Prosecutions

£5m fine after fatal gas explosion

Northern Gas Networks Ltd has been sentenced for safety breaches after a fire and gas explosion at residential premises in Mirfield resulted in the death of the homeowner.

On 11 February 2019, West Yorkshire Fire Service were called to a fire and explosion in Huddersfield Road, Mirfield, West Yorks. The occupier was discovered during a search of the property, whilst it was still on fire and was taken to Pinderfields General Hospital and died the following morning.

The HSE’s investigation found that the source of the gas escape was identified as being from a fractured six inch cast iron main running under the carriageway to the front of the property. The investigation found that the main did not appear on Northern Gas Networks drawings and had therefore not been maintained in accordance with the Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996.

Northern Gas Networks Ltd of Thorpe Business Park, Colton, Leeds pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £5 million and ordered to pay costs of £91,487.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Neil Casey said: “This incident, that put the lives of the elderly residents of a care home at risk and cost a homeowner her life, has highlighted a failure by Northern Gas Networks Limited to follow their own safety procedures, in this case requiring the prompt and effective investigation and correction of anomalies in their records. Other gas network operators should take the opportunity to learn from this tragic incident.”

(HSE – February 2022).

Fines after fatal fall from scaffolding

A 54-year-old man has been fined £4,000 after being convicted of breaking health and safety laws after his father fell and died in South Gloucestershire, while working for his company.

Arthur Harbutt, 78, from Birmingham, died after falling from scaffolding at Centaurus Retail Park, South Gloucestershire, on 5 March 2018.

His son Garry Harbutt, of Oldbury, West Midlands, was convicted of an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 following a trial at Bristol Crown Court but cleared of a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence.

In addition, Night and Day Glaziers Ltd were fined £31,500 and ordered to pay £15,000 in costs after admitting a charge of failure to discharge a duty on 17 January.

Night and Day was contracted to refit a shop unit at the retail park when the incident happened. Both Garry and Arthur Harbutt were among a group of men moving a large glass panel up steps on a scaffolding platform, which had no internal edge protection, when Arthur Harbutt fell. He suffered severe head injuries in the fall and died later the same day in hospital.

Major Crime Investigation Officer Matthew Stokes said: “This is a tragic incident which was entirely preventable if proper protections had been put in place. This has been a terrible ordeal for Arthur Harbutt’s family and friends, and our thoughts are very much with them.”

HSE inspector, Ian Whittles, said: “Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. This tragic incident highlights the importance of appropriate planning, using scaffold designed for the purpose and the need for clear communication between scaffolder and client to keep workers safe. Our thoughts remain with Mr Harbutt’s family.”

(Avon and Somerset Police – February 2022).

Roofing contractor sentenced after worker falls from height

A roofing contractor has been sentenced after an unpaid casual labourer fell through a skylight during the renovation of an old asbestos cement roof, at an industrial building in Exeter.

On 23 October 2018, the labourer, who wanted to gain industry experience having never previously worked on roofs, was instructed by Ian Davey (trading as Exe Fibreglass) to cut fibreglass for the roof of the building. Once the fibreglass was cut, the labourer went up onto the roof to observe the fitting by Mr Davey and another colleague. He stepped on a fragile skylight, which gave way causing him to fall five and a half metres to the floor below. He suffered multiple fractures to his hand and wrist, which required surgical wiring to repair, and also factures to his ribs.

The HSE’s investigation found that the work had not been properly planned. There was a lack of training or experience in the supervision of others working at height. There were no preventative safety measures in place for the skylights such as netting, crawl boards or safety harnesses in use.

Ian Davey trading as Exe Fibreglass of Beacon Hill, Exmouth pleaded guilty to breaching Section 9(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was given a 12 month community order, which includes 80 hours of unpaid work, and has been ordered to pay costs of £3,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Buscombe said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply using correct control measures and following safe working practices.  Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related injury and fatality in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.”

(HSE – February 2022).

Fine for unnecessary spread of asbestos material (Northern Ireland)

The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) has prosecuted Portadown Recycling and Skip Hire Limited, resulting in fines totalling £10,500.

The Portadown based company pleaded guilty to a total of six health and safety offences which related to the removal of asbestos containing materials at a former factory site at Shaerf Drive, Lurgan.

The prosecution arose after an HSENI visit to the factory site where an Inspector observed workers throwing what was believed to be asbestos cement sheeting onto the ground through a window opening of the derelict factory building. Significant amounts of this material were also noted in the immediate area outside the building. The material was later confirmed to contain asbestos fibres consistent with those found in asbestos cement sheeting.

During the inspection, the Inspector did not observe the use of any control measures that are required during the removal of asbestos containing materials. In addition, employees of Portadown Recycling Skip and Hire Ltd were not wearing suitable respiratory protective equipment designed to further reduce the potential exposure of workers to asbestos fibres. At the time of the visit, the Inspector served a prohibition notice preventing any further asbestos removal work from continuing.

HSENI Inspector Gavin Rowan said: “The failure of the company to clearly identify the presence and condition of asbestos before any removal work was a fundamental error. In this case, the absence of effective control measures placed workers at unnecessary risk from exposure to asbestos fibres.

“Preventing exposure to asbestos is a workplace health priority area for HSENI. Employers should be aware that HSENI will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

(HSENI – February 2022).

News

Fire and Rescue Incident Statistics: England, Year Ending September 2021

This document sets out statistics on fires, casualties, false alarms and non-fire incidents attended by fire and rescue services (FRSs) in England for the year ending September 2021.

FRSs attended 537,039 incidents in the year ending September 2021, representing virtually no change compared with the previous year (539,418). Of these incidents, there were 145,208 fires which was a 5% decrease compared with the previous year (153,438).

There were 243 fire-related fatalities in the year ending September 2021 compared with 231 in the previous year.

Of all incidents attended by FRSs, fires accounted for 27%, fire false alarms 41% and non-fire incidents 32%, compared with fires accounting for 36%, fire false alarms 42% and non-fire incidents 23% ten years ago.

(Home Office – February 2022)

1 in 3 employers have not talked to staff about their mental health over the past year

New research by Acas has found that over a third (35%) of British employers have not spoken to their staff about their mental health and wellbeing over the past year during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Acas commissioned YouGov to ask businesses in Britain about whether they had personally talked to their staff about their mental health in the last 12 months during the pandemic. The poll found that:

  • Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) had spoken to staff.
  • Over a third (35%) had not talked to staff.
  • 3% did not know or could not remember.
  • 3% preferred not to say.

The publication of the results coincided with Time to Talk Day (which was on 3 February), which aims to support people to have conversations about mental health.

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said: “The pandemic has been a challenging period for everyone and it is great to see that most employers have chatted to their staff about their mental health and wellbeing.

However, a third of employers have not spoken to their staff about their mental health over the past year.
Taking the time to talk openly about mental health is vitally important as it can avoid problems building up and lead to improved morale at work.

“Acas has good advice and training on how to support and manage mental health and wellbeing at work, which includes tips on how to start those conversations.”

  • Acas advice for employers on managing mental health during COVID-19 includes:
  • Be approachable, available and encourage team members to talk to you if they’re having problems.
  • Keep in regular contact with your team to check how they are coping.
  • Address any individual communication preferences such as asking team members if they prefer to talk over the phone, through video meetings or by email.
  • Respect confidentiality and be calm, patient, supportive and reassuring if a staff member wants to have a chat about their mental health.
  • Look after your own mental health and get support if you feel under more pressure than usual – this support could be a colleague at work, a mental health network or a counsellor.

(Acas – February 2022).

Guidance

Electric Vehicle Smart Charge Points: Regulations

Electric vehicle charge points sold in Great Britain for private (domestic or workplace) use are being regulated to help manage the increase in electricity demand from the transition to electric vehicles.

The regulations ensure charge points have smart functionality, allowing the charging of an electric vehicle when there is less demand on the grid, or when more renewable electricity is available. The regulations also ensure that charge points meet certain device-level requirements, enabling a minimum level of access, security and information for consumers.

The Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021 is the underpinning legislation.

The regulations cover:

  • Electric vehicle private charge points which are sold for use in a domestic or workplace environment in Great Britain.
  • Smart cables (defined as an electrical cable which is a charge point and is able to send and receive information).

The regulations do not apply to private charge points which are:

  • Sold in Northern Ireland.
  • Sold before 30 June 2022.
  • Not intended for use within Great Britain at any time.
  • Sold by individuals outside of the purposes of their trade, business, craft or profession (for example, second-hand sales made between private individuals).
  • Non-smart cables or rapid charge points.
  • Intended for use as public charge points (but these may be subject to the requirements of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017).

The regulations apply to any person or business selling, offering, or advertising a charge point for sale. Following the definition in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, a sale includes the act of hiring, lending, leasing or giving a charge point from one party to another. The regulations also apply to exchanges under warranty if the exchange is made after 30 June 2022.

The regulations state that charge points sold for the intended private charging of vehicles must meet certain device-level requirements; these include smart functionality, electricity supplier interoperability, and safety provisions, preventing the user carrying out an operation which could risk the health or safety of a person.

Office for Product Safety and Standards, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Office for Low Emission Vehicles – February 2022.

Legislation

Electric Vehicles (Smart Charge Points) Regulations 2021

The Regulations come into force on 30 June 2022, apart from the security requirements set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations, which come into force on 30 December 2022. For more information, see above.

At William Martin Compliance we have a nationwide team of experts who offer a comprehensive range of health and safety compliance services. As part of the wider Marlowe Group, William Martin Compliance also has access to a wider range of complementary compliance services.

For all enquiries, please contact us: enquiries@wmcompliance.co.uk or call our team on 0203 819 8829.

Click to download this Briefing Note.