Monday, 28 October 2013

HSE uses intervention powers to inspect workplace cooling towers

Sponsored Post

legionnaires' diseaseIn recognition of the risk of Legionnaires’ disease associated with workplace cooling systems, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) plans to inspect around 5000 sites with such systems over the next 6 months.

A cooling system may consist of a cooling tower, evaporative condenser or other cooling element, together with the associated pipe work, heat exchanger, pumps, supply tanks and pre-treatment equipment.

Legionellosis is the collective name given to the pneumonia-like illness caused by legionella bacteria. This includes the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the less serious Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. However, people over 45 years of age, smokers, heavy drinkers, those suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease and anyone with an impaired immune system are at the greatest risk.

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers and evaporative condensers.

There is a reasonably foreseeable legionella risk in water systems which:

  • have a water temperature between 20–45 °C
  • creates and/or spreads breathable droplets, e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlets
  • stores and/or re-circulates water
  • is likely to contain a source of food for the organism, e.g. presence of sludge, scale or fouling

As a result, the conditions found in workplace cooling systems can allow naturally-present bacteria to grow considerably, thereby increasing the risks of Legionnaires ’ disease. Consequently, it’s vital to take precautions to manage the risk of a serious bacteria outbreak developing.

The HSE’s intervention programme has come about as a result of concerning numbers of Legionnaire’s outbreaks over the last decade. Fostering greater awareness of the risk associated with workplace cooling systems is very much at the heart of the programme.

The HSE advises workplaces which have cooling towers or evaporative condensers to should put in place suitable measures mitigate the risk of legionella. Information on the way to manage these risk are described in Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems.

This document outlines the requirements for all workplaces to follow in respect of their cooling systems which present a Legionnaires’ risk. It includes information on the commissioning, operation and maintenance of cooling systems, what steps can be taken to combat the presence of high levels of legionella bacteria, and details suitable monitoring systems and processes which can be deployed.

Remedial measures taken to guard against Legionnaire’s disease do not necessarily mean the relevant cooling system must be replaced.  For example, Covac's Tank Relining allows for an existing water tank to remain in use and brings with it the assurance of the Covac brand.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Buttock-shuffle claimant gotcha’d via covert surveillance

buttock-shuffle pensionerFrom the London Evening Standard 24/10/13:

A grandmother who claimed she could only shuffle down stairs on her buttocks managed to trick a hospital consultant as part of a “fraudulent” bid to claim more than £750,000 in compensation, the High Court heard.


Barbara Fari, a mother of 13 who is in her sixties, sued Homes for Haringey on the grounds her life had been “drastically altered” after she tripped on a paving stone in Hornsey in May 2008 and hurt her knee.

You’ve got to watch out for those paving stones (particularly the uneven ones)! Of course, it will help your claim considerably if you actually trip over the ruddy thing and injure yourself as a result.

The council-run organisation initially admitted liability and offered to settle. But it changed its mind after Mrs Fari said she needed round-the- clock care because she could no longer walk unaided and could only climb stairs by shuffling up and down on her buttocks and lodged a claim for more than £750,000.

That claim was struck out at Central London County Court last October after Mrs Fari was caught on camera moving around without help during a secret surveillance operation.

That makes a change. Alleged cases of benefits fraud (or fraudulent civil claims) are usually uncovered via evidence of the relevant person dancing drunkenly on a table or twerking like the world isn’t watching - Miley Cyrus style.Go-go dancer on a tablemiley cyrus twerking








Requisite photos of drunken table-dancing & Miley Cyrus twerking … as if you needed reminding!

The judge rejected Mrs Fari’s right to any payout and referred her case to the High Court for abuse of process.

That really will give Mrs Fari a reason to clench her buttocks.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Jimmy Savile Zombie pulled from Amazon

From Breaking 21/10/2013:

Yes, that's right - online retail giant Amazon have been forced to withdraw a Jimmy Savile Zombie Halloween costume from sale after a flurry of complaints.

[…] Jimmy Savile, the late UK TV presenter alleged to have sexually abused hundreds of young girls in the 1970s and 80s.

The costume, which had been available on Amazon for £14.99, included a metallic blue shell suit, pink glasses, medallion, fake cigar, platinum wig, face paint and a bottle of blood.

It was described on the site as "perfect for bad taste parties, dead celebrities and Halloween".

However the outfit was heavily criticised by children's charities and is now listed as 'currently unavailable'.

SavilleAfter all of the revelations of 2012, I think it would take a ‘special’ kind of person to wear a Jimmy Savile outfit – irrespective of the occasion. In fact, anybody who ever felt the need to dress up as him was probably making some kind of cry for help.

While I guess a human rights argument can always be wheeled out to support the notion that people should have free choice as to what they wear in public, there’s a broader public policy argument at play too. Quite aside from that, selling a Savile outfit is a PR disaster for any business and, for individuals, I can’t think of a graver example of poor taste. Actually, those words don’t even come close.

Inevitably, though, you’ve got to think there’ll come a time when the concept of a Savile costume becomes less repugnant, notwithstanding the fact his unique (read: warped) style of fashion was never exactly in vogue.  If people are now in the habit of attending fancy dress parties styled as Adolph Hitler, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the Jimmy Savile lookalikes.

Now that’s a disturbing thought.  Halloween is scary enough without that prospect.

Monday, 21 October 2013

LLB students – ignore your first year at your peril

Sponsored Poststatutory interpretationThe early stages of your university career can often seem unimportant at the time, but the content covered in the early months can be just as important as that dealt with in years two and three. While it won’t count towards your degree classification directly, that early ground can be vital in giving you a good grasp of broader legal principles which can help make studying law that much more manageable. And what’s more, those early lessons have a habit of proving unexpectedly useful (yes, even in practice), and usually it’s when you least expect it.

For the majority of law students, the first few weeks at university are spent in an alcohol-fuelled haze as they explore their newly-found sense of independence having finally flown the family nest. As freshers’ week gives way to lectures, seminars and the onset of academic work, the majority of first year students keep having a good time firmly at the top of their list of priorities.

While any student’s university experience should be much broader and richer than merely studying, it’s important to balance those extra-curricular activities with those that are definitely on the curriculum. All too often, that first year sets the tone for the rest of your degree and if you spend that year in a drunken stupor, you might never fully recover.

Speaking from experience, I was a (relative) mess during the early weeks of my first semester, but by the time the first reading week had come round (in early November) I was beginning to see the need to apply myself. By the time we’d reached Christmas, I’d definitely hit my stride and never looked back. I count myself as one of the lucky ones as I know not everyone’s university career maps out in the same way.

Inevitably, at some point in each law student’s first year, they’re required to study a module concerning the court hierarchy system, the doctrine of precedent and aids to statutory interpretation. All LLB courses tend to have at least one ‘filler’ module in which all miscellaneous content from the first year diet is tossed in for fear of finding no other place for it on the timetable. For me, that module was rather disappointingly entitled ‘National and International Legal Systems’. I know what you’re thinking – a very safe choice.

As part of the focus on our domestic legal system, I remember covering aids to statutory interpretation and construction. Of course, the principles are very similar throughout commonwealth countries (statutory interpretation in Australia, for example, is much the same as in England and Wales).

I recall paying rather scant attention to that segment of the lecture and treating the preparation for a subsequent seminar with even greater disdain. I really couldn’t see that I’d need to have frequent recourse to the literal rule, the golden rule, the mischief rule or the purposive approach. Equally, the fact I was familiar with the canons of noscitur a sociis, ejusdem generis and expressio unius est exclusio alterius hardly made my heart skip a beat. In short, I short-sightedly chalked it up to academic codswallop that would be of limited application in practice.

How wrong I was. On several occasions, those misleadingly hazy principles of statutory interpretation have been central to the advice given to a client.

You live and learn is very much the moral of the story.

There’s no need to wait to see the folly of your hot-headed student ways; it’s far better to appreciate the full value of the material being taught at the time. The LLB is a hectic course, so its’ safe to assume that anything on the syllabus is on there for a good reason.

So, take it from someone who learnt the hard way; those rather broad, all-encompassing lessons that are covered in the first year are vital in helping you manage the challenges of the rest of your degree and indeed later on in practice.

Who was it said that light dawns slowly over the whole?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Nope, it’s not coffee: students’ laundry defaced by ‘poopetrator’

From the Huffington Post 03/10/13:

Yale University students are being terrorized by what some students are referring to as a "poopetrator."

The university is tightening security in the residence halls in response to someone defecating in the laundry room of an on campus residence, the New Haven Register reports (emphasis added).

Holy cow! You don’t see that on the Ariel ad, do you? I guess if the blonde had been studying at Yale, she’d be asking mummy to send down an extra box of detergent. Ahem.

Ariel adWhat is that? Coffee, right? Wrong. Very wrong!

The Yale Daily News writes that "it took the physical delivery of the excrement to the Saybrook Master's Office to catch administrators' attention." At least four such incidents have occurred in the laundry room of the Saybrook College.

[Saybrook College advised] students not to leave their laundry unattended, [and explained] the affected machines have been thoroughly disinfected, and [the college were] actively seeking information about who the perpetrator might be.

And here’s a further piece of advice to students using laundrettes whilst living in halls: make damned sure you check the contents of the powder drawer before you switch the washing machine on!

Yale sophomore Attila Yaman told WTNH students are taking turns keeping watch over their laundry to ensure the "poopetrator" is not able to soil their garments.

Lucy Fleming, another sophomore, summed up her feelings to the Daily News thusly: "I simultaneously wanted to throw up, cry and punch someone."

Get used to it, Lucy. That’s kind of what being a student feels like most of the time.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Blogging in a barren landscape

lonely blogger

No comments are the ‘new normal’.

The diversity of social media options now available means that people don’t have the attention span, time or energy to typically comment on blogs.

As the habits of internet users have changed, the modern blogger has had to adjust to the changing landscape and not get too downbeat at the tumbleweed blowing past.

I remember in the early days of blogging, over on my F1 blog, I was able to garner a few commenting readers quite quickly.

At Law Actually, I’d been blogging about 6 months when a friendly reader called Law Minx introduced herself via the comments feed. As 2008 dawned, the law student/graduate blawgosphere quickly established itself and the rest, as they say, is history. Looking back, I can honestly say that I was privileged to have experienced and been involved with that community.

Speaking of history, that’s exactly what that rich, vibrant community of bloggers is now. For a whole host of reasons, the blawgosphere has slowly receded to the point of extinction and I’ve long given up on any kind of revival. That’s not to say I don’t get readers (visitor counts are very healthy year on year). I get spam comments by the bucketload, but I reject all such comments without hesitation. Let’s not kid ourselves (ahem – myself) here – blogging is very different now compared with just 3 years ago.

Throughout 2011, it became very clear to me that the community was disappearing and blogging, in the short term at least, would be a more lonely business. That was probably the most difficult period. It was a time when I had to try and adjust to receiving very few comments on my posts and the lack of encouragement from reading the content produced by other like-minded folk.

I suppose lesson number 1 of blogging in a barren landscape is to acknowledge the lack of two-way conversation via your blog, accept it and just get the hell on with things. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had to adjust my mind set and expectations to account for this.

For me, comments were important but not vital. Even without that two-way conversation, I like the ‘voice’ that blogging provides me with and I find the process of producing content strangely satisfying. I’m not too sure how cathartic blogging is for me, but the sense of satisfaction is beyond doubt.

In a comment-less world, it’s more important than ever to blog for fun and to choose to blog about topics which interest YOU rather than trying to second guess what your readers want. My approach has been the classic pebbledash one: throw up a bit of everything and see what sticks. That kind of approach has also been useful to see what kind of content I enjoy producing.

The style of my posts has had to change too. Where I could once could ask questions and expect an answer, I’m resigned to the fact that those days are long gone.

I tend to create fewer of my own graphics now and rely instead on stock images. That frustrates me sometimes (when I stop to think about it) as I often found the creation of the customised graphics one of the most satisfying parts of blogging. A lack of time has sadly curtailed my ability to frolic about in Photoshop - at least for now.

I really should make more effort with Twitter. I’ve been an on-off user of it since January 2007, but despite keeping my account private and being very selective in who I follow, I’ve always found the background ‘noise’ on there often too much to bear. I seem to spend half my time weeding out and blocking morons who swamp me with follow requests which is even less fun than it sounds.

As a blogger, you need to adjust to a new non-commenting readership. I’ve noticed an upturn in the number of people who no longer comment on mainstream news sites and prefer instead to post a shortened URL of the story with a few words of their own on the matter via twitter. For all the possibilities of communication that twitter has opened up, the harm it’s done to blogging is unforgivable.

But it would be too easy to blame them. Clearly that’s what modern web users want so we’re stuck with it for now.

In the meantime, I intend to carry on blogging albeit with a reluctant acceptance that the blogosphere isn't what it once was.

Oh well.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Is Placing Defibrillators In Public Places Legally Right?

Guest Postdefibrillator liabilityEvery year, around 270,000 people suffer a heart attack in the UK, many of these sudden and unprovoked. Being able to act quickly, safely and most importantly, effectively, can quite literally be the difference between life and death.

Keeping calm and collected is key to not becoming overwhelmed, and with sufficient training, first aiders are taught how to keep calm under pressure and follow the required procedures. In the business world, detailed and well-rehearsed strategies are put in place to ensure that should the event of a sudden cardiac arrest, a trained first aider has the equipment and know-how to act accordingly.

How Would You Act?
However, whilst it’s all well and good distributing defibrillators in commercial institutes, can you really do the same in public places? In any business there will be an individual or team of first aiders who are trained in defibrillator application, but can you really expect a member of the public to carry out such a task?

In February 2007, the National Defibrillator Programme placed and distributed defibrillators in public locations across the UK. This was implemented so that members of the public could act quicker thanks to closer access to life-saving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). But is it right to entrust the unknown skills of the public with the responsibility of saving someone’s life?

The Legalities
No-one likes legal red tape and in such a situation when someone’s life is at risk, many could be hesitant to take responsibility. What if something goes wrong? What if you don’t follow the procedures? What if you’re held responsible? It’s easy to see how quickly things can escalate out of your control.

This is where the debate really begins to gain momentum. For members of the public that have not received formal AED training, the legal implications can be split into statutory rights - those imposed by parliament - and common law - century long laws - and it is this last point where potential liability can arise.

Could I Be At Fault?
The main legal loop that many people can become entangled in is liability and negligence. Acting to save someone’s life can fall on both the individual and the location. If an institution supplied an AED yet did not offer training on how to utilise it, they would be held accountable. Similarly, a non first-aider may not be expected to employ the standard care of a trained professional and so is unlikely to face a claim. There is no legal obligation to assist and individual in need of resuscitation providing they are not the cause.

It is this grey area that often sees family members, friends and indeed strangers unsure, liable and legally dwarfed by their human intentions. Emergencies require emergency action and in the face of a cardiac arrest, every minute that passes, the victim’s chance of survival decrease by 10%.

So What ‘s The Best Course Of Action?
The real answer quite simply falls into your own judgement. If you own a property that provides an AED in a public place, then ensure that a qualified individual is located nearby. Similarly, if you have previous first aid / Defibrillator training or you are confident at the chance of resuscitating the victim, then have faith in your actions.

Sudden Cardiac Arrests can happen anytime, anyplace so make sure you are prepared. Always recruit the expertise of a defibrillator or AED supplier should you have any question and make yourself aware of the laws, procedures and practices surrounding AED’s in the public domain.

Phil Warrington, a law student, looks at the debate surrounding the distribution of AED’s within the public sector and the legal implications that have come with it. For reputable and reliable AED’s and defibrillators, he recommends Defibrillators UK; the UK’s leading defibrillator and AED training provider.