Health and Safety is no laughing matter.
I am sure that everyone has been shocked and saddened by the recent fire at Grenfell Tower in London. I also know that it will be sometime until the real cause of the fire and any safety failures are fully released to the public.During conversations, last week many people spoke about how it has made them think about their own situation, both at home and work, and they question the existing safety measures. Sadly though, how long before people are back to treating health and safety as a joke?
So, this week I thought I would look at some of the health and safety incidents that made national news, as well as some I have seen, and see if we can’t all learn from them.I will also try and give some guidance as to what you can do to make sure Health and Safety is given the respect it deserves in your workplace and home.
This week’s 2 recent HSE case look at:
- A London based roofing company has been fined after a 56-year old worker fell through two storeys onto a concrete floor.
- Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has been fined for health and safety failings after a patient fell to his death.
Health and Safety is no laughing matter
This fire at Grenfell Tower was very tragic and yes, it does raise a number of safety questions:
- Had nobody checked to see if this cladding was combustible and safe to install?
- Were the required firebreaks between flats and floors maintained or had time allowed people to damage/remove them?
- Did the fire alarms work properly?
- Had access for fire engines been restricted?
Now I am not going to try and pre-empt the ongoing investigation or try and apportion any blame. Instead I am going to try and remind each of you, that safety is an ongoing situation that can be affected by your actions, the actions of others or by taking a blasé approach towards it.
Taking a blasé approach?
Let me start with this one. Have you noticed that the very phrase “Health and Safety” has become to many, a joke. You can watch people roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders as they in a jokey way “Elf and Safety”. Indeed, it has almost become part of our language.But does this attitude possibly allow those in power, be that in government, both national and local, or those running a company in the private sector to cut corners and get away with it, on the basis that extra rules will not go down well.
A couple of years ago I visited a domestic building site; The first thing I noticed was this transformer that had a smashed case that had been taped up and was still being used. When I pointed it out to the foreman he laughed “Oh yes, I ran over that with a tractor earlier, but it still works so that’s ok isn’t it?” It wasn’t OK of course. Then whilst I was on site, one of the workers started cutting into a stone wall with an angle grinder. There were clouds of Silica Dust and, of course, he wasn’t wearing a mask.
When I questioned why he wasn’t wearing a mask this foreman went to his van saying “It’s alright Dave, or whatever his name was, I’ve got some masks in here, I’ll rub some dust in to keep him, pointing at me, happy and then we can get on with doing the job”
Sadly though, this attitude is all too prevalent in companies today, especially the smaller building companies. I have also carried out inspections on major works in occupied buildings like hospitals and schools where the builders are good, well respected companies. But I have seen holes in firebreak walls where they have had to run new pipework or trunking but they haven’t filled the whole up properly. “Oh that’s alright matey, we will fill it in a few days’ time when we have finished” I have been told when I have pointed it out. WRONG those holes must not be left for any length of time. The whole point of the firebreak wall is top stop a fire spreading from one side to the other. Such holes can render it useless.
Of course, the building operative wasn’t trying to endanger life, he was probably just trying to save a bit of time and expense for his company.
Failing to comply with basic health and safety requirements.
A recent report has shown that nearly two thirds of UK businesses are failing to meet basic health and safety laws and are putting their employees in danger.
The report covered a survey of 2,000 employees, working for businesses that have over five employees, and it found that 65 % have not received any information on their company’s health and safety policies. This is despite it being a basic legal requirement for all companies with five employees or more.
It also found that 27 % of staff who have received and read their company’s health and safety manual thought the information didn’t go into enough detail about their role and the dangers they could face, or how to deal with risky situations.As a result, the majority of workers do not feel that they are well equipped to deal with a hazardous situation if one occurred.
20 % would have no idea how to report an issue or hazard at work, while a 32 % would have a vague idea about how to handle the situation, but would still need to ask for help or consult with the company’s procedure documents first.
Thankfully, just less than half 48 % of workers would know exactly what to do in a hazardous situation.
Despite UK health and safety laws being constantly updated in order to keep them accurate and relevant, 13 % of employees said their company’s safety handbook has never been updated since they first received it. And perhaps more worrying is that almost a third 31 % do not actually think that their handbook ever needs to be updated.
Do you have a system for reporting problems found?
I find it interesting when speaking to a roomful of delegates on a course, how many admit to not having any idea about their own company’s safety management or reporting systems.
The company owners and bosses often admit that they just hadn’t really given much thought about the subject. As for reporting any problems “Well surely the staff would tell me if there was a problem, wouldn’t they?”
Employees have admitted to me that they don’t always report a problem because “well I didn’t cause it and I don’t want to get somebody else into trouble” or “I’m not sure who I should tell, so I’ll leave it for somebody else to say”
But we have always done it like this
Another big problem is that many companies seem happy sticking with the “Well we have done it this way for years and not had any serious accident yet” which of course is fine until something does go wrong. That is when you find out that you have been doing it dangerously for years and you haven’t been complying with the changes in legislation that have occurred. Something the HSE will make a big point out of when they take you to court!
It really is in you interest to make sure that you keep up to date with modern legislation and the ever-improving safe systems of work that are out there. After all, when you go to your doctor or dentist, you expect them to prescribe the latest and best drugs and procedures and not just do it the way they used to.
I was in London when there was another serious fire – King’s Cross on 18th November 1987 when 31 died and over 100 were injured.
One of the findings of the King’s Cross Fire Investigation was “A safe environment is not one in which there is an absence or a low number of serious injury incidents but is the result of active participation by management and staff in identifying hazards and then doing something positive about them”
In other words, the absence of accidents is a negative measure dependent largely on luck, while the identification then prompt elimination or control of hazards is a positive step and is essential to the discharge of our duties under the current legislation.
London Underground had only a couple of months earlier disbanded the “Fluffers” who were the people employed at nights to clean the lines, stations, escalators etc of rubbish such as cigarette butts, discarded paper and so on. Why? Well they couldn’t see the benefit and after all “We haven’t had a major fire for years and it will save us lots of money” Well there are many of us that will never forget that night.
So just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t necessarily mean that it couldn’t happen
Don’t Worry, we take health and safety seriously here…
…it’s just that we never seem to get enough time or the right moment to change things – but we will!
Well looking at another major incident, the Clapham Junction Railway accident in 1988:
On the morning of 12 December 1988, a crowded passenger train crashed into the rear of another train that had stopped at a signal, just south of Clapham Junction railway station in London, and subsequently sideswiped an empty train travelling in the opposite direction. A total of 35 people were killed in the collision, while 484 were injured.
The collision was the result of a signal failure caused by a wiring fault. New wiring had been installed, but the old wiring had been left in place and not adequately secured. An independent inquiry, chaired by Anthony Hidden, QC, found that the signalling technician responsible had not been told his working practices were wrong and his work had not been inspected by an independent person.
One of the quotes from Anthony Hidden’s report was “A concern for safety which is sincerely held and repeatedly expressed but, nevertheless, is not carried through into action, is as much protection from danger as no concern at all.”
Do these apply to Grenfell Tower and/or your company?
I dare say that, when the investigation is finished into Grenfell Tower fire, we will be able to see each of the above-mentioned failings as playing their part in the fire.
PLEASE don’t let this be true of you and your company. Health and Safety really isn’t a laughing matter but is something that you and your employees must take seriously.
If you are not sure that you are doing all you can, or maybe you just want some more advice about your legal duties, then drop an email to our CEO Jon Wilkins on [email protected] or call the office on 01458 253682.
Taunton & Somerset CPD Group at The Lawns Taunton
Thanks once again to everyone who attended on 24th May for the Thorn Lighting Seminar and we hope you will all be able to attend the next one as it looks like it will be very interesting.
Martin Kent our Customer Relations Manager has arranged this month’s seminar – see below. This is the last of these seminars until September so as not to clash with the holiday period. If you would like to give a talk, or know of somebody who would, in the Autumn and Winter months please contact Martin.
The third of these new seminars is on Wed 28th June at 12-15pm prompt please: at The Lawns Taunton..
Our Speaker will be from Ecophon which is about Ceiling Design and Room Acoustics.
If you haven’t already booked your place, or if you are not on the CPD Seminar mailing list but would like to be please drop Martin an email and he will deal with your request.
We are exhibiting AGAIN THIS MONTH
As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations the Wilkins Safety Group are exhibiting at 3 Business Expos this year in Exeter, Swindon and Bristol.
The second of these is at this year’s South West Expo, probably the largest business expo in the South West. The SW Expo takes place on Thursday 29th June 2017 (09:30 – 15:00) at the Steam Museum, Swindon, SN2 2EY. There is plenty of free parking on site and cafe selling food and drink throughout the day.
There will be over 170 exhibitors from across the South West and beyond, including ourselves, 5 seminars, 6 workshops, Technology Zone, Motor Zone, Charity Zone, New Business Zone, Food and Hospitality Zone, Live Cookery Demonstrations and even 3 Speed Networking Sessions! It is a great day out for people in business with huge networking opportunities as there will be around 2000 delegates attending!!!!
Come along see us on our stand No 91 and have a look around you will meet some interesting people and perhaps even do some business!
We look forward to seeing you there on the day!
There will also be free to enter Prize Draw
Wilkins Safety Group are going to hold a Prize Draw throughout the day with prizes including: Champagne, Prosecco, Chocolates and Pot Pourri in a jar.
In order to have a chance to win one of these prizes, all you need do is come and talk to us on the stand and leave your business card with the member of our staff that you talked to. What could be easier?
We are also offering a 10% discount off all services signed up for on the day
We are pleased to announce that we have been appointed as a British Safety Council approved Training Centre.
- the CSCS Green Card which was developed in partnership with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) for people wishing to apply for a CSCS card.
- Level 2 & 3 Supervising Staff Safely mixed with Risk Assessment which is comparable to IOSH Managing Safely
There are more courses to follow in May and June – See below.
We are also looking to run some short Health and Safety awareness sessions to emphasise the need for improving your H&S procedures.
We do not run open courses during July and August as it clashes with the holiday period but we are available for your “In House” course
Our next batch or courses will start in September 2017
If you have any questions about these courses or any other training or would like us to run a particular course for you, call Jon Wilkins of the Wilkins Safety Group on 01458 253682 or email him