Category Archives: Discussion

How potty is this?

London Fire Brigade are warning parents to keep a keen eye on children as new figures reveal that crews receive an average of four call outs a day to rescue youngsters from a variety of objects like railings, potties and toilet seats.

In 2015 there were 1,499 incidents of under 18s being stuck in things and 7,526 call outs to children stuck in things in the last five years.

The new figures coincide with the start of Child Safety Week (6-12 June) and the Brigade is asking parents to only dial 999 if it is a real emergency.

Mark Hazelton, Community Safety Group Manager said: “I’m a father so I know it’s impossible to watch your children every second of the day but with a bit of extra forethought and careful supervision it’s far better to prevent youngsters getting in a tight spot in the first place.

“Many of the incidents we get called to could be avoided with a little bit of common sense.

“I would ask parents to keep an eye on their children and only call 999 if it is a real emergency.”

The most unusual child rescues revealed

Some of most unusual child rescues in the last five years, the Brigade’s crews have been called out to rescue, include:

  • Child with its head stuck in a potty
  • Child with a finger caught in a tumble dryer
  • Child with a foot stuck in a manhole cover
  • Child with its hand stuck in a door
  • Baby with leg stuck in a cot
  • A 13 year old stuck in a baby swing in a park
  • Child trapped under a slide
  • A toilet seat stuck on a child’s head
  • Child with a toy train stuck on a finger
  • Child with knee stuck in a park merry-go-round

In 2015 the Brigade spent £488,674 on call-outs to under 18 year olds who accidentally locked themselves in rooms or got trapped in things.

This figure is based on £326 per call out which is the rate used to recover costs charged for services, such as repeated calls to shut in lift releases and false alarms from automatic systems.

takeaway map aims to reduce fire deaths

London Fire Brigade have been promoting the idea of opting for a takeaway as opposed to cooking when under the influence of alcohol for some time now.

Launched last year they have linked a map of London’s takeaway restaurants/establishments with hints and tips on safe cooking.

LFB Takeaway Map

Considering that, according to their figures 75% of fires started where alcohol was a factor involved a person cooking after alcohol consumption this approach must have some merit.

More fires and fire injuries are caused in the kitchen than anywhere else in the home, current statistics indicate that around 60 per cent of accidental fires in the home start in the kitchen. Taking a few simple measures can make all the difference.  LFB’s advice about safe cooking:

  • Avoid leaving cooking unattended
  • Don’t cook if you are tired, have been drinking alcohol or taking medication that might make you drowsy
  • Take care not to lean over hot hobs and keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob
  • Be careful to keep the oven, hob, cooker hood and grill clean to avoid a build-up of fat and grease, which could ignite and cause a fire
  • Use spark devices to light gas cookers – they are much safer than matches or lighters as they don’t have a naked flame
  • Double check the cooker and hob are turned off when you’ve finished cooking
  • Check toasters are clean and placed away from anything that can catch fire
  • Never put anything metal in the microwave
  • Never use a barbecue indoors or on a balcony
  • Supervise children and pets in the kitchen at all times and keep matches and saucepan handles out of reach

If a pan catches fire

  • Don’t tackle the fire yourself and don’t attempt to move the pan
  • Never throw water over a fire as it could create a fireball
  • Turn off the heat, if it is safe to do so
  • Leave the room, close the door, shout a warning to others and call 999
Deep fat frying

  • Take care when cooking with hot oil – it can easily overheat and catch fire
  • Never fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil
  • If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool
  • Use an electronic deep fat fryer if possible – they have built-in thermostats to control the temperature


This is why common areas should not be used for storage

We commented last month on a news story where disgruntled residents of a block of flats were bemoaning the fact they had been told they could not store personal items in the common parts of the block of flats they lived in.  It was one of the elf n safety gone mad” news stories we see so frequently.  A fire in a block of flats in Dundee last week helps show exactly why the common parts of blocks of flats should be maintained free from combustible storage with 3 men having to be plucked to safety from the roof by the Fire and Rescue Service.

The fire, which is being blamed on a discarded cigarette, broke out just after 9.30pm on Thursday. The three men were lifted from the roof by firefighters using an aerial rescue platform. They had managed to make their way there from the top floor flats.

Police, ambulances and several fire crews from Dundee were called to the scene in the Seagate area of the city.

Dundee fire station manager Craig Thomson said: “We don’t believe this fire was started deliberately but caused by the careless disposal of a cigarette.

“It is important to ensure smoking materials are properly extinguished before leaving the area, particularly if there are combustible materials nearby.

“We would urge people not to leave rubbish or bins in the common stairwells of tenement blocks for a number of reasons. It can be very attractive to fire-setters and increases the risk of a fire.”

No one was seriously injured in the fire but the smoke caused damage to the stairwell, electrics and lighting.

carer slips on ice when visiting client – should employer have provided crampons

Supreme Court holds that an employer is liable for an employee who slipped on ice when visiting a client.

The appellant was employed as a home carer by the respondents. Her work involved visiting clients in their homes and providing personal care. On 18 December 2010, at around 8pm, she was required to visit an elderly lady. There had been severe wintry conditions in central Scotland for several weeks, with snow and ice lying on the ground. The appellant was driven to the house by a colleague, who parked her car close to a public footpath leading to the house. The footpath was on a slope, and was covered with fresh snow overlying ice. It had not been gritted or salted. The appellant was wearing flat boots with ridged soles. After taking a few steps, she slipped and fell, injuring her wrist.

In the judgment is was held that the duties imposed for a suitable risk assessment to be carried out and PPE provided extend to when a person is “at work” and not merely whilst carrying out work. So what would have helped? The provision of crampons? Maybe some form of supplementary anti slip overshoes, grips or snow shoes would have helped? As this case was in central Scotland during winter months is it likely there would be snow and ice on a farly regular basis? Did the appellant usually wear anti slip shoes when not at work, if not does that suggest she was unaware of the risk or was happy to accept it, or was prepared to take more care and wear appropriate footwear?

What does this judgment mean for employers who have staff who walk outside at any time whilst at work, on untreated footpaths or surfaces when it has snowed or been icy? If a member of staff from an office has to visit a client in winter months when there is a risk of snow and ice, does their employer have to provide crampons? Was this really the intent of the original Regulations?

This judgement focuses on the fact that the employers knew about the risk as there had been previous accidents involving members of staff visiting clients slipping on snow and ice. Their own risk assessment had identified it as a forseeable risk. As their employees had to visit clients at home there was a forseeable risk footpaths would not have been treated or gritted. They should have provided some form of gripper soles which the applellant confirmed she would have worn if they had been provided.

A joint fire and police investigation has revealed that a major blaze at a factory in Fenton was started deliberately

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Serice confirm cause of major blaze was deliberate:   Fire Investigation Officer Kelvin Knapper has said ” This morning we carried out a joint investigation with the police forensics team to determine the cause of this severe blaze. The incident has been classed as deliberate ignition.”

The incident is thought to have originated in a scout hut, measuring approximately 20m x 10m, which was completely destroyed as a result of the blaze.

The fire then spread to the nearby Koch Glitsch factory on King Street which suffered fire and smoke damage to both the ground and first floors.

The first appliance arrived at the scene at 11.25pm yesterday and the last left at 2.48am today.

Two appliances and the Aerial Ladder Platform from Longton attended the incident along with two crews from Hanley and one each from Newcastle, Sandyford and Loggerheads.

The Command Support Vehicle from Stone and the Welfare Vehicle from Newcastle were also called to the scene.

Firefighters used two main jets and one hose reel jet to extinguish the blaze and used two breathing apparatus during the operation.

Fire Investigation Officer Kelvin Knapper said: “This morning we carried out a joint investigation with the police forensics team to determine the cause of this severe blaze. The incident has been classed as deliberate ignition.

“Incidents such as this can have many devastating consequences. They not only put the lives of firefighters at risk, they can also put members of the public in danger. Those responsible for deliberately setting fires may also divert vital frontline resources away from other incidents, potentially costing lives.”

HSE to prosecute Alton Towers’ owners after ‘Smiler’ incident

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted over an incident in which five people were seriously injured on a rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers in Staffordshire.

Two female passengers on the ‘Smiler’ ride suffered leg amputations and three others were also seriously injured when their carriage collided with a stationary carriage on the same track. The incident happened on 2 June 2015.

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd based in Poole, Dorset, will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme on 22 April 2016 to face a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands said:

“We have today informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd that it will be prosecuted for breaching health and safety law.

“This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people.

“We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd is the company responsible for Alton Towers and under health and safety law is responsible for managing the risks created by the operation of the theme park’s rides.

Will exit from European Union affect our safety standards or reduce the claims for compensation?

Between now and the 23rd June there will undoubtedly be all manner of debate and heated discussion about whether we are better off in or out of the European Union. Should we stay or should we go?

The economic and political debate will be top of the news agenda, but what about the oft quoted “elf n safety” agenda, will the likes of Clarkson and Littlejohn use this as an opportunity to take well aimed shots at society’s march towards the “compensation culture” and try to link this to European meddling in our safety laws? 

The growth of the claims management industry has got to be significant factor in the volume of compensation claims made in the civil courts, an industry highlighted in Lord Young’s review of safety law in the UK in 2010.  In his executive summary he commented:

“The ‘no win, no fee’ system gives rise to the perception that there is no financial risk to starting litigation; indeed some individuals are given financial enticements to make claims by claims management companies”

There is a huge question as to whether the compensation culture is more a reflection on our society than any reality about our safety laws.  HSE’s  own Dame Judith Hackett DBE FREng  will no doubt touch on this during a debate in March when she will recognise that 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.

Whatever your political persuasion and views on whether we should be in or out, it should not be forgotten that in the UK we have had safety laws designed to protect workers since the 1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act was passed, this early piece of safety law was promoted by Sir Robert Peel, an MP (and father of the future prime minister) who himself was a wealthy factory owner. He was concerned to see that humane standards of treatment were established for the increasing numbers of ‘pauper apprentices’ employed in factories like his own.

Followed by other industry specific pieces of domestic safety legislation through the 1800s and 1900s and after the Robens report of 1972 The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was enacted.  This enabling Act has been the underpinning law protecting workers and others for over 40 years, it is the more often than not the law that enforcers use to prosecute those who transgress.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 was described as “a bold and far-reaching piece of legislation” by HSE’s first Director General, John Locke. It certainly marked a departure from the framework of prescribed and detailed regulations which was in place at the time. The Act introduced a new system based on less-prescriptive and more goal-based regulations, supported by guidance and codes of practice.  This principle has of course been extended within The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 with the duty holder having to assess risk to determine what control measures should be put in place.

While it is true that the introduction of the 6 pack of Regulations driven by a European Directive in 1992/3 introduced a swathe of additional regulations, the majority of the new duties could be argued to have been an attempt to make implied duties from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 explicit.

While the debate about whether we should stay in or leave will rage over the coming months, UK enforcing agencies including the HSE, local authority EHOs and fire and rescue service inspecting officers will continue to apply UK legislation proportionally to ensure that the workforce and others affected by business activities are as safe as possible.

Meanwhile some claims management companies will continue to encourage the general populous to make spurious claims, feeding on the get rich quick, it wasn’t my fault, I am entitled to compensation minority.

Should we stay or should we go?  You decide.