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Occupational health and safety news and guidance

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Construction company fined half a million pounds for fatal demolition work

McGee Group Limited was fined £500,000 with £66,236.22 in costs for a breach of Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, following the death of 33-year-old labourer Dainius Rupsys in April 2014.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Mr Rupsys from Lithuania was working with an excavator operator at the site on Grosvenor Square in London, as part of the operation to demolish the existing multi-storey building before 31 residential flats could be built.

Mr Rupsys had been burning through reinforcing steel bars with an oxy-propane lance to assist the excavator operator’s efforts to remove part of the re-enforced concrete slab. Another worker had alerted the supervisor that their work had made the structure unsafe and the demolition was halted. However, the supervisor then ordered the removal of props supporting the remaining slab and less than ten minutes later it collapsed. The Court heard that the 360 excavator may have moved back onto the slab after the props were removed.

Mr Rupsys, the 360 excavator and its operator in the cab all fell with the slab. Mr Rupsys suffered severe head injuries and died at the scene, while the excavator operator injured his back.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that in the weeks before the incident CCTV from overhead cameras showed demolition work had been carried out unsafely, that Mr Rupsys was not adequately trained to use the oxy-propane lance and that he had no training on using the safety harness, which was not attached when the incident occurred.

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Common office health and safety risks and how to avoid them

image shows a cluttered officeEven though the average office is a whole lot safer than say, the average construction site, there are still a fair number of health and safety risks that need to be managed. Here are some of the most common and how to avoid them.

Slips, trips, and falls

These tend to be the number one health and safety hazard in any environment and the average office is no exception. In an office environment, there are three issues which stand out as tripping hazards.

  • Cables - It’s a cliché but it’s not at all a joke. For all the world is going wireless, offices still tend to have a lot of cables in them and they need to be minimised and routed safely to stop people falling over them.
  • Liquids - Toilets and sinks need to be maintained as well as cleaned and cleaning should be undertaken with appropriate concern for wet surfaces and the potential for spillage (and ideally out of hours). There should also be easy access to materials for mopping up standard “kitchen spills” like spilt drinks.
  • Lack of flow - Many offices can grow organically rather than in a planned way and if they are planned, they can end up being planned around the needs of the IT team (i.e. where cables can be routed) rather than around sensible physical walking routes for humans. This can be difficult, but the less stuff you have in your office, the less stuff you have to find space for and the easier it can be to find space for human workers, be it to sit or to walk.

In many offices, the single, biggest way to reduce “stuff” is to get to grips with good document storage. This means digitize as much as possible (which has all kinds of benefits) and limit your paper documents to what you really need to keep on paper and what is convenient to have on paper. Implement an effective storage pol…

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Asbestos 20 Years On: Still a Present Problem

images shows a crossed box next to the word bannedAsbestos may have been banned in the UK 20 years ago this month, but it continues to have a devastating effect on people’s lives today. In this post, we explore how and why asbestos is still a problem.

The UK Ban on Asbestos

Following a ban in the 1980s on blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos, the Asbestos (Prohibitions) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 came into force on 24 November that year.

Unlike the previous regulations, this amendment included a ban on white (chrysotile) asbestos – which was traditionally considered less lethal than other forms – and prohibited the importation, supply and use of ALL types of asbestos in the UK.

Is Asbestos Still an Issue in the UK Today?

Despite being prohibited for almost two decades, asbestos still remains a threat to health today – it is the greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

Statistics published in 2019 via the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that annual asbestos deaths in the UK have been growing over the past 50 years. And, according to HSE, the estimate is that there are “over 5,000 asbestos-related disease deaths per year currently, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis,” and there’s no sign of the numbers decreasing.

It’s thought that the number of people affected by exposure to asbestos still hasn’t reached its peak; it’s anticipated that the number will continue rising until at least 2020. That’s because many UK factories and public buildings built before 1980 used asbestos as a building material. The threat today is exposure to asbestos fibres from these materials.
 

What Are the Effects of Asbestos Exposure?

The inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to an asbestos-related disease, but the symptoms of this disease can take dec…

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