In our monthly roundup, we look at news and events from the world of health and safety over the last 30 days, with the tragedy of the fire at Grenfell Tower of course dominating headlines. We also give an overview of other recent issues related to food hygiene and workplace safety.
Multiple failures cause Grenfell Tower fire tragedy
At the time of writing, it had been confirmed that at least 80 people had been killed and over 70 injured by the Grenfell Tower fire that started on 14th June 2017. Multiple fire safety failures have been found in building design, maintenance and refurbishment at this block of public housing flats in North Kensington, West London. Many of the issues had been repeatedly raised by residents and local campaigners over a number of years.
While investigations and reports over the subsequent weeks have highlighted a lack of building exit routes and sprinkler systems as being major reasons for residents being unable to escape and flames spreading so quickly, fire-resistant cladding has been one of the major topics of debate from late June.
Loose fire safety regulations and of course – cost-savings – have been route causes, and many campaigners and commentators are saying that the Grenfell fire was a tragedy waiting to happen.
Reports such as this one from the BBC suggest that initial plans for zinc cladding to be used during a 2016 refurbishment were replaced with less fire resistant aluminium type, saving £300,000.
What cost can be put on so many lives? This, the worst and most high-profile fire tragedy in recent years, must surely lead to a cultural shift in UK construction and social housing, prioritising safety over cost.
Pensioner drowned in flooded trench on construction site – A Glasgow construction company was fined £110k for failing to fully fence off part of a construction site. This error allowed an 83 year old local man to walk onto the site, where it is believed he drowned after he fell into the trench that was flooded following poor weather conditions.
Four workers killed building pressure testing facility – A Norfolk engineering company and the project management firm it hired to design the facility were fined £700k. The director of the project management company, Encompass, was also handed a suspended jail sentence, and Annette Hall of the HSE construction division stated that his firm was not competent to carry out the complex job.
Waste Management & Energy Industry
Waste to energy plant worker suffered serious burns – Waste management company, Suez, was fined £220k after a worker at its energy production facility was showered by hot ash and steam as he tried to dislodge a blockage.
Sainsbury’s recall sandwich fillers after Listeria discovery – Over a dozen of the supermarket’s own Deli Fillers range were recalled after potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes bacteria was found in some samples. Reported by the FSA, the affected batch had a use by date of 4th July 2017, and customers with products from the batch were advised to return them to their store for a refund as a precaution.
Poor hygiene standards within coffee shops – CIEH recently commented on a BBC investigation into hygiene within UK coffee shops, with their head of policy reminding food business owners of the law and their responsibilities for customer care.
While making reassurances that the investigation only looked at a small sample of shops, he did recommend business owners to review their procedures and ensure good food safety training for their staff.
Food handlers and norovirus transmission – context is key. In-depth research by Ipsos Mori for the Food Standards Agency Social Science Research Unit included a number of findings relevant for effective food safety training. Important recommendations in its conclusion include interventions that are translated into a “practical application” that fits with “target population, culture and context”.