Grenfell Tower Inquiry – Phase 1 dates have been announced

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry hearings schedule has been announced

Phase one will focus on the factual narrative of the events of the night of 14 June 2017. This will include:

  • the existing fire safety and prevention measures at Grenfell Tower
  • where and how the fire started
  • the development of the fire and smoke
  • how the fire and smoke spread from its original seat to other parts of the building
  • the chain of events before the decision was made that there was no further savable life in the building
  • the evacuation of residents

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Death at Work – Fine of £1.4 Million

Tata Steel UK Limited  (a steel producer) was were punished with a fine of £1.4 Million in February 2018 after the death at work of a 26-year-old maintenance electrician [TS].

Hull Crown Court heard how, on 23 April 2010, TS (an employee of Tata Steel) was examining a crane as part of his inspection duties as a maintenance electrician. Whilst carrying out this work, an overhead crane travelled over the cage he was in, trapping and then crushing him. TS died instantly.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Tata Steel had failed to enforce its own safety procedures, despite having two previous incidents before TS’s death. The HSE investigation also found Tata Steel failed to put in place essential control measures which would have prevented the overhead crane that killed TS from even being in operation.

Tata Steel UK Limited of Millbank, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 and Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was given a fine of £1.4 million along with costs of £140,000.

The fine is large, but the effect on the family is impossible for others to comprehend. Speaking after the hearing, a member of TS’s family said:

“T’s death has devastated us as a family. There’s not a day goes by when we don’t think about him. We miss him always, especially on family occasions when he should be with us. He was well loved by everyone who knew him, and had lots of friends. Every day we think about what might have been if he had still been here. We would like to thank, once again, all those who have helped and supported us over the course of the last eight years. It means a great deal to us.”

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Safety and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Fairly new to the world of health and safety is the concept of Safety and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have all heard about computer hacking, and some have heard about the Internet of Things (or IoT). Few, if any of us, have included susceptibility to (malicious) outside control under the category of hazards that we need to protect against. As more and more devices are able to be controlled remotely through the use of the internet, then the risks of someone else doing the controlling increases.

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Culture of negligence results in Prison Sentences

In a recently reported case, a culture of negligence resulted in prison sentences being given to two Company Directors. A litany of safety failings led to a recycling company and both of its directors being prosecuted and fined. How did this particular company and its management get it so wrong?

A series of visits by the HSE to the recycling plant operated by Monoworld Recycling Ltd revealed a wide range of safety failings. Workers were being put at serious risk in various aspects of their work, including:

  • work at height
  • using unsafe work equipment and unsafe electrical equipment
  • poorly maintained workplace vehicles
  • emergency stop buttons on machinery were marked as broken but were not repaired
  • broken lights and windscreen wipers on forklift trucks were not fixed, putting pedestrians and drivers at risk.

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Radon Gas – a cause of lung cancer in the UK

Radon Gas: A prime cause of lung cancer across the UK has created an infographic describing the major causes of this radon gas and essential tips on how to avoid getting affected by this gas. It also guides you to buy a special test kit which is inexpensive and easily available online.
There are no symptoms of radon exposure, therefore, it is vital that testing is carried out in properties at risk of containing elevated levels. Exposure to radon is responsible for over 1100 lung cancer deaths each year in the UK yet many of these deaths could have been avoided if testing had been carried out and high radon levels reduced prior to occupants receiving high doses of radiation.

Step ladder fall leads to £1,000,000 fine

A Hull-based bakery has been ordered to pay a fine of £1 Million after a self-employed contractor died when he fell from a stepladder. Hull Crown Court heard that the worker was contracted to complete electrical work at Greencore Grocery Ltd site in Hull in October 2013. The worker was wiring two motors for a new sugar paste machine – the work was situated above a machine and carried out from a stepladder. The company agreed this work activity could be completed using a stepladder, which it had provided. The employee fell from the step ladder and suffered fatal injuries. He is thought to have hit his head on a wall when he fell after standing with one foot on the top of the step-ladder, and the other on a cantilever lid, which moved, causing him to lose his balance.

The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation found that Greencore failed to properly plan the activity from the beginning including access arrangements to be made for installation of motors to use to carry out this work activity.

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handheld mobile phone

It is well established that drivers should pay attention to what they are doing. With respect to mobile phones, penalties for drivers who use their mobile phone while driving doubled on 01 March 2017.

The penalty for a driver caught using their phone has recently increased to six points on their licence and a fine of £200. This news has been welcomed by the Freight Transport Association.

Drivers can have their licence revoked if they accrue six points within two years of passing their test. Those caught using their mobile twice, or who accrue 12 points on their licence, will face magistrates’ court, disqualification and fines of up to £1,000


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Brexit Health and Safety

Brexit – the British exit from the European Union. What effect will this have on Health and Safety Law in the UK? Brexit Health and Safety – it is unlikely to lead to rapid major changes.

Brexit and health & safetyImage created by Starline –

To provide legal continuity, the government will prepare a Great Repeal Bill while it negotiates Brexit with Europe. In the February Brexit white paper, it was stated that this will “remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert the ‘acquis’ – the body of existing EU law – into domestic law”.

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Fire and explosion at an oil refinery leads to £1.65 Million fine

The oil and gas industry around the world has been responsible for many serious incidents of fire and explosion, some of which have claimed lives and some of which has resulted only in property damage. Start up is a notoriously dangerous time in the process safety of the plant. In this case, Liverpool Crown Court was told that during the start-up of the main distillation unit, highly flammable hydrocarbons entered an unused furnace. Heat from another furnace triggered the blast, which started several fires that the fire service had to bring under control. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident, which happened in November 2013. The incident caused more than £20m worth of damage, including collapsed internal structures.

The explosion was reported to the EU as a major accident under schedule 7 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found that Essar had incorrectly installed a safety critical valve and had failed to properly validate its operation. The installation of a new safety-critical trip was also inadequately assessed by Essar as it did not note the system had a bypass line which defeated the trip’s operation. Though the company’s policy was to isolate main fuel lines to the furnace, a secondary fuel line had not been isolated during the shutdown. This allowed the hydrocarbons to enter the furnace, the HSE said.

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Serious Fire at a distillery

The failure to manage flammable liquids properly resulted in a serious fire at a distillery. The spirits division of a chemical distributor was fined £270,000 for Health and Safety at Work Act breaches after an employee was engulfed in flames when a fire broke out at its distillery in Oldbury, West Midlands.

In August 2016, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how the 21-year-old Alcohols Limited worker was transferring ethyl acetate (a highly flammable solvent) from a bulk storage tank to an intermediate bulk container in November 2012. According to the HSE, it is thought that an electrostatic discharge generated during the transfer process started the fire. As a result of the blaze, the worker sustained 20% burns to his head, neck and hands. The fire destroyed the warehouse and damaged nearby houses and cars before West Mercia Fire and Rescue Services could bring it under control.

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