Practical measures suggested for Olympics planning

Employers are again being urged to introduce workplace measures to ensure they have the necessary manpower when the London 2012 Olympics kick off.

The comments come after recent research by recruitment consultants Badenoch & Clark found that the vast majority of employers (79.9%) are still to establish a London 2012 leave policy. One in six survey respondents admitted that they would consider taking a ‘sickie’ to watch London 2012.

With just 12 months left until the Olympics begin, there are obvious advantages to addressing this issue sooner rather than later.

“Firms do have options and tools at their disposal to ensure everyone in the workplace can enjoy the Olympics without taking desperate measures to do so.”

Hotel manager fined for twice breaching fire safety prohibition notice

The director and operations manager of a hotel in Hertford has been fined for twice breaching a prohibition notice.

Nick Shipton, working at the Hertford House Hotel, pleaded guilty at Hertford Magistrates Court on 18 July. He was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,346 for breaching the Fire Safety Order on two separate occasions in December last year.

During this time, the hotel had a marquee in place over the patio area to allow for extra dining over the Christmas period. The alleyway from the rear patio area was the designated escape route in case of fire in the hotel. However, a prohibition notice was served on 2 December, to ensure the alleyway was kept clear and secure for public safety. Just over a week later, Hertfordshire fire crews noticed combustible items were being stored in the alleyway and carried out an inspection.

Unsecured wheelie bins lined the alleyway and blocked the exit. These were cleared at the time and the hotel manager was reminded of the notice.

However, on 16 December a duty fire officer visited the premises and again found rubbish and wheelie bins blocking the escape route.

The fire service, said: “We strive to work with businesses and other organisations to create a safe and prosperous community and we ensure our actions are fair and proportionate to the risk involved.

“Where there is a serious and imminent risk we will serve a prohibition notice so as to protect life. Non-compliance with a prohibition notice is an offence and we will take legal action on the person or the company responsible.”

‘Death trap’ landlord ordered to pay £42,000 for fire safety breaches

A landlord has been ordered to pay a total of £42,250 for serious safety failings at his properties. Mohammed Javaid pleaded guilty to 20 safety offences at Manchester Magistrates Court on 6 July.

He was fined £33,750 and ordered to pay £8,500 in court costs. Out of the offences, 17 were for contraventions of housing law, while three were breaches of the Fire Safety Order.

Officers found that there was a failure to carry out a fire risk assessment. They also found that there had been a failure to provide a suitable alarm as well as fire door maintenance in communal areas.

Out of 16 flats that Mr Javaid owned, authorities took action over six.

City council officers visited the flats, two of which were unoccupied, last August, and found problems including dangerous electrical wiring, a missing fire door and cables dangling from the ceiling where smoke alarms should have been.

In one property, there were no working lights in the basement and a tenant said she had to regularly visit the cellar, walking past live electric cables at shoulder height, to flick fuses back on.

The property was described to be in such bad condition that the council served an emergency prohibition order immediately.

Mr Javaid was then expected to close the premises and arrange new accommodation for his tenants. Instead, he kept the flats open and even moved more tenants into them.

The council also served notices insisting Mr Javaid carry out improvements to each of the properties, which were in three buildings, but according to officials, ‘he still has not carried out much of this work’.

The Chairman of Manchester Fire and Rescue authority said: “We welcome the clear message from the courts that action will be taken against those businesses that neglect fire safety and thereby risk the safety of the public. The fire authority is focused on helping businesses operate safely and taking action when they don’t.”

Council tenants in row over new fire safety doors

Residents have waged war over the installation of new fire doors they say are unsafe.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is in the process of installing more than 800 fire doors across at its apartment blocks. It is part of a £1.9 million housing programme that will see 1,100 fire doors fitted across the city.

However, the tenants of Honeywall House, Penkhull House and Southern House, in Penkhull, have refused council contractors access to their homes to put in new front doors.

According to a local newspaper, tenants said the council has supplied “shoddy” materials and the new doors can easily be forced open.

Concerns were addressed at a meeting between the two parties last week.

Graham Barrett, aged 60, of Southern House, said: “The council has spent very little money to buy cheap, shoddy material.

“They have already installed fire doors, but now they want to replace our front doors with the same type of material. “But the new doors are not as good as the ones we already have. They are not going to be secure. Someone could easily force them open.

A spokesman for the council stated the move did not come about due to a visit from the local fire service, but a risk assessment.

Councillor Gwen Hassall, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for housing and neighbourhoods, said: “Fire doors are being installed in properties across the city following a risk assessment. We recently met with residents and have taken on board the comments. We will continue to work with residents on the program of improvements.The fire doors are a legal requirement.”

Global brewing company fined twice in one day

Two separate incidents at its Burton-on-Trent site have cost brewer Molson Coors more than £121,000 in total fines and costs.

The company, which says it is the UK’s largest brewer, appeared before Cannock magistrates on 4 August to answer charges in relation to two incidents at its Station Street site in 2008.

In the first, which occurred on 20 May, a delivery driver had arrived at the site to unload a trailer of empty cans. Peter Jackson, 64, was walking along the ‘hydro’ lines in the canning hall to find a space to deliver his load. As he walked down the side of the lines that was nearest the forklift truck route he was struck by one of the vehicles, which trapped his left leg beneath its forks.

Mr Jackson’s foot and left wrist were fractured and he has been unable to return to work since the incident.

Investigating HSE inspector found that the company had failed to fully act on advice provided in relation to workplace transport and pedestrian segregation during a previous visit to the site.

This incident occurred because of inadequate risk assessments, poor management and monitoring of contractors, and managers failing to understand their responsibilities for health and safety.

“Not only had poor workplace transport arrangements persisted over many years but Molson Coors also failed to follow previous advice from the HSE. As a result, Mr Jackson was seriously injured in an incident that could easily have been fatal.”

Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999 for failing to protect its employees and non-employees from the risk of injury by workplace transport. It was fined £31,000 and ordered to pay the HSE’s full costs of £33,042.

In mitigation, the company said it had been in the process of implementing the HSE’s previous advice on workplace transport but hadn’t completed this effort by the time the incident occurred. It said this was its first health and safety conviction and its log of RIDDOR incidents had not flagged up any particular issue with workplace transport.

The second incident for which the company was prosecuted on the same day happened just over a month after the first – on 30 June 2008. Three sub-contractors from a specialist engineering company were undertaking maintenance work at the Station Street site, working on ‘clean in place’ plant.

The magistrates heard that the men should have carried out four isolations on the machine on which they were working, but they didn’t isolate a valve under the detergent tank.

As they were repairing the valve on a line running from the tank they were drenched in a liquid jet of caustic soda. In all, some 6000 litres of the chemical spilled out from the container.

The Inspector who also investigated this incident, told said that no risk assessment or method statement had been provided for the contractors. The workers had picked the job up from the maintenance log – a practice that had been followed for some time but which had not been addressed by Molson Coors.

The underlying causes between this incident and the first one are essentially the same – poor management, audit and review procedures, and lack of supervision. There was a lack of knowledge regarding what people were doing on the site.”

Although the contractors had been provided with visors the overalls they were issued with were made of cloth. One of the men was temporarily blinded, one suffered 25-per-cent burns, which have left him with scars and continuing sensitivity to heat, and the third suffered minor skin burns and irritation to his eyes.

Molson Coors pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £14,000 plus full HSE costs of £43,674.

In its defence, it again offered its previously clear health and safety record and said it had acted promptly to ensure such an incident does not happen again, working with the HSE to develop a better Permit-to-Work system.

All companies must manage contractors properly and make sure that they are following health and safety procedures. They must also carry out proper risk assessments for any work that contractors are required to carry out.”

Wall-collapse director to face manslaughter charge

A director of a construction firm has been accused of causing, through gross negligence, the death of a child who was killed when a wall he designed collapsed on her.

Three-year-old Meg Burgess was killed when a wall designed by George Collier and constructed by his company, Parcol Developments Limited, collapsed on to a public footpath in the Welsh coastal resort of Prestatyn, where she was walking with her mother.

Given Mr Collier’s direct role in the incident, which occurred on 26 July 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided that he should be charged with gross-negligence manslaughter.

Parcol Developments, which has ceased trading, has been charged with an offence under section 3 of the HSWA, but escaped a charge of corporate manslaughter because the CPS did not judge it to be in the public interest to prosecute the firm for such an offence.

The CPS Special Crime Division, said: “After considering reports from experts on construction standards and advice from counsel, we have decided that George Collier should be charged with gross-negligence manslaughter for his role in designing and constructing the wall that collapsed.”

They added: “we did consider whether Parcol Developments should also be charged with corporate manslaughter. There is sufficient evidence to prosecute the company for this offence, but it would not be in the public interest to do so. The company had only two directors and Mr Collier was the only one directly involved in this incident. The charge against him is sufficiently serious to address the alleged offending.”

A spokesperson for the CPS confirmed that “there would be nothing to gain” from prosecuting a now defunct small company for corporate manslaughter when the person “directly responsible” is facing a charge of gross-negligence manslaughter.

Mr Collier has been summonsed to appear at Prestatyn Magistrates’ Court on 3 October.

Blaze guts school assembly hall

Around 35 firefighters fought to contain a blaze in a school hall.

On arrival at Writhlington School, in Radstock, crews found a well developed fire in the older part of the premises. The school, which is undergoing refurbishment work, had been evacuated of pupils and staff by the time crews arrived. Firefighters managed to contain the blaze to the school hall, which was gutted. A turntable ladder was used to inspect the roof of the hall where the fire had broken through.

Avon Fire and Rescue said: “Several re-inspections of the premises were made throughout the evening and first thing on Friday morning to ensure all hotspots were fully extinguished.”

The fire, started just after 2.30 pm and took firefighters around four hours to get under control.