NEWS WILSON ADRAIN SAFETY MANAGEMENT

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1 NEWS WILSON ADRAIN SAFETY MANAGEMENT NEWSLETTER FOR OCTOBER 2015

2 CONTENTS The Asbestos Crisis Pg 3 Court Cases Pg 8 2

3 THE ASBESTOS CRISIS Why Britain needs an eradication Law. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health believes that the time has come to put in place regulations requiring the safe, phased and planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place across Britain. Only that way can we ensure that future generations will not have to experience the same deadly epidemic from asbestos-related diseases that we suffer today. Background This year, in Britain, official figures estimate that 5,000 people are likely to die prematurely as a result of asbestos exposure. This is around three times the number of road accident deaths. Almost all of the people who are dying now were exposed to asbestos decades ago and asbestos is now often wrongly seen as being a problem of the past as its importation and use has been banned since However asbestos is still with us and it is still as dangerous as ever. Asbestos Containing Materials can be found in around half a million non-domestic premises (and probably around a million domestic ones).it is present in a range of different forms including lagging on pipes and boilers; sprayed asbestos on pipes and in voids; asbestos cement in the form of roofing, wall cladding, guttering, pipes, water tanks and corrugated sheets, insulating boards, tiling, textured wall coatings, and asbestos ropes and cloth. Often it is either hidden or has not been identified as asbestos. This means that people are still being exposed to asbestos. It is often people who are working in maintenance, refurbishment or demolition, but people can, and do, become exposed simply by working in a building with asbestos, as fibres can become dislodged and breathed in. Levels of mortality There are several different fatal diseases that result from asbestos exposure. The main ones are lung cancer, mesothelioma (which is a cancer of the lining of the lung or the abdominal cavity) and asbestosis, a long-term lung condition. There is estimated to be around 2,000 lung cancer deaths a year caused by asbestos exposure, although many campaigners believe that this is an underestimation. This is primarily considered to be a result of very high levels of exposure involved in activities such as asbestos spraying, lagging, etc. Most of this kind of work was stopped in Britain by the 1980s, and the figures from lung cancer are slowly decreasing. 3

4 However deaths from mesothelioma, which can result from much lower exposure, continue to increase and in 2013 led to 2,538 deaths. Fatalities from asbestosis are also increasing. In 2012 there were 464 deaths where asbestosis is likely to have contributed as a cause and 900 newly assessed cases for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in An analysis of mesothelioma deaths shows that they are far more common amongst occupations such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians, but also occur amongst other workers with no history of work in the construction-related sector but who are likely to be effected through exposure in their workplace. This includes shop workers, health-care workers, telephone engineers, teachers and finance workers. Around 85% of mesothelioma deaths are a result of exposure at work, but some are due to exposure in the home. An unknown number of people may have developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure while at school. This is because asbestos is present in around 75% of schools. There is no safe threshold of exposure to asbestos fibres. This means that the inhalation of small quantities, even over a short period, can lead to mesothelioma decades after exposure. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that the number of deaths from mesothelioma is likely to continue to increase until around 2020 and then decline. This is because mesothelioma normally has a latency period of around years and most exposure would have happened prior to the introduction of regulations restricting asbestos exposure and use in the 1970s and 1980s. Before the death rate declines, around a quarter of a million people in Britain will have died as a result of asbestos exposure. How many will die after that is dependent on what we do now. Unfortunately the estimates of a decline after 2020 depend on presumptions of exposure which, the HSE admits are particularly dependent on assumptions about certain model parameters for which there is no strong empirical basis and in particular, the extent of population asbestos exposure after Yet, there are no accurate figures for the levels of asbestos exposure since 1980, or any reason to believe that exposure will decline considerably over the coming decades unless action is taken to remove the cause of asbestos related diseases, which is the presence of asbestos containing materials. Legal position The first major controls of asbestos were introduced in 1931, but only covered asbestos manufacturing processes. In 1970 new regulations came into effect that covered other factories that used asbestos, including power stations and warehouses. It required better cleaning and the use of protective clothing. In 1985 some types of asbestos were banned from importation or use and further regulations were introduced 2 years later. By 1988 most of the processes that led to very heavy exposure, such as spraying, were banned, and the use of asbestos as a major building material ceased. 4

5 The import, supply and use of almost all asbestos was not banned until However there were still considerable amounts of asbestos out there and people were being regularly exposed. From 2004 there was a specific duty on employers to manage existing asbestos, and in 2006 all the existing regulations were brought together into one single regulation that, with the addition of a few changes in 2012, applies today. This states that: If existing asbestos containing materials are in good condition and are not likely to be damaged, they may be left in place; their condition monitored and managed to ensure they are not disturbed. Those responsible for maintenance of non-domestic premises, have a duty to manage the asbestos in them, to protect anyone using or working in the premises from the risks to health that exposure to asbestos causes. Before doing any building or maintenance work in premises that might contain asbestos, you need to identify where it is and its type and condition; assess the risks, and manage and control these risks. In most cases, work with asbestos needs to be done by a licensed contractor, but even non-licensed asbestos work requires effective controls. The control limit for asbestos is 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetre of air (0.1 f cm3). The control limit is not a safe level and exposure from work activities involving asbestos must be reduced to as far below the control limit as possible. Training is required for anyone liable to be exposed to asbestos fibres at work. This includes maintenance workers and others who may come into contact with or disturb asbestos (e.g. cable installers), as well as those involved in asbestos removal work. Levels of current exposure It is impossible to give a clear figure for the number of people who are exposed to asbestos today, or the levels they are exposed to. Although high exposure is now rare, the lower levels of exposure, which can lead to mesothelioma, are still happening on a daily basis. The HSE estimates that 1.3 million trades people are at risk of exposure, and they could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year. Between 1950 and 1985 asbestos was used in millions of homes, workplaces and public buildings. It is estimated that as late as 1997 there were over 3,000 asbestos products on the market, ranging from paints and tiles to brake pads and resin toilet cisterns, but the main use was either as insulation or in the form of concrete cement, which was made into products such as corrugated roofing sheets and pipes. As a result it can be found in factories, homes, schools, shops, hospitals, offices, restaurants etc. 5

6 It is estimated that over six million tonnes of asbestos fibres were imported into Britain during the last century. The peak was in 1973 when 195,000 tonnes were imported. Most of this asbestos is still there and it is likely that at least half a million commercial properties and a million domestic properties contain some form of the asbestos containing material. Provided the asbestos containing products are in good condition and are not likely to be disturbed during the normal use of the building, the recommended action is to leave the material as it is and manage it in place. This has been the generally accepted practice in the past, but was always seen as a temporary measure. Yet 15 years after the introduction of a ban on its use, the vast majority of asbestos is still in place and poses a major hazard to both workers and the wider public. It is the view of the all-party parliamentary group that retaining a policy of managing asbestos in place is no longer appropriate and must be changed. It is extremely unlikely that asbestos is never going to be disturbed if it is left in place for decades. There can be few cupboards, boilers, wall panels and pipes that have had no work done on them since the 1970s, when asbestos use was at its peak. There is therefore considerable doubt that most of the asbestos that is to be found in buildings is going to lie undisturbed for the next twenty years, let alone the next hundred. Despite the regulations calling for all premises to be surveyed and asbestos containing materials to be regularly inspected and labelled, we know that this is not happening. A 2010 survey of 600 schools showed that only 28 per cent of respondents said the presence of asbestos-containing materials was clearly marked in the workplace. Where there was an asbestos-register, only one third of respondents were aware of its existence and only 20 per cent of the total sample confirmed that the register was shown to contractors before they commenced work. This is particularly worrying because the Committee on Carcinogenicity has concluded that children may be more susceptible to develop mesothelioma as a result of exposure. However exposure to asbestos is not just a problem in schools as can be shown by the number of prosecutions of shops, local authorities, factories and others for allowing workers to become exposed. Yet these prosecuted are only a tiny proportion of the employers who put the lives of their workers at risk by exposing them to asbestos. The asbestos regulations, however good they are, simply are not being complied with. In workplaces across Britain, most asbestos containing material remains unrecognised and even where it has been identified, accidental disturbances by contractors and others are common-place. Asbestos can also be dislodged by everyday activities such as vibration. In addition there is a clear lack of awareness amongst those most at risk. In 2014, when asked by the HSE, only 30% of 500 tradespeople who were asked were able to identify all the correct measures for working safely with asbestos. Plumbers, carpenters, electricians and builders can also be exposed by working in domestic premises as there is no requirement for homeowners to survey for asbestos. One trade union alone, Unite, has a register of around 15,000 of its members who have reported being exposed to asbestos, and that is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, as most workers who are exposed will not have been aware of it or have reported it. 6

7 Need for an eradication programme Simple regulations for managing asbestos in the workplace, however good, will never protect workers from risk. So long as asbestos is found in any place where someone could be exposed there will be a danger. The only way we will eradicate mesothelioma in Britain is by removing asbestos. That will not be easy and there is a need for a realistic timetable, but work towards that should start now. Other countries are already developing eradication plans. In 2013, Australia set up an Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency with the specific goal of removing asbestos from public and commercial buildings with a view to eliminating asbestos related disease in the country. Poland, which has 13 million tonnes of asbestos in place, has also made a commitment to remove all asbestos by The European Parliament has called for the removal of asbestos from all European public buildings by If we are to protect future generations from the risk of exposure to this deadly fibre, the All-Party Parliamentary Group believes that we need a new law on asbestos with a clear timetable for the eradication of asbestos in every single workplace in Britain. It should include provisions to ensure that: All commercial, public, and rented domestic premises have to conduct, and register with the HSE,a survey done by a registered consultant which indicates whether asbestos containing material is present, and, if so, where it is and in what condition, to be completed no later than Where asbestos is identified in any premises, all refurbishment, repair or remedial work done in the vicinity of the asbestos containing material should include the removal of the asbestos Where no such work takes place, or is planned within the foreseeable future, the duty holder must develop and implement a plan for the removal of all asbestos which ensures that removal is completed as soon as is reasonably practical but certainly no later than 2035.In the case of public buildings and educational establishments, such as schools, this should be done by The HSE, local authorities and other enforcing agencies must develop a programme of workplace inspections to verify that all asbestos containing material identified is properly marked and managed, and that asbestos eradication plans are in place and include, as part of the plan, an acceptable timeframe for the eradication. Resources should be made available to the enforcing agencies to ensure that they can ensure that all workplaces and public places are complying with the regulation relating to management and removal, and that disposal is being done responsibly and safely. Before any house sale is completed, a survey should be done which includes a survey of the presence of asbestos. Any asbestos containing material should be labelled. Information on the presence of asbestos should be given to any contractor working on the house. 7

8 Court Case 1 - Worker s injury leads to court case for firm A North Yorkshire firm has been fined after a worker became trapped by the head and neck in a packaging machine at its factory in Whitley Bridge, near Selby. Cromar Building Products Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for safety failings after it investigated the incident on 16 February last year. Selby Magistrates Court heard on 3rd July 2015 that Mr Glyn Addison was working on a packaging machine when a wrapping unit developed a fault that stopped it from correctly sealing polythene around rolls of roof felt on a production line. Mr Addison squeezed past a table where the finished rolls were discharged and reached under the roll conveyor to free some packaging film from the machine. As he did, a ram pushing the rolls of felt on to the packaging machine moved forward and trapped him by the head and neck against the frame of the conveyor. The court heard Mr Addison was quickly freed by a colleague who prised away the ram. However, he suffered nerve damage to his neck and shoulder area and has not returned to work since. HSE discovered that the wrapping machine often blocked and operatives regularly accessed the machine by walking between gaps down either side of the discharge table. It found that Cromar Building Products had failed to ensure that the machine could be effectively isolated so employees were unable to access dangerous moving parts. There was also no safe system of work for employees to follow. Cromar Building Products Ltd of The Maltings Industrial Estate, Whitley Bridge, pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act l974. The company was fined 2,750 and ordered to pay 3,039 in costs. After the case, HSE Inspector Helen Hennessy said: There is no doubt that this incident could have been avoided. It highlights the need for employers to ensure they devise and maintain safe systems of work, and that machinery is properly isolated before workers enter the danger zone. It was lucky that Mr Addison s injuries were not life-threatening, but if his colleague had not been there to release him quickly, the outcome could have been very different. Employers must provide adequate safeguards and ensure their staff are given the right information, procedures and systems to allow them to do their jobs in safety. HSE statistics show there were 25 deaths in the manufacturing sector in Great Britain during 2010/11 with more than 3,700 major injuries and a further 13,700 less serious injuries. 8

9 Court Case 2 - Court case for Croydon Company A Croydon company that builds truck bodies has been prosecuted after a worker s leg was crushed by a pack of six-metre steel sheets weighing almost 4 tonnes when it slid and fell during unloading. Self-employed lorry driver Andrew Trotter, 52, from Stoke on Trent, was working alongside employees of Thompsons (UK) Ltd at their site in New Addingham on 5 January 2012 when he was injured. Mr Trotter had delivered the sheet metal packs in his flatbed lorry and Thompson workers were unloading them using a tandem lift by two counter-balanced forklift trucks. The packs were being re-loaded onto a separate lorry before being taken to the firm s factory. However, the re-loading was unbalanced and as a second pack was being placed on the first, a loose wooden baton became dislodged and the whole sheet steel pack started to slide. Mr Trotter, who was picking up straps between the two Lorries, was struck by the corner of the pack before it hit the concrete floor. He suffered a fractured leg and muscle damage and has limited knee and ankle movement. He has had to return for hospital treatment when swelling of his leg has caused skin splitting and infection. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Thompsons (UK) Ltd at Westminster Magistrates Court on 16th October 2015 for two breaches of health and safety legislation. The court heard that HSE found a lack of planning led to Mr Trotter being able to work in close proximity to the chassis lorry as the hazardous re-loading was taking place. The tandem lift was a complicated procedure that had been neither properly planned nor supervised. Had it been controlled and directed competently, the risk of any incident would have been significantly reduced. Thompsons (UK) Ltd of Vulcan Way, New Addington, Croydon, was fined a total 14,000 and ordered to pay 11,284 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and a separate breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations. After the court case, HSE Inspector Matt Raine said: This incident could easily have resulted in death and was completely preventable. The injuries Mr Trotter sustained have been painful and life-changing and, although he can drive his lorry, it is not certain how long he will be able to do so. Thompsons (UK) Ltd failed to make sure that the lifting operation of the sheet metal was properly planned and supervised and then, of course, carried out safely. In addition they had not provided adequate training in the use of the forklift trucks to one of their employees involved in the lifting operation. Employers must ensure that work equipment is used in the correct way and that only trained people are allowed to operate such equipment. 9

10 Court Case 3 - Scaffolder s serious safety failings captured on film by horrified passer-by A scaffolder has been prosecuted after he repeatedly allowed unsafe work at height to be carried out on a busy London street. Greg Pearson, from Enfield, trading as Pearsons Scaffolding, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a member of the public raised concerns about scaffolding work being carried out on Tavistock Street in central London. She was so concerned for the safety of passers-by and workers on the fifteen metre high scaffold that three separate complaints including photographs and videos were passed to HSE. HSE visited the site twice and found the incomplete scaffold to be poorly erected and unsafe work practices were putting workers at risk. No measures had been taken to prevent any falling scaffolding equipment hitting members of the public below. HSE served a Prohibition Notice ordering work to be stopped until the scaffold was made safe, but Westminster Magistrates Court heard that Pearson ignored this and other warnings, carrying on regardless. The court also heard Pearson failed to respond when required to produce documents for inspection during the investigation, hindering the HSE s efforts to ensure future work was carried out safely at other sites. Pearsons Scaffolding s involvement at the site only ended when a second Prohibition Notice was served and the project s Principal Contractor decided to take on another scaffolder to complete the work. Greg Pearson, 33, of South Street, Enfield, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (6(3), 10(1)) and was given two suspended prison sentences of 10 weeks to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to pay costs of 200 and a victim surcharge of 80. Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers said: Greg Pearson repeatedly put the lives of other workers and members of the public at risk. He blatantly disregarded all warnings and enforcement action taken against him and it was just good fortune that no one was killed. It s vital that law abiding scaffolders have confidence they will not lose work to others who underquote them because they take shortcuts at the expense of safety. This case should send a message to other scaffolders that Courts will sentence robustly even when the reckless working practices have thankfully not resulted in serious injuries or fatalities. I applaud the member of the public who alerted us to this as thankfully we were able to avoid the workers or the public being injured or killed. We encourage people to report unsafe work to us so we can act to protect workers and the public. 10

11 Wilson Adrain safety Management can provide all your health and safety solutions We are providing health and safety assistance and CDM Co-ordinator services for over 15 years Contact David Wilson LLM CMIOSH MAPS on: Tel Fax

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