Author Archives: Nick Underwood

Important Update – Covid-19

To All SPA Training Providers

The current Covid 19 crisis means that we are all facing unprecedented challenges, with no clear end yet in sight. Above all else, we hope that you and your team members, as well as your clients and delegates, are able to avoid the coronavirus and stay safe and healthy.

In business terms there are further challenges, not least for our passport holders who need the assurance that they will be able to go about their daily business without interruption. We therefore want to inform you that with immediate effect all SPA accredited passport renewals will be granted a 3-month period of grace.

The grace period is valid across all SPA passports, including MPQC and UKPIA and we will keep the situation and the length of the period necessary under constant review.

If you require more information please do not hesitate to contact the SPA the head office during business hours.

All that remains is for us to wish you all well for the coming days, weeks and months.

Budget 2020: £1 billion Building Safety Fund announced to tackle Grenfell-style cladding

In the first budget of 2020, the newly-appointed Chanceller of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced that extra funds will be made available from the Government to support the removal of combustible Grenfell-style cladding on tower blocks. 

The Chancellor

Experts had already commented that the original £600m would not be enough, even for those blocks with cladding that conforms to the Government’s strict rules. The Chancellor noted this in his speech, and has pledged an extra £1 billion in a new building safety fund.

The Chancellor said: “Two and a half years on, we’re still grappling with the tragic legacy of Grenfell. Expert advice is clear that new public funding must concentrate on removing unsafe materials from high rise residential buildings, so today I am creating a new building safety fund worth £1 billion.”

He followed on to say that all experts, committees (including the select committee) and the opposition agree that this is necessary. The funding will go “beyond ACM to make sure that all unsafe cladding will be removed for all social and residential buildings above 80m high”.

The Housing Secretary will look to spearhead these efforts in the housing sector.

The Government also pledged increased investment to national infrastructure projects across the UK, including in 4G and broadband coverage, green transportation methods,

IFSEC

Centrica Business Solutions

SPA Training Provider of the Month – March 2020

Training at Centrica Business Solutions

At Centrica, we believe knowledge is power. Our wide range of electrical courses provide the practical skills that are great for your business and for your customers.

Our training allows you to quickly gain the qualifications you need to move forward with professional competence, minimising risk and promoting health and safety at all times. Each course conforms to the very latest industry standards and legislation, ensuring you are up to date.

Although short courses, you’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll take away with you – they’re clear and compact, specifically focused on your area of interest and you’ll get to know invaluable practical insights from our experienced tutors. We focus our tuition on your areas of interest, bringing courses alive with real life experience and examples.

We appreciate delegates may have been away from the classroom for a while, so we concentrate on giving quality tuition that’s tailored to your needs and delivered with professional respect. Our small class sizes ensure everyone feels involved and training is delivered in a simple and efficient manner, with the right expertise and flexibility.

Courses are delivered at approved training centres throughout the UK, including Rotherham, Salford, Birmingham, Newbury, Tunbridge Wells and Glasgow. Many of our courses can also be delivered onsite, saving you time and money.

As part of our training offering, we are proud to be a Safety Passport Alliance training provider, giving us the capability to deliver nationally recognised health and safety training, including the SPA Core, Food and Drink and Refresher courses. Many of our courses focus on compliance and the legal requirements in the workplace, therefore the SPA is a fantastic addition to our electrical training, giving delegates an understanding of their responsibilities at work and best practice in health and safety.  

If you would like more information on the training available at Centrica Business Solutions, please give us a call on 0800 980 8150.

Research reveals workplace safety and health implications of outsourcing

Workplace safety and health challenges from outsourcing across several sectors and industries have been revealed as part of a new study by Cranfield University.

The new study published today and funded by IOSH saw researchers from Cranfield University explore how outsourcing practices vary when working with different types of contractors. The study focused on the relationship between client firms and the main sub-contractor.

Challenges for maintaining occupational safety and health standards when outsourcing included tensions between organisations and varying regulations across countries.

The research also found limited reviewing of safety performance during and after contracts were signed in outsourced relationships – which acted as a barrier to improvements in safety performance.

Dr Colin Pilbeam, Reader in Safety Leadership at Cranfield University, said: “Outsourcing is a significant and increasingly common organizational change initiative of the modern era, occurring not only in private companies but also in public sector organisations across the globe. However, outsourcing can also introduce safety risks into an organisation.

“This research, funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, highlights some of the safety challenges involved in outsourcing relationships and shows many industries manage safety through a common set of practices. While this can establish an acceptable level of safety performance, there can be issues around execution in organisations. More needs to be done to understand how safety can be managed in outsourced relationships between organisations.” 

As part of the study the research team developed a framework to distinguish between tasks that were core to a firm’s strategic goals and the difficulty of a task, accommodating both firm-to-firm and firm-to-individual relationships.

They then conducted a systematic literature review to identify safety risk factors and safety management practices found in 44 empirical studies of outsourcing relationships.

The study engaged with three global companies across the engineering, logistics and pharmaceuticals sectors. These companies outsourced a variety of activities including construction and facilities management to other global companies.

Through a series of 60 semi-structured interviews with employees in both organizations in each outsourcing relationship, the study investigated safety risks and the management of safety in these relationships. 

Challenges associated with the management of safety in outsourced relationships included:

  • Operating across national borders where the legal and regulatory frameworks for safety found locally differ from those which govern the policies and procedures developed by the headquarters and prescribe wider company practices.
  • Outsourcing to another company where expectations of monitoring safety performance, e.g. for near misses and safety-related incidents, differ.
  • Tensions at board level can adversely affect otherwise amicable and effective relationships locally. Conversely, agreeable relationships at board level. cannot mitigate antagonistic relationships locally.
  • Hard fought negotiations over the contract can adversely affect resource availability and subsequent safety performance
  • A safety dip at the beginning of an outsourcing relationship can be mitigated by transferring staff from the old to the new provider. But this limits innovation and improvements in safety performance.

Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said: “Employers can’t abdicate their health and safety responsibilities just by having a contractor in place to do the job.

“History has shown us that health and safety disasters happen when contractor arrangements are not managed properly. So, whilst each context may be different, this study usefully reveals some common set of practices in outsourcing relationships, that can help employers to minimise the safety risks. The specific case studies also highlight some learning opportunities for businesses to consider.”

The research report, “Managing safety following organisational change through outsourcing: Dysfunctional processes and fractured relationships” is available here: https://www.iosh.com/outsourcing 

IOSH

Working at height safely and securely

The last five years saw on average, 36 construction-related fatalities to workers and five to civilians, according to the Health and safety Executive (HSE), with almost 50% of which due to falls from height.

HSE’s Work at Height Regulations 2005, which prevents death and injury caused by a fall from height, apply to employers and those who may subcontract work that is being carried out. SafeSite Facilities discusses some of the concerns that employers and employees should consider.

When working at height, measures that protect everyone who is at risk (collective protection) should always be considered before measures that protect only the individual (personal protection). Collective protection could be a safety barrier or railing, whereas personal protection could be a safety harness connected to a suitable anchor point.

Legally, employees must report safety hazards and use safety equipment correctly. Employees must be consulted on risks from their work, proposals controlling them and the best ways of providing safety information and training.

Roof work is high risk and falls from through fragile roofs and fragile roof lights are one of the most common causes of workplace death and serious injury. All work at height equipment, such as scaffolding, must be assembled or installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and within industry guidelines. Any work equipment exposed to the weather or any other conditions that could cause it to fail should be regularly inspected.

Specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for those working at height is also important. Every working environment is different so working conditions should be evaluated on a case by case basis and the correct PPE selected according to specific site requirements. Harnesses and lanyards should be inspected annually but workers should also inspect their PPE before using it.

Automatic mobile lighting towers illuminate a wide area, meaning work at height can be carried out safely at night.

Additionally, scaffolding alarms not only protect valuable assets at the worksite, they also act as a deterrent against trespassers and thieves.

It’s important to find a skilled alarm specialist who will ensure the scaffolding alarm is installed properly. A security expert will also be able to adapt the alarm system to individual requirements, incorporating additional sensors or sounders.

RCI

Four charged after Extinction Rebellion protest at petrol station

Four people have been charged in relation to an Extinction Rebellion protest at a Shell petrol station in Cambridge.

Police, paramedics and fire crews attended the site in Newnham Road, on Friday, February 21.

A 21-year-old woman from Cambridge has been charged with criminal damage and obstructing or disrupting a person engaged in lawful activity. Three men, aged 21, 24 and 32, from Cambridge, London and Suffolk, have been charged with aggravated trespass.

They are due to appear at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court on 30 March.

In a Tweet, XR Cambridge said it had taken over the forecourt “and locked the pumps together, smearing them with ‘oil’ and plastering them with Exxon’s secret report of the early 1980s warning of ‘potentially catastrophic events’ if fossil fuels continued to be burned.”

Forecourt Trader

Two way radios for construction sites

Construction sites are busy, complex environments containing large numbers of people from many different trades all of whom need to be carefully coordinated and managed to keep the project on time and to budget.

All this necessitates the requirement for a highly efficient, reliable communications solution to ensure the project runs as smoothly as possible. Two-way radio systems such as Hytera’s Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) systems provide reliable and consistent signal coverage across the construction site with instant (less than 300ms) connectivity via push-to-talk (PTT) technology.

Two-way radios support individual, group, broadcast and emergency call types. This enables a fast response to any situation, especially in emergencies. The group calling facility saves time as particular groups of workers can all be informed of a situation or receive instructions at the same time. Site security and access controllers can quickly inform managers and trades people that a materials delivery is due on site and they can prepare to receive it.

Mobile phones have many benefits but they are not suitable for harsh and hazardous environments like construction sites, Hytera says. Mobile phone networks often suffer from poor coverage areas on site, particularly in remote areas and are restricted to one-to-one calling unless a Push-to-Talk over Cellular (PoC) solution is deployed.

Hytera offers a range of high quality PoC solutions, which may be suitable if the devices are ruggedised and mobile phone coverage is consistently reliable across the work site. PoC offers the same one-to-many calling options as DMR, but over public cellular networks.

Hytera’s HyTalk public network PTT communication solution provides PTT, full-duplex audio and video communication and instant messaging, as well as a complete set of clients, servers and management platforms. For devices Hytera offers the PNC370, a compact, easy-to-operate LTE handheld radio in a traditional radio form factor and the PNC550, which adopts a smartphone form factor with full touchscreen.

Hytera DMR radios provide clear and reliable audio with much louder speakers compared with mobile phones (1-3W as opposed to approximately 250mW for mobile phones). Hytera radios feature special noise cancelling technology to suppress extraneous background noise and boost voice audio levels to ensure construction workers do not miss any calls.

DMR radios have an emergency button, and can also support Man Down and Lone Worker safety applications. 

Hytera DMR radios come with high IP standards for dust and waterproofing and MIL-STD ratings for drop, shock and vibration resistance. They also provide a long battery life (commonly 12 to 14 hours).

HSM

Construction cannot breathe easy over air pollution

Since coal was first used in London in the 13th century, people have been concerned about the quality of air. Parliament has been legislating since 1845 to control air quality, particularly pollution caused by industry.

Today, about 40,000 deaths in the UK each year are thought to be attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution. In the Liverpool area alone, a study recently reported 1,000 deaths a year could be directly linked to air pollution. The greatest impact was on the poorest households.

Road transport is the primary source of toxic air, but it is thought that construction sites are responsible for 7.5 per cent of nitrogen oxide emissions, 8 per cent of large particle emissions and 14.5 per cent of emissions of the most dangerous fine particles. The main sources are construction dust, plant machinery and construction transport. Many projects take place near those most vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality, such as those who live, study or work near busy roads.

Regulation and intervention

The result is a difficult issue for the construction industry to grapple with. Ambient air pollution is not an issue currently regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), making it difficult for construction companies to know what measures, if any, they ought to put in place to mitigate the risk posed to the public and employees by air pollution. But the law approaches risk and safety as relative concepts.

“While management of risks posed by air pollution does not appear to be on the HSE’s agenda, that situation can be expected to change”

As knowledge increases, so too does the inevitability of intervention by regulators. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 imposes general duties on employers to ensure the health and safety of employees and non-employees – the general public – that are sufficiently broad to encompass any activity making a material contribution to toxic air. A breach of the duties imposed by the act and related regulations is a criminal offence, for which very substantial fines can be imposed on corporations.

Under the Environment Act 1995, central government is required to produce a national air quality strategy. Local authorities are also required to review air quality in their area. Where air quality limits are exceeded, councils must designate air quality management areas (AQMAs) with set air quality objectives. Extra controls can be introduced.

In practice, this means that construction companies operating in different parts of the country must be aware of what requirements the local authority imposes in relation to air quality management. For example, in Greater London there are strict emissions standards for non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) with still tighter standards to comply with from 1 September 2020.

Best practice

Many construction companies are going beyond local authority and planning requirements and are adopting best practice. The Spotlight on… air pollution campaign from the Considerate Constructors Scheme raises awareness of the impact of air pollution and provides the industry with advice on tackling the issue. It highlights how air quality plans can be drafted, dust-management measures adopted, and action taken to address emissions from NRMM.

Advisory body the Centre for Low Emission Construction also provides guidance encouraging an uptake of low emission approaches, with mitigation such as dust suppressants, diesel fuel alternatives and construction logistics plans. Other recommended steps include the use of hybrid machines, which reduce diesel fuel consumption, and the use of lighting rigs powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The British Safety Council also provides free advice to help employers establish measures to mitigate the risks posed by air pollution. Their mobile app Canairy (presently only available in London) maps an individual’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis. It is a risk management tool, to enable employer and employee to work together to improve health and minimise the risks posed by air pollution. The app has been trialled by Kier.

While the management of risks posed by air pollution does not appear to be on the HSE’s agenda, that situation can be expected to change. In the meantime, construction emissions pose both a reputational and civil litigation risk, meaning air pollution should now be put firmly on both the environmental and safety agendas of all construction companies.

Keith Morton QC and Fiona Canby are barristers specialising in health and safety, inquests and inquiries at Temple Garden Chambers

Construction News

Keep workers safe in cold storage

A NEW guide has been published to help cold chain businesses keep on top of the specific health and safety challenges posed to employees operating in a cold environment.

Shane Brennan

The Cold Chain Federation’s Keeping People Safe in a Cold Store provides a one-stop-shop overview of the major risks in a typical cold storage warehouse, bringing previously disparate industry advice into one place for the first time.

Cold Chain Federation’s chief executive Shane Brennan says, “Cold facilities are an inherently high-risk environment with unique challenges to be factored into health and safety planning and management. 

“As the first health and safety guide of its kind specifically aimed at cold stores, this resource will save businesses time and help them with health and safety compliance in an efficient and structured way. Its publication also opens a new channel for the Cold Chain Federation to respond to specific compliance queries on behalf of our members. Keeping people safe is not just a moral responsibility, it’s good for business.”

HSE statistics show that 147 workers were killed, and a further 581,000 reported injured in workplace accidents in 2018/19. Fines totalling £54.5m from prosecutions were issued as a result of investigations into incidents over the same period.

Shane Brennan adds, “Ice build-up, freezing surfaces, condensation, the unsafe use of refrigerants and the impacts of exposure to low temperatures on workers can all increase the risk of accidents or ill health. The Cold Chain Federation is committed to driving safety standards in our industry. This guide is the foundation for all our future health and safety advice.”

Keeping People Safe in a Cold Store can be downloaded from 3 February from the Cold Chain Federation website at www.coldchainfederation.org.uk/advice. It sets out the risks, compliance requirements and best practice measures throughout a cold store business, including the cold store itself, refrigerated equipment and battery charging areas and also docking areas.

Kerry Broadhead, Health and Safety Manager at the Ice Co Storage and Logistics and Chair of the Cold Chain Federation’s Technical and Safety Expert Group says:“Keeping our people safe while they are operating is of primary importance to the Ice Co Storage and Logistics, and this new Cold Chain Federation guidance will be a valuable tool in helping us to maintain the highest levels of health and safety. By acting as a checklist of all the different risks that a cold store business needs to consider, it will be easier for us to make sure that our processes, knowledge and training stay right up to date.”

Keeping People Safe in a Cold Store is the first piece of guidance to be produced under the Federation’s new Cold Chain Compliance brand. It has been produced with the support of the Cold Chain Federation’s Primary Authority partner Slough Borough Council. As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting members, the Federation is inviting them to submit their specific health and safety compliance queries from which the Federation is looking to  work with its Primary Authority Partner to produce further detailed advice notes.

HSM