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A response to the HSE’s ‘official bluff and bluster’

Dear Sir,

Re Emerson House, Eccles: Following my account in the 20 June issue of H&V News, it is no surprise to see the official denial from John McGrellis of the Health and Safety Executive who supervised the case throughout.

I note he answers no specific points, relying purely on HSE statements. Owners of unventilated workplaces should keep a copy of his letter.

The HSE wrote in September 2011 that their investigation of 2008 was told by occupants the problem had been recognised, work put in hand and the case was closed.

On being told that nothing had changed, the HSE and HS Laboratories spent six months investigating.

Their conclusion in a letter from an inspector supervised by Mr McGrellis gave the story about how the old air bricks and remainder of return system contrived to make an approximately 50 per cent effective system to open plan areas only.

There was no comment on the previous information given and accepted without question by the HSE. There was no weight given to an email by the occupant’s own chief safety adviser stating the system was “clearly inadequate”.

On seeking explanation for the above apparent illegality and physical impossibility, HSL said the actual system was not investigated as complying with any design guidance (including the requirement to actually exist?) as it was not a new build.

Mr McGrellis, as principal inspector, has been happy to stand by this totally wrong assumption despite specific advice to the contrary from IOSH and CIBSE.

What do they know anyway - all those supply fans, ducts and filters in other sealed multi-storey buildings must just be to rip off the client then?

On complaining to the HSE’s chief executive, the reply came back again from Mr McGrellis to the effect that the building complied with Workplace Regulations and measurements taken by HSL proved it.

To repeat the Monty Python dead parrot analogy then, Mr McGrellis is doing a good job as the unconvincing pet shop owner.

It is abundantly clear no supply system exists and that to comply with basic minimum Workplace Regulations one must be provided.

Applying simple logic and making no accusations, one of the following must be the case:

  • The HSE is enforcing a previously unknown ‘anything goes’ version of the Workplace Regulations and Associated Code of Practice;
  • The HSE has failed in its duty to be impartial;
  • A succession of inspectors and technical experts have been exceptionally negligent.

Anyone doubting any of the above can email health-at-work@hotmail.co.uk and by return they can have copies of all relevant documents. I suggest you need to speak up if what you see is not what you think your industry should or does normally provide.

If the HSE does not do its job then there are no standards. Law without enforcement is meaningless. I look forward to any proper HSE response other than more official bluff and bluster.

John Dooley, chartered surveyor

 

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