All posts by Paul King

Flat fire in Gravesend reported by Kent Fire and Rescue Service

It has been reported on Kent Fire and Rescue Service website that around 30 firefighters with six fire engines, a height vehicle and a command support unit have tackled a fire in a flat on the 7th floor of a tower block in Gravesham Court, Gravesend. Upon arrival, crews were faced with a heavily smoke-logged flat, with smoke also affecting the rest of the seventh floor. Crews used six sets of breathing apparatus to locate and contain the fire before extinguishing it using high-pressure hose reel jets. Positive pressure ventilation fans were used to clear smoke and fumes from the building. There are no reports of any injuries and the cause of the fire is not yet known, but will be investigated.

Health and safety: the journey back to common sense and personal responsibility

Dame Judith Hackitt DBE FREng will reflect on eight years as Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – a health and safety system, which is emulated around the world and has over the last 40 years delivered enormous improvements.

The HSE has had to fight hard to re-establish its reputation in the UK, which is partly caused by media exaggeration of stories blamed on “elf n safety” that have little to do with the prevention of death and serious injury to people at work. Judith will also argue that managers and leaders in business must share some of the responsibility for having lost sight of the basic principles and over-bureaucratising what should be an integral part of everyone’s role. As the HSE launches its revised strategy for the next five years, Judith will call upon all business leaders to recognise the role they must play in getting back onto the right track in helping Britain to work well.

The lecture will take place on Tuesday 15 March 2016, 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Prince Philip House, 3 Carlton House terrace, London SW1Y 5DG

 

 

 

Scaffolding firm in court after worker’s roof fall

The HSE’s website news feed reports on a case which resulted from a fall during scaffolding works. Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited has been fined after a worker suffered life changing injuries when he fell from the roof of a barn.

Stewart Thomas from Hemel Hempstead, 31 at the time of the incident, was carrying out scaffolding work in preparation for the installation of solar panels on a barn roof at Gaddesden Home Farm, Bridens Camp on Red Lion Lane on 25 July 2013. St Albans Crown Court heard that father of one Mr Thomas was placing scaffold boards along the roof ridge when he fell through the fragile roof to the concrete floor eight metres below. He suffered multiple injuries to his head and neck including a brain stem injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a lacerated liver. Mr Thomas is now unable to talk, move or feed himself and requires residential care.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited had never provided a written method statement or risk assessment for this work. Critically there were no fall protection measures in place, and there was also no appropriate supervision of inexperienced and trainee scaffolders on the site.

Hemel Hempstead Scaffolding Limited of Seymour Crescent, Hemel Hempstead pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, 1974 and were fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £22,596 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Stephen Manley is reported to have said: “The company’s approach to health and safety was poor. They failed to properly and safely plan the work they were contracted to carry out and failed to supervise inexperienced young workers. The particular works would have been unfamiliar to the team and so the lack of thorough supervision was lamentable.

“As a result of their failings a young father has been left being unable to communicate or look after himself and he will never be able to play with his young daughter.

When working at height, there is a high likelihood of serious injury or death if safe procedures are not put in place and adequate steps taken to ensure they are followed”.

Guidance on work at height is available via the HSE website.

Combustible materials’ cause of fatal Morton fire

The BBC have reported that a house fire in which a man died was ‘most probably’ caused by combustible materials being left too close to a portable electric heater, a fire service has claimed.

Firefighters rescued a 69-year-old man from a village farmhouse after being called to Pilsley Road in Morton, near Alfreton, at 20:45 GMT on Wednesday.

They tried to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead at the scene. Crews have now issued safety advice on portable heaters and smoke alarms.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service gave out similar warnings after a mans body was found after a fire in Walpole Street, Derby, last month. The cause of that blaze was a halogen heater left too close to clothing or soft furnishings.

Another landlord fined

It has been widely reported that a Stockport landlord has been ordered to pay £12,400 in fines after breaching safety regulations at one of their properties. Beckhall Properties Ltd was charged with 11 offences related to safety at the property, a building of self-contained flats, after a complaint received by the local council prompted an inspection.

When inspecting officers arrived at the property they found a number of fire safety breaches, including a defective fire alarm, faulty fire extinguishers and a fire door that did not meet regulations. The stairs of the property were also in a dangerous condition whilst there was no safety certificate for the building’s electrics.

The city council invited Beckhall Properties Ltd to an interview under caution to discuss the areas of concern, but they received no response. Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council Councillor Bernard Priest said: “We take the issue of tenant safety extremely seriously and the size of the punishment shows the court shares our concern. “Let this action send a message to any unscrupulous landlords – who may be considering neglecting their legal obligations – that we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

House fire in Maidstone

Firefighters were called to a fire at a two-storey house in Holland Road, Maidstone. Crews wearing breathing apparatus tackled a fire in a ground floor living room using a hose reel. They used a positive pressure ventilation fan to clear smoke from the property. There were no reported casualties. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Wembley family rescued from block of flats fire after fire survival call

999 control officers gave vital fire survival advice to a woman and two children until firefighters arrived at a block of flats on Harrow Road in Wembley last night.

An occupant heard a smoke alarm sounding a raised the alarm. Control officers gave fire survival advice to residents on the upper floor who were unable to leave their flats due to the amount of smoke in the hallway.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus led them to safety. A further seven people self evacuated the building before the Brigade arrived.

London Ambulance Service treated residents for smoke inhalation. A small part of the communal area was damaged by fire.

London Fire Brigade spokesperson said:

“By listening to the advice of our skilled 999 control officers the residents were able to stay away from the smoke and safely wait for firefighters to arrived.”

Around 35 firefighters and officers from Wembley, Northolt, Park Royal and Acton attended the incident. The Brigade was called at 0107 and the fire was under control by 0324. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Brigade’s safety warnings after four house fires in north Essex in one week

The East Anglian Daily Times has reported that two households had lucky escapes after fires in Frinton and Colchester at the weekend, prompting a warning from fire chiefs for people to check their smoke alarms.

The kitchen of the first-floor flat in Connaught Avenue, Frinton, above a bakery, was destroyed in a blaze sparked by a faulty fridge-freezer at 6.50am yesterday.

Leading Firefighter Anthony Clement said: “There was a smoke alarm in the flat but it had no batteries.

“The two occupants were very lucky because they were woken up by the alarm from the bakery below.

“The kitchen fire would have cut off their escape from the property, if they had not been woken. They were very fortunate.”

Two fire crews from the town extinguished the blaze using three jets by 8.27am.

The incident came two days after a fire in Harsnett Road, Colchester, believed to have been caused by a mobile phone overheating under a quilt, “destroyed” a bedroom.

Two fire engines were called to the semi-detached house at 6.40pm on Friday. The blaze was put out shortly after 7.20pm.

Sub officer Stephen Smith said: “There were no smoke alarms inside the property, which could have prevented such a substantial fire. The rear bedroom of the first floor was destroyed by the fire.

“Fortunately, one of the occupiers smelt the fire. Had this been late at night, it could have been a completely different outcome.”

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service (ECFRS) has also issued warnings about candles and rechargeable batteries in the past week after two other fires in north Essex.

A bungalow in Lavender Walk, Jaywick, also had a bedroom damaged on Friday night in a fire caused by a candle.

Officers are urging people not to leave Lithium Polymer, or LiPo, batteries, unattended when charging or overcharged after one of them inside a remote control for a toy car was thought to be behind a blaze in Chapel Hill, Braintree, which left a family of four homeless last Monday.

LiPo batteries can store more power than traditional batteries and are now used in many toys and gadgets, but ECFRS warn they are more volatile and can explode if mishandled.

New sentencing guidelines are now in force

Following the Sentencing Council’s publication of the definitive sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety offences on 3rd November 2015, the guidelines came into force on 1st February 2016 and apply to any case sentenced in courts in England and Wales.

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Described by some as the most dramatic change to health and safety legislation since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act in 1974, the guidelines have been introduced to give courts comprehensive guidance for these offences. They introduce a structured nine step approach that the Court should follow, so as to calculate sentences.  This involves plugging culpability and harm factors into a series of tables to reach recommended starting point fines, as well as ranges of fines above and below the starting points.

They can involve highly complex cases that do not frequently come before the courts and therefore the Sentencing Council decided that existing guidance should be expanded and revised to ensure that fair and proportionate sentences are given to offenders.

It has been stated that in some cases, the guidelines will result in higher penalties, although the council does not have any intention that the guideline should increase fines across the board, or that they will be significantly higher in the majority of cases to those currently imposed.

However, large organisations that have been convicted of the most serious offences, where they have flagrantly breached the law and created a very high risk of serious harm, or where serious harm has actually been caused, can expect to receive a fine proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and to their financial means.