the person or entity that creates a building safety risk should, as far as possible, be responsible for managing that risk. Many aspects of the regime will be taken forward through secondary legislation.

When buildings are designed, constructed or refurbished, those involved in the commissioning, design, construction or refurbishment process will have formal responsibilities for compliance with building regulations. These provisions will apply to all work to which building regulations apply, and these dutyholders will include those appointed under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). The main dutyholder roles under CDM 2015 are:

  • Client – Any person or organisation for whom a construction project is carried out, including as part of their business.
  • Principal Designer – Appointed by the Client under CDM 2015, when there is more than one contractor working on the building project. Role is to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the pre-construction phase, when most design work is carried out. The Principal Designer is in control of the pre-construction phase.
  • Principal Contractor – Appointed by the Client under CDM 2015, when there is more than one contractor working on the building project. Role is to plan, manage, monitor and co-ordinate the construction phase. The Principal Contractor is in control of the construction phase.
  • Designer – Carries on a trade, business or other undertaking in connection with which they prepare or modify a design or instruct any person under their control to prepare or modify a design.
  • Contractor – Manages or controls construction work (e.g. building, altering, maintaining or demolishing a building or structure). Anyone who manages this work or directly employs or engages construction workers is a contractor.

Dutyholder roles may be fulfilled by either an individual or an organisation/legal entity. A dutyholder can hold more than one role in a building project.

Read the Government’s Dutyholders fact sheet.

Gateways

The amendments to the Building Act 1984 in this Bill, coupled with existing powers both in the Building Act 1984 and in other legislation, will allow for the creation of a new Gateway regime. The aim is to ensure that building safety risks are considered at each stage of a new higher-risk building’s design and construction. In summary:

  • Gateway one: Planning Gateway one will introduce a number of new requirements in the planning system. This will ensure fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning are incorporated at the planning stage for schemes involving a high-rise residential building.  Planning Gateway one will:
    • Involve the HSE becoming a statutory consultee before permission is granted for development which involves or is likely to involve a high-rise residential building in certain circumstances.
    • Require relevant applications for planning permission to include a fire statement to ensure applicants have considered fire safety issues as they relate to land use planning matters (for instance layout and access).
    • Help inform effective decision-making by local planning.
  • Gateway two requires the Building Safety Regulator to be satisfied that a building’s design meets the functional requirements of the Building Regulations. Construction duty holders will need to submit critical information to the Building Safety Regulator to demonstrate how the building, once built, will comply with the requirements of Building Regulations.
  • Gateway three is equivalent to the current completion/final certificate phase. Gateway three begins when construction of the building is completed, and the building control body assesses whether the work has been carried out in accordance with the Building Regulations. All ‘golden thread’ documents and information on the final, as-built building must be submitted to the Building Safety Regulator. Gateway three is a ‘hard stop’ where the Building Safety Regulator will assess the application against applicable requirements of the building regulations, undertake final inspections of the completed building work, and issue a completion certificate on approval.

Golden thread

The Bill includes provisions to require the creation and maintenance of a golden thread of information. The intention is to ensure that the right people have the right information at the right time to ensure buildings are safe and building safety risks are managed throughout the building’s lifecycle.

Accountable Person

An Accountable Person is defined as the dutyholder of a building during its occupation (after the building has passed Gateway three). This could be an individual, a partnership or corporate body. An Accountable Person’s responsibilities include:

  • Registering a building with the Building Safety Regulator.
  • Applying for a Building Assessment Certificate, which is issued when the Building Safety Regulator is satisfied the Accountable Person is complying with their duties under the Bill.
  • Assessing (and revising as necessary) building safety risks and taking all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence, and control the impact of, a major incident arising from building safety risks in or around the building.
  • Preparing (and revising as necessary) a Safety Case Report for a building which contains their assessment of the building safety risks and the steps that have been taken to prevent a major incident.
  • Keeping information on a building and ensuring it is up to date.
  • Reviewing the risk assessments on which their arrangements for managing building safety risks and Safety Case Report are based.
  • Appointing a Building Safety Manager.

Building Safety Manager

The Building Safety Manager must have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours if they are an individual, and organisational capability where they are not, to carry out the functions assigned.

Duty to manage risks and safety cases

The Bill creates an ongoing duty on the Accountable Person to assess the building safety risks relating to their building, to take all reasonable steps to prevent a building safety risk materialising, and to limit the severity of any incident resulting from such a risk. Building Safety risks are defined in the Bill as risks to the safety of persons in or about buildings resulting from the occurrence of fire spread, structural failure and any other risk that may be prescribed by regulations in the future.

The Accountable Person will need to demonstrate how they are meeting this ongoing duty via their safety case and Safety Case Report, which they will be required to keep up to date. The safety case comprises the full body of evidence relating to the assessments and ongoing management of building safety risks.

The Accountable Person will be required to submit the building’s Safety Case Report to the Building Safety Regulator as part of the process for issuing a Building Assessment Certificate or on request from the Building Safety Regulator.  A key part of the report will be the overview of the Accountable Person’s safety management system (SMS), which explains the policies, procedures and processes they have in place across the organisation to deliver continuous management of building safety risks.

The Safety Case Report should set out the building safety risks in the building and how these are being managed on an on-going basis, to ensure resident safety.

Building control reform

The Building Safety Regulator will be required to establish and maintain a register of building inspectors (individuals) and building control approvers (either organisations or individuals).

Individuals and organisations currently known as ‘Approved Inspectors’ who wish to continue undertaking building control work will need to register as ‘building control approvers’.

The role of a registered building inspector being introduced through this Bill is new. A registered building inspector will be able to provide advice to local authorities or registered building control approvers overseeing building work.

The Building Safety Regulator will be the building control body for higher-risk buildings.

Strengthened Fire Safety Order

The Bill includes provisions to strengthen the Fire Safety Order in order to support greater compliance and effective enforcement. The amendments will require that:

  • The Responsible Person must record their fire risk assessment.
  • The Responsible Person must not appoint a person to assist them with making or reviewing a fire risk assessment unless that person is competent.
  • The Responsible Person must record their fire safety arrangements.
  • For buildings consisting of two or more sets of domestic premises, the Responsible Person(s) must provide specific fire safety information to residents about relevant fire safety matters, and must keep records of the relevant fire safety matters.
  • The Responsible Person must take reasonable steps to identify themselves to all other Responsible Persons in the same premises, inform them of their name and UK address and the part of the premises they consider themselves to be Responsible Person for and keep a record of that information.
  • Departing Responsible Persons must provide specific relevant fire safety information they hold to incoming Responsible Persons for premises or parts of premises for which they are responsible, keeping records of the fire safety information.
  • For higher-risk buildings in England, the Responsible Person must identify and co-operate with Accountable Persons in the same premises to enable them to carry out their duties under the Building Safety Bill.
  • Increased financial penalties of unlimited fines apply for the criminal offences of impersonating an inspector, failing to comply with any requirements imposed by an inspector, and failing to comply with requirements relating to the installation of luminous tube signs.
  • Article 50 of the FSO (recently amended by the Fire Safety Act 2021) which relates to the provision of guidance for Responsible Persons, be amended to expressly provide that the Court may take compliance or non-compliance with such guidance into account when considering offences of breach of the Order.

Other provisions

The Bill includes and creates other provisions in relation to:

  • Construction products: for example, the Bill creates powers to make provision for regulation of all construction products placed on the UK market, and creates the concept of a “safety critical product”.
  • Improving the competence of architects.
  • Removal of the democratic filter.
  • New Homes Ombudsman scheme.

Building Safety Bill: What’s changed?

The Building Safety Bill takes forward the government’s commitment to fundamental reform of the building safety system. The Bill gives effect to policies set out in the Building a Safer Future consultation response, published in April 2020.

The objectives of the Building Safety Bill are to learn lessons from the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire and to remedy the systemic issues identified by Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety by strengthening the whole regulatory system for building safety.

The Bill seeks to achieve this by ensuring there is greater accountability and responsibility for fire and structural safety issues throughout the lifecycle of buildings in scope of the new regulatory regime for building safety.

High standards of safety

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s lifecycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation.

“The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”

The reforms will tackle bad practice head on, building on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which highlighted a need for significant cultural and regulatory change.

Under the proposals, the government is more than doubling the amount of time, from 6 to 15 years, that residents can seek compensation for substandard construction work.

The changes will apply retrospectively. This means that residents of a building completed in 2010 would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025.

These reforms also include new measures which apply to those seeking compensation for shoddy refurbishments which make the home unliveable.

Hold to account those who break the rules

New measures in the Building Safety Bill introduced are said to:

  • Ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building.
  • Establish a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed.
  • Give residents in these buildings more routes to raise concerns about safety, and mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously.
  • Extend rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects.
  • Drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality, safe homes in the years to come.

Minister for Building and Fire Safety Lord Greenhalgh said: “The comprehensive steps we are taking today will ensure that industry and the regulatory system fully address the concerns raised in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report by Dame Judith Hackitt.

“Though the overall risk of fire across all buildings remains low, we can’t be complacent – the more robust regime will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to remediation and other safety risks.

“And by increasing our measures of enforcement, we will make sure industry follows the rules – and is held to account when it doesn’t.”

The Bill will include powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, underpinned by a market surveillance and enforcement regime led nationally by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The national regulator will be able to remove products from the market that present safety risks and prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety.

Protect leaseholders

The Bill also contains measures to protect leaseholders by providing a legal requirement for building owners to explore alternative ways to meet remediation costs before passing these onto leaseholders, along with evidence that this has been done.

This builds on the government’s commitment to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and over in England, with an unprecedented £5 billion investment in building safety. This is alongside the introduction of a new levy and a tax to ensure that industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation.

Developers will also be required to join and remain members of the New Homes Ombudsman scheme, which will require them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including through the awarding of compensation. Developers who breach the requirement to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman may receive additional sanctions.

Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Dame Judith Hackitt said: “I am delighted that we have reached this important milestone for the Building Safety Bill. It is vital that we focus on getting the system right for the future and set new standards for building safety.

“Residents and other stakeholders need to have their confidence in high rise buildings restored and those who undertake such projects must be held to account for delivering safe buildings.”

National Fire Chiefs Council Chair, Mark Hardingham added: “We welcome this important Bill’s introduction as it will contribute to essential developments in fire safety.

“We are focused on working with government and partners to fix the broken building regime, make buildings safer and restore public confidence.”

Source: SHP Online
Further information can be found on the SHP website.

Utilities company fined after member of the public died following fall into excavation site

A utilities company has been fined after a member of the public suffered fatal injuries after falling into an excavation on a footpath.

Luton Crown Court, sitting at Knight’s Chamber in Peterborough Cathedral, heard that on 28 May 2017 M&S Water Services (Utilities) Ltd was digging on a footpath on Devon Road, Luton to access a stop tap that needed replacing. The stop tap could not be reached by hand and so it was left protected by plastic barriers until a deep dig team could attend a few days later.

Over the bank holiday weekend, a member of the public, Matthew Wilmot, was walking home when he fell into the excavation site. His body was found the next morning.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had not been completed. It should have identified the need for secure fencing, backfilling or covering as the excavation was to be left unattended for five days and there was no easy alternative route for nearby householders.

M&S Water (Utilities) Ltd of High Town Enterprise Centre in York Street, Luton were found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,238.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Alison Ashworth said: “This tragic incident could have been avoided if the risks had been properly assessed and simple precautions put in place.”

M&S Water Services excavation site

Source: HSE
Further information can be found on the HSE website.

Building contractor fined following the death of worker on house building site

Nickell and Richmond Limited has been prosecuted following a case brought by HSENI, and fined £40,000.

construction

The Bangor based company pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to a total of four health and safety offences which resulted in the death of a worker at a house building site in Jordanstown.

The prosecution arose as a result of an HSENI investigation into the incident which took place on 22 June 2018 when Mr Terrence McCloud from Belfast, 46, fell approximately 2.8 metres through an opening on the first floor where a staircase was to be built. Mr McCloud died later as a result of his injuries.

Speaking after sentencing, HSENI Principal Inspector Kyle Carrick, said: “Working at height incidents are avoidable. All contractors must ensure that robust measures are put in place to prevent falls which can all too often result in serious injury or death.”

The HSENI investigation found that the company had earlier placed trestles and barrier tape to mark out and prevent access to the stairwell. The safety measures in place at the time of the incident were not sufficient to prevent Mr McCloud or any other person from falling.

Kyle Carrick added: “Internal openings represent a serious hazard but simple measures such as fitting guardrails or secure boarding may be all that is required to prevent a tragedy.”

The investigation also found that the company had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and had failed to plan, manage and monitor the construction phase of the house building project.

Source: SHP
Further information can be found on the SHP website.

Why contractors should be thinking about acoustic health

Contractors should be thinking about acoustic health and what they can do to improve current standards, argues Ben Hancock.

It’s long been recognised that poor acoustics and excess levels of noise inside buildings can be bad for occupants’ health. Today, housing developers and office space owners are assessing the harmful effects of noise and how to integrate solutions into building design.

As well as meeting regulatory requirements, they want to create a healthy sound environment, where communication is made easier, and stress levels are kept to a minimum. This is even more pertinent in the post-Covid landscape, where wellbeing and safety concerns have been amplified.

We need architectural design and building construction that consider these aspects alongside the usual stipulations for visual aesthetics, thermal comfort and environmental impact.

What’s ringing the changes?

Densification is bringing people closer together in towns and cities and retaining peaceful environments within homes and workspaces is becoming more difficult.

Meanwhile, the future of office space is hotly debated. Acoustics must be a priority here as new configurations may alter sound levels.

At the same time, regulations and codes of practice that protect building occupants (see box) must also be adhered to.

Tools to improve acoustic standards

Acoustics are influenced by room geometry and distribution of acoustic absorption either through interior finishes or the introduction of sound absorbing products. Cavity insulation and acoustic hangers offer noise transfer reduction between rooms, while seamless and decorative coatings are increasingly used to ensure acoustically balanced spaces.

Treatments like fire-rated acoustic sprays and plasters for ceilings and walls can reduce reverberation significantly without design compromise. Some acoustic decorative finishes on the market can be quickly and effectively applied to most surfaces and construction configurations. This allows minimum working down time in existing structures and the ability to meet critical deadlines in new construction.

Benefits of quality acoustics

WELL recommends the use of acoustic materials that absorb sound ‘to support concentration and reduce reverberation’. As such, ‘sound reducing surfaces’ are listed in the WELL V2 accreditation document, which awards two points to buildings that have undergone a specialist treatment, such as an acoustic finish.

There are environmental benefits too. High quality sprays made of recycled, natural plant-based fibres and specialist water-based adhesives can contribute towards many sustainable design and health certification systems including BREEAM, SKA, Living Building Challenge and adds up to 17 points towards the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating of a project.

As JLL recently confirmed in its report The Impact of Sustainability on Value new Grade A office buildings in central London with a BREEAM rating of ‘very good’ or better achieved higher rents than those without a rating.

During a time where office occupancy rates have fallen, adding this kind of value to a building during a Cat A build makes it an attractive proposition in a competitive market. Construction teams with experience of building techniques and specialist treatments for end-user acoustic comfort are guaranteed to impress.

Noise regulations checklist for construction managers
  • Under the regulations, the internal airborne sound resistance inside any dwelling must be a minimum of 40dB. It applies to walls and upper floors between bedrooms and other rooms (there is one exception: any wall that has a door in it and walls to en-suite bathrooms)
  • For impact sound such as footsteps, jumping and dropped objects, a maximum impact sound transmittance level of 62dB is set for floors and stairs in new builds. A maximum of 64dB is set for conversion projects.
Useful links

Ben Hancock is managing director of Oscar Acoustics

Source: Construction Manager
Further information can be found on the Construction Manager website.

Mace, Kier, Wates and Willmott Dixon among Building a Safer Future Charter ‘champions’

A total of 12 companies including several major contractors and housebuilders have become the first Building a Safer Future (BSF) Charter “champions”.

The firms have agreed to take part in a “robust” self-assessment, benchmarking and independent verification process as part of the scheme, which aims to help companies identify potential issues and develop continuous improvements plans to advance their approach to building safety.

The first 12 companies to become ‘charter champions’ are: BAM, Galliford Try, Kier, Mace, Mhs Homes, Persimmon Homes, Places for People, Salix Homes, United Living, Vistry Group, Wates and Willmott Dixon.

The BSF Charter has been highlighted by Dame Judith Hackitt and the Industry Safety Steering Group (ISSG) as a key mechanism for leading the culture change required for industry in their report for the secretary of state and the minister for building safety published in August 2020.

The BSF Charter’s benchmarking and verification process is now open for participation from across the construction industry. Companies can become registered signatories and, if appropriate, progress to undertaking the ‘charter champion’ benchmarking process.

‘Culture change needed’

Peter Baker, chief inspector of buildings at the Health and Safety Executive, said: “Self-assessment, benchmarking and independent verification are important elements of a robust system to enable businesses to properly lead, manage and control major building safety risks.

“Businesses across the industry need to start preparing now for the new building safety regime. The ‘Charter Champions’ scheme is a valuable contribution to driving the necessary change in culture and performance across the sector to ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, author of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, said: “I am delighted to see the formal launch of the champions of the Building a Safer Future Charter. My congratulations go to Amanda Long and her team for the way in which they have built upon approaches which have been tried, tested and proved effective in other sectors to create the Charter initiative. 

“I have consistently called for the built environment sector to recognise the need for culture change, which can only happen when leaders in the sector stand up and are prepared to demonstrate what good looks like and to be held to account for delivery. I look forward to watching the Charter champions group grow as others see the benefits of becoming part of this important programme which offers a real market differentiation opportunity.”

Amanda Long, chief executive, Building a Safer Future Charter, added: “In the built environment sector, the Grenfell Tower disaster has put building safety at the top of everyone’s agenda. From a moral, social and economic perspective, it’s now imperative that we embed enduring values, attitudes and ethical behaviours at the heart of all we do.

“The launch of the Building a Safer Future Charter’s ‘Charter Champion’ status is an important step in driving forwards the systemic culture change in relation to major hazard safety that is required across the built-environment sector and through the entire value chain. As we progress on this critical journey, we should be seeking to raise standards and build public trust. I am delighted to welcome the first 12 companies on their journey to becoming a charter champion.”

Source: Construction Manager
Further information can be found on the Construction Manager website.

Government details fire safety-related changes to planning system

The government has released details of new requirements in the planning system to bolster fire safety in high-rise residential buildings, in response to the Grenfell Tower Fire.

The changes come in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) plans to introduce ‘planning gateway one’, which it said would deliver on one of Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations following her independent review of Building Regulations and fire safety.

The new requirements aim to ensure fire safety matters as they relate to land use planning are incorporated at the planning stage for schemes that involve high-rise residential buildings.

The changes, which come into effect from 1 August 2021 will:

  • Involve the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) becoming a statutory consultee before permission is granted for development which involves or is likely to involve a high-rise residential building;
  • Require relevant applications for planning permission to include a fire statement to ensure applicants have considered fire safety issues as they relate to land use planning matters such as layout and access;
  • Help inform effective decision-making by local planning authorities or the secretary of state so that those decisions reflect and respond to the needs of the local community.

The new requirements will be introduced by making amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015.

Planning gateway one is the first of three gateways through which developments and buildings must pass.

Gateway two will bolster the current building control deposit of plans with the Building Safety Regulator as the only option of building control body for in-scope buildings. Construction will not be allowed to begin until the Regulator has approved the building control application.

Gateway three will provide a ‘hard stop’ at which the Building Safety Regulator undertakes final inspections and issues a completion certificate.

All three gateways apply to multi-occupied residential buildings of 18m or more in height, or seven or more storeys (whichever is reached first).

As announced in the Queen’s Speech yesterday (11 May), the Building Safety Bill is also expected to be introduced this year, which will establish a new building safety regime in England.

Welcoming the news, CIOB past president Paul Nash, who co-authored the CIOB Guide to Quality Management in Construction earlier this year, said: “The gateways are just part of the proposals for a new building safety regime that were set out in the draft Building Safety Bill published in July 2020. But as we saw with the introduction of a new national Construction Products Regulator earlier this year, the government is prepared to make changes to the building safety regime ahead of the Bill to ensure that the residents of high-risk buildings are safe, and feel safe in their homes.

“As with the Construction Products Regulator, this latest announcement, and the clarity that it provides for our industry, is to be welcomed.”

Source: Construction Manager
Further information can be found on the Construction Manager website.

BSI publishes competence criteria for everyone working on a building

A new set of competence criteria for everyone working on a building has been published by UK national standards body, BSI.

The standard, produced after two rounds of public consultation, aims to support construction industry reform, reduce safety risks and increase protection of consumers and occupants of buildings.

The new code of practice, named BSI Flex 8670 v3.0 Built environment – Core criteria for building safety in competence frameworks – Code of practice, sets the core criteria for building safety competence, including fire safety, structural safety and public health for all individuals working in the built environment. BSI said it would support progressive development of a more consistent approach in the development and use of competence frameworks across the industry. 

It is published as one part of the government-funded Built Environment Competence programme. It has been developed by an advisory group of built environment professionals. 

Scott Steedman, director general of standards at BSI, said: “Dame Judith Hackitt’s report ‘Building a Safer Future’ called on industry to change its culture “to support the delivery of buildings that are safe, both now and in the future”. The new code of practice, published as part of BSI’s Built Environment Competence programme, provides an agreed, common approach for industry to embed building safety competence at all levels and across all roles, functions, tasks and activities. This is a major step forward which has the potential to support real change in the industry understanding of building safety in the years and decades ahead.” 

Building safety minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “We are making the biggest changes to building safety in a generation. These new criteria, funded by the government, will set a new standard for professionals across the sector – and will underpin our wider reforms to ensure that homes are designed, built, and managed more safely in future. I urge all sectors in the industry to adopt this.”

Download the standard here.

Source: Construction Manager
Further information can be found on the Construction Manager website.

Construction workers urged to open up over stress

The construction industry is being encouraged to start talking about employee stress with the launch of a joint initiative between the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) and Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The CLC said the move was in response to “unprecedented strains” on workers as companies adopted new ways of working in response to the pandemic.

The HSE has published ‘Talking Toolkit’, a guide on how to prevent work related stress in construction.

Now the Construction Leadership Council is encouraging all businesses from across the industry to put their guide into the hands of their teams, inspiring better conversations to identify and manage stress for construction employees.

HSE chief inspector of construction Sarah Jardine said: “We have worked with industry partners to develop the toolkit, which specifically homes in on the particular work-related stress challenges that may be experienced by those working in construction. Stress, depression and anxiety are the second biggest cause of ill-health in the sector, so tackling them offers the chance to make a real difference to thousands working in the sector”.

Construction Leadership Council co-chair Andy Mitchell said: “While the industry has made an outstanding effort to protect employees from the effects of the pandemic in the last year, it is all too clear that workers continue to be at risk from work-related stress. The Talking Toolkit offers free, practical help developed by experts to help release pressure from the workplace. The CLC strongly encourages everyone to pick up a copy.”

Source: Construction Manager
Further information can be found on the Construction Manager website.

How to avoid common risk assessment mistakes

Reflecting on the past year, one thing is for sure – Covid has highlighted the importance of risk assessment like never before. Former HSE inspector Nick Wilson CMIOSH offers 12 top tips based on the common mistakes he has seen employers make when compiling risk assessments.

As a systematic approach to identifying hazards and evaluating any associated risks within a workplace, risk assessment is the foundation of an effective safety management system. We all recognise that it is a legal requirement, but beyond simply achieving compliance, conducting ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessments helps to recognise and control hazards, implement sensible control measures, raise awareness and reduce incidents, thereby protecting your employees and your organisation. Getting it right is essential.

However, things can be missed, and all too often incident investigations reveal the inadequacies of risk assessments which, had they been properly conducted and implemented could have avoided serious harm.

1. EQUIP STAFF APPROPRIATELY

Anyone completing a risk assessment must be competent to do so. Competence can be defined as those with the necessary Knowledge, Ability, Training and Experience (KATE) to identify hazards and implement sensible, proportionate solutions. Organisations with a low risk profile can upskill anyone with responsibility for conducting risk assessments. HSE guidance (INDG163 (rev4) ‘Risk assessment – A brief guide to controlling risks in the workplace’) together with interactive e-Learning courses can help achieve this. In more complex organisations, risk assessor training packages are a great way to build competence.

2. INVOLVE OTHERS

Remember: risk assessment is not a singular effort. Collaborate with those who undertake the activity you’re assessing and it is more likely you will emerge with something that it is suitable and sufficient.

3. CROSS REFERENCE WITH OTHER ASSESSMENTS

Ask yourself what already exists in your organisation? Investigate to prevent duplication and/or possible contradictory messages.

4. CONSIDER HOW SOMEBODY COULD BE INJURED

Sometimes the terms hazard and risk are confused. The hazard (something that has potential to cause harm) must be identified separately. Against the hazard, provide a description as to the risk of how somebody could come to harm. For example, a rotating drill is a hazard and becoming entangled in it leading to significant injury is the risk. But the drill will present other risks which will demand separate attention, so make sure the reader is clear on what risk control measures control what risks.

5. REFERENCE APPLICABLE GUIDANCE

To ensure you’re following industry best practice, look at guidance published by your national regulator, trade associations and other expert organisations in your sector. Where appropriate reference this guidance in your risk assessment to demonstrate robustness and increase confidence.

6. ADDRESS LIKELY POINTS

For any risk assessment, consider the following:

  • Access/egress
  • Health monitoring/surveillance
  • Maintenance and inspections
  • Pre-use checks
  • Previous accidents/near misses
  • Safe systems of work for higher-risk activities/tasks/equipment
  • Start-up/stop under normal conditions and isolation for maintenance
  • Training Risk assessments, particularly for machinery, must consider normal operating conditions and non-routine activities such as maintenance, inspection and cleaning.

7. AVOID GENERIC, AMBIGUOUS TERMS

For example, ‘heavy’ and ‘PPE’. Instead, use more precise weight measurements, for example ‘up to 25kg’, and explicitly state the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn and the required standard of the PPE item (which can usually be found labelled on the item itself or in the manufacturer’s instructions). Similarly, you must be specific with your statements, for example ‘a person will/must/shall use hearing protection’.

8. PROVIDE A DEFINED MATRIX WITH DEFINITIONS

When using a quantitative scoring system, the reader should understand how the level of risk has been determined, hence descriptors of likelihood and severity should be clearly set out.

9. COMMUNICATE THE FINDINGS

There’s no point carrying out a risk assessment if you are not going to share the findings with those who stand to be affected. Ensure risk assessments are shared with staff and obtain documented evidence that they have seen them. Select the most appropriate medium for communicating the message.

10. REVIEW RISK ASSESSMENTS OFTEN

This must be at least annually or whenever something changes, giving you reason to believe it may no longer be suitable and sufficient. An accident at work is one example of when you should review the adequacy of any relevant risk assessment.

11. STAY ORGANISED WITH A CENTRAL INDEX

As a quick reference guide, this should list all assessments and the dates reviews are required. Ensure you stick to these dates.

12. REFINE GENERAL RISK ASSESSMENTS

Creating ‘general’ risk assessments that reflect certain activities that are common throughout the workplace and across other sites can be a good starter for 10. But make sure the recipients of such risk assessments modify them if necessary, so that they are specific and reflect conditions on site.

Source: IOSH
Further information can be found on the IOSH website.