Eight weeks on from the successful London bid, and the announcements from both Lord Coe and Ken Livingstone of the most fantastic Olympic Games yet have huge implications for the construction industry.
With the sharp increase in the number of major construction projects needed to fulfil the promises, Rosi Edwards, the Health & Safety Executive's acting Chief Inspector of Construction said: "The Olympics is a wonderful opportunity for the UK construction industry to showcase what it can do. Maximum cooperation and collaboration will mean a well planned construction phase and design." She pointed out that the HSE's construction division is currently at its highest ever staffing level, with 189 construction inspectors and a recent intake of trainers. "We are doing all we intend to do," she said.
Coincidently, the recently announced construction industry accident rates per 1000 employees are down by a gratifying amount as our partners at Callsafe report. As in the last year, the number employed in the industry will inevitably continue to rise to meet the unprecedented demands on construction for the Olympics. How else can you marry together the strategic plan for our winning bid, and the clock? Other things being equal, we can expect the raw accident rate to rise in line with increased sector activity. The challenge as highlighted by HSE's Rosi Edwards, is to raise our health & safety standards so that the accident rate falls as dramatically as the work load rises. The question is; how?
We can be in no doubt that leading organisations in the industry are addressing the health & safety issues as we speak. The leaders are, by their nature, reasonably easy to identify and of course prosecute when things go wrong. It is interesting to reflect that larger projects that miss target dates are facing extra-ordinary fines by their clients. In parallel almost, fines for non-compliance in H&S issues are climbing as well. Fines for non- compliance in Asbestos are around the £200k mark as we and others continue to report (below).
The weakness in the system is always in the smaller organisations. They are generally the ones without the management systems and resources to support their projects. Which is why it is refreshing to see support groups emerging like the newly formed asbestos group in Tyneside. We work hard to embrace the needs of smaller organisations too. Our solutions address the compliance needs of organisations throughout the spectrum. The ToolKit™ solution is simple, easy to implement and easy to use. The 'given' is that construction companies have to comply; the answer is that they have to want to. If you would like to discuss opportunities to work with us in showcasing our compliance solution for work involved in the Olympic bid, we would like to hear from you to see how, together, we can help raise the bar!
Our next Asbestos Management Partners Meeting is due on 13th September 2005 at Leighton Buzzard. The Partners will be reviewing the next pre-release version of ToolKit CS™ so that they can input any issues raised.
EDF Energy have kindly agreed to host our next Major Accounts Review Meeting. The meeting will take place in their London headquarters on Tuesday 11th October 2005.
This meeting will concentrate on CDM management issues and how ToolKit CS™ is used in our major accounts to manage them 'across the business'. The meeting will include a presentation by EDF Energy on how the ToolKit™ software is used to manage compliance and an update to our ToolKit CS™ CDM solution for Enterprise users.
If you are a corporate user and have not had an invitation but would like one, please contact us.
We plan to ship the next version of our highly successful ToolKit™ Compliance software at the end of September. This will be sent to all our current CS users as part of their annual maintenance package. There are no update charges for this service.
We are noting a sharp increase in the amount of litigation about asbestos in the recent weeks. We have selected some reports below and are grateful to our providers for the information.
Irwin Mitchell report that the family of a former nurse, who died after being exposed to fatal levels of asbestos dust at London's old Charing Cross Hospital in the 1960s, has succeeded in a legal battle for damages against the Department of Health.
53-year-old Rebecca Little, from Catterick, North Yorkshire, died on 1 February 2002 from mesothelioma, the fatal asbestos-related cancer. Since then her husband, Dr Julian Little, has fought to prove that her illness was caused by asbestos dust - which crumbled from insulation covering pipework on the wards of the former Charing Cross Hospital, where she had trained as a nurse between 1968 and 1970.
Dr Little also worked at the hospital and was able to provide evidence about the presence of poorly maintained asbestos.
The Department of Health admitted liability for breach of duty of care and has now agreed compensation with Mrs Little's husband in the sum of £175,000 compensation. The old Charing Cross premises, off the Strand, in London have since been decommissioned and the building is no longer in use as a hospital.
Before her death, Mrs Little was able to provide details of working conditions at the hospital and how the asbestos insulation on the pipe work in the casualty ward and surrounding area was often knocked and disturbed, giving rise to airborne asbestos dust and fibres.
"If things were quiet on the ward, we were expected to make ourselves busy by undertaking cleaning work. I remember cleaning up around the beds and lockers with a hand brush on a regular basis. It was not unusual to clean up from the floor small bits and pieces and dust from the insulation on the pipe work."
Thames Laboratories report that the importance of keeping asbestos waste safe and secure has been highlighted by two recent incidents where criminals have exposed themselves to asbestos. First, police in London announced that thieves made away with an entire skip full of asbestos waste back on 22 July. The skip was being used for asbestos being cleared out of a college, and must have been taken away with the use of a lorry. Second, vandals in Cumbria actually broke into a locked skip to find that it contained asbestos dust and tiles which had been removed from a school kitchen.
The incidents serve as a reminder that dutyholders must make sure that asbestos is disposed of safely, and must take reasonable precautions to prevent members of the public being exposed to asbestos waste. Environment Agency guidance states that any material containing asbestos should be disposed of in covered skips or should be double bagged. In either case, the material must be clearly labelled. Contractors who specialise in removing asbestos will use red, thick plastic sacks with asbestos warnings printed on the outside for disposing of asbestos contaminated materials.
The BBC reports that Derby City Council will be charged with two counts of failing to ensure the safety of its employees, following the high-profile asbestos contamination at the school 15 months ago. Staff and pupils were apparently exposed to asbestos dust when school windows were replaced back in early 2004. The incident has attracted significant media attention over the past year or so, in particular because of the Council's refusal to make public its report into the incident. Headteacher Philip Robinson was suspended after the report, and later resigned.
A report in the Derby Evening Telegraph suggested that the proper procedures had not been followed in contracting out to Horizon Windows and Glass, and health and safety requirements had not been adhered to. Philip Robinson and Peter Westran, director of Horizon Windows and Glass, will also both face health and safety charges.