The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

International Code Council Launches New Fire Code

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 06, 2014

Following the death's of six workers at the Kleen Energy Power Generation Facility in Middletown (Connecticut, USA), the International Code Council (ICC) has revised the International Fire Code (IFC) and International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC) to prohibit the unsafe practice of "gas blows"; in which flammable gas is blown under high-pressure down newly-constructed or repaired piping in an effort to clean and remove debris from the pipes prior to start-up.

The process of "gas-blowing" is inherently unsafe.

At the Kleen Energy facility, the high pressure gas blow was used to clean pipes prior to the start up of generator turbines; but the gas found an ignition source; and the six workers were killed in the subsequent huge explosion.

Alternative non-flammable gases are safe to use in "gas blowing" scenario's, including compressed air, so there is no need to use flammable gases.

Over 40 Countries, including the USA subscribe to the ICC codes.

Unsafe UK Builders

Graham Marshall - Thursday, October 31, 2013

In September 2013,  Safety Inspectors from the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK-HSE) made unannounced visits to construction sites to ensure builder's were managing high-risk activities.

These types of jobs include working at height, work in excavations, use of chemicals, electrical work, and the control of exposure to harmful dusts. 

Inspectors were also looking for house-keeping problems, sound structures and basic welfare facilities.

In a worrying outcome, poor safety practices were found at nearly 50 per cent of the building sites visited.

The UK HSE visited over 2,600 sites and Safety Inspectors found basic safety standards were not being met on 1,105 of these locations. 

On a quarter of locations (644 sites), safety control was so poor that enforcement action was necessary to protect workers.

Almost 540 prohibition notices were served by Inspectors ordering dangerous activities to stop immediately.

A further 414 improvement notices were also issued.

It is very disturbing to find UK building standards falling below acceptable health and safety requirements.

At the Risk Tool Box, we would encourage the UK HSE to pursue those who recklessly endanger the health and lives of their workforce through the court system.

Workplace Deaths for 2012 in the UK

Graham Marshall - Friday, October 25, 2013

Recent data released by the UK Health and Safety Executive (UKHSE) show an 11 per cent drop in major injuries in 2012-2013 compared to 2011.

The provisional statistics for 2012-2013 published by the UKHSE show the following results:

•  148 workers fatally injured – down from 171 the previous year.

•  19,707 major injuries such as amputations, fractures and burns, to employees were reported;

•  Workplace injuries and ill-health (excluding work related cancer) cost society an estimated £13. 8 billion.

There has also been little change in the industries in which workers are most likely to be injured by their jobs.

The waste and recycling  sector remains the most dangerous industry with 370 major injuries per 100 000 employees.

Agriculture is also dangerous with 239 major injuries per 100 000 employees.

The construction sector remains in the top three with 156 major injuries per 100 000 employees.

Speaking about the latest figures, Judith Hackitt, the Chairwoman of the UKHSE, said:

“This year’s figures demonstrate that Britain continues to be improve its health and safety performance, with important falls in the number of workers fatally injured and the number of employees suffering major injuries. But we still see too many deaths and injuries occur in the work place many of which could have been prevented through simple safety measures.  Getting this right is the key to ensuring that everyone can make it home safely at the end of their working day.  As the economy grows, new and inexperienced additions to the workforce  can increase in the risk of injuries to workers. We’re committed to helping employers understand that health and safety is about sensibly and proportionately managing risks and ensuring people understand the risks involved not creating unnecessary paperwork.”

Construction Dust and Health

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Construction dust is a problem if not managed appropriately.

Regularly breathing in construction dust over a long period of time can cause life-changing lung diseases.

Employers in the construction industry need to know what to do to prevent or adequately control construction dust risks.

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and workers also need to know about the risk posed by construction dust; and how to protect themselves against the hazard.

To view an information leaflet from the UK HSE on this important topic, just click here.



Pyrolosis in Truck Tyres

Graham Marshall - Friday, July 19, 2013

Coming into contact with overhead power lines when driving can cause the tyres on trucks, cranes and other heavy vehicles to catch fire and explode.

Five workers have been killed by exploding tyres in Australia in recent years and many more injured as excessive heat developing in tyres has led to the unpredictable phenomenon known as pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis can occur when excess heat is applied to a tyre.

Often it is a result of electrical arcing and current flow when rubber tyred vehicles have been involved in high voltage electrical incidents.

The heat decomposes the rubber and other compounds used to manufacture the tyre, creating a ready fuel source.

The ratio of this fuel to the air used to inflate the tyres can then reach flammable or LEL (explosive) levels.

The explosive energy released during a tyre explosion can lead to serious injuries or fatalities and significant equipment damage.

Because of the amount of kinetic energy released, a danger area up to 300 metres away is typically required to be established.

Pyrolysis related explosions are unpredictable, sometimes happening immediately, sometimes up to 24 hours after the heat was applied to the tyres.

And the explosion can happen with no visible signs of a fire on the outside of the tyre before it explodes.

Besides electrical heat sources, other sources of heat that lead to pyrolysis in tyres include welding (e.g., on wheel rims), oxy/acetylene heating wheel nuts, overheating brakes and wheel motor fires.

Tyre explosions predominantly occur with split rim configurations, but can happen with all types of tyres.

Any pneumatic rubber tyred vehicle involved in an incident where an electrical fault results in discharges or arcing around or through the tyres should be considered a potential hazard.

Procedures to follow when there is a danger of a tyre explosion, such as when a rubber tyred vehicle has contacted overhead power lines include:

+ Parking the vehicle in an isolation zone, with a minimum 300 metre radius;

+ Removing everyone from the area, and not allowing anyone to re-enter the isolation zone for 24 hours; and

+ Alerting fire fighting services to the potential hazard.

It should be noted that if pneumatic tyres are filled with nitrogen instead of air, it reduces, if not eliminates the risk of pyrolyic tyre explosion.

Corporate Manslaughter Trial Ends in Jail Time

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the United Kingdom, in order to be found guilty of Gross Negligence Manslaughter, the defendant has to owe a duty of care to the deceased; be in breach of this duty; the breach has to have caused the death of the deceased; and the defendant’s negligence was gross (i.e. showed such a disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime and deserve punishment).

In May 2013, Allan Turnbull of Tow Law, County Durham, has been prosecuted and found guilty of Gross Negligence Manslaughter following a trial into the death of Ken Joyce of Lanchester, County Durham.

Mr Joyce was working for Allan Turnbull, trading as A&H Site Line Boring and Machining, where he was working at height dismantling the structural steelwork of the roof of the Burning Hall at the Swan Hunter Shipyard in Wallsend, Newcastle.

The trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard how Mr Joyce was working from one cherry picker while two colleagues were working from another cherry picker and a crane.  They were dismantling the structure and were using a crane to lower the steel beams to the ground.

While removing a beam brace connecting two plate girders, one of the plate girders struck the basket of the cherry picker in which Mr Joyce was standing, knocking the equipment over.

Mr Joyce fell to the ground below and was pronounced dead soon after.

The police and UK HSE investigation found that Allan Turnbull had failed to adequately plan the work after identifying a lack of suitable and sufficient lifting plans to ensure a safe system of work was in place for the dismantling of the structural steelwork.

Allan Turnbull had earlier pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) by virtue of Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).

He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Ken Joyce lost his life as a result of collective failures which included not preparing in advance a detailed plan of how the work should be carried out and no lifting plans to ensure the safe removal of the beams.

Other people with responsibility for safety can learn from this and ensure they take the necessary action to deal with the high risk involved with work of this nature.

In a statement, Mr Joyce’s family said:

"As his family, we are striving to honour Kenneth’s memory and are still coming to terms with the void his absence has left in our lives over the past four years.

"Above all else we have hoped for justice for him and for the intensity of the sadness and grief created by his untimely passing, to ease and lessen with the aid of this justice, along with the healing passage of time."

Safety Alert on Fireplace Surrounds

Graham Marshall - Thursday, May 09, 2013
The UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) is alerting home owners, owner builders, and building contractors about dangerous incidents in which heavy stone components forming part of a modern fireplace surround have fallen causing damage and injury. 

In two recent and separate incidents, two young children have been killed when a modern fireplace has collapsed onto them.

In both cases, the fireplace had been installed in the family home for a matter of months before the fatal accidents. 

And HSE is aware of several other fatalities to children from similar incidents over several years. 

In all cases, these incidents have happened because the fireplaces were not securely, mechanically fixed in place. 

As a result of these incidents, the Stone Federation of Great Britain has revised its guidance on safe installation of fire place surrounds.

Modular stone fireplace surrounds commonly consist of two, vertical legs (jambs) on top of which is the horizontal lintel (frieze or headstone).

Above the lintel is usually a mantel shelf.

The mantel shelf may also have a significant overhang projecting forward of the lintel. 

The individual stone components can exceed 50 kilograms in weight. 

The stone components are set in place with either mortar or another bonding material acting as bedding between the stone components. 

Mechanical fixings (e.g. steel brackets, dowels and screws etc) are also used to hold the stone components in position and to secure them to the wall. 

If the individual components are not designed to incorporate or include adequate fixings or if they are not installed correctly (i.e. mechanically secured together and secured to the surrounding wall it), is possible for the mantel shelf to detach and to topple over. 

The toppling of an inadequately installed mantel shelf can be triggered by passive weight such as heavy items stored on the mantel or by a person pulling down or hanging from the projecting edge of the mantel.

The heavy weights of the toppling components place persons, especially children at risk of severe or even fatal injuries.

Designers of modular stone fireplace surrounds should ensure that their design incorporates mechanical fixings that are suitable for a range of locations and able to be installed onto a variety of floor and wall types. 

Manufactures and suppliers should ensure that adequate information is provided to installers to safely assemble and install the fireplace surround including:

+  Which wall/floor types the fire surround is suitable for and those on which it should not be mounted;

+  The assembly procedure including the sequence;

+  The recommended bonding products and the extent of their application (e.g. area and joint thickness) to bed the individual stone components together;

+  The recommended method of using the bonding product given the type of stone involved;

+  How the fireplace surround should be secured to different forms of wall construction and finish;

+  The number and type of mechanical fittings to be used, where they are positioned, and how they are to be fixed to both the stone components and to the wall to hold and secure the stones in position;

+  The curing time before the fireplace can be used; and

+  Any additional information for the home-owner (e.g. load rating for the mantel).

Installers should ensure that they follow the manufacturer's and supplier's guidelines.

One Fifth of UK Constructions Sites Fail Basic Safety Requirements

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Almost 20 per cent of UK construction sites visited by the Health and Safety Executive have been subject to enforcement action after failing safety checks.

In a month long initiative, UK HSE inspectors visited  2,363 sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place and saw 2976 contractors.

In total, 631 enforcement notices were served across 433 sites for poor practices that could put workers at risk.

451 of the notices ordered that work stop immediately until the construction site was corrected.

Inspectors encountered numerous examples of poor practice, from lack of edge protection on stairwells and scaffolding to unsafe storage of flammable materials and inadequate personal protective equipment.

These types of unsafe conditions are acceptable on any construction site.

The UK HSE has put building contractors on notice that it will not hesitate to use its enforcement powers against reckless employers.

Unsafe "bridge" made to barrow debris.



Tips to Prevent Lower-back Injury

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Following the common cold, lower back pain resulting from poor manual handling technique is the most common cause of lost work time.  In the USA alone, back pain results in $126 billion in compensation pay-outs and medical expenses each year.

Tips to prevent back injury at work or at home include:

+  Practice good posture and try to stay physically-fit;

+   Use mechanical lifting aides whenever possible;

+   Before manually lifting an object, apply "Think 6, Look 6" and size-up the task;

+   If an object is too big or too heavy to handle on your own, ask someone to help;

+   When lifting, stand close to the object, bend your knees and keep your back straight as possible;

+   Try to lift objects using he muscles in your legs and arms working together;

+   Hold objects close to your body when carrying them;

+   Never twist your body from the waist when handling a load;

+   If you need to turn, do so my moving your feet; and

+   Be careful when setting a load down.

Simple Steps to Prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hearing loss due to exposure to industrial noise is the number one disability in the World; which is sad since it is so easily prevented.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when sounds which are greater than 85-decibels (dB) damage the delicate, sensitive structures within the human ear.

Common causes of NIHL result from exposure to noise from chainsaws, hammer-drills, bull-dozers, powered lawn-mowers, motorbikes, diesel trucks, and factory machinery.

The Keys to preventing NIHL include:

+   Remain aware of noise as a hazard and take measures to protect yourself from high noise (above 85 dB);

+   If possible, remove or relocate noisy equipment from the working zone;

+   Limit the period of exposure to noise above 85 dB; and

+   If you must work in a noisy environment, always wear appropriate hearing protective devices, including earplugs, ear-muffs or noise-cancelling head-phones.


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