Hello and welcome to the third issue of the Ryder Partnership Ltd fortnightly newsletterThe Alchemist, in which we will keep you up to date on all the latest developmentsin the world of health and safety.

This issue focuses on –

Reinforced Autoclaves Aerated Concrete (RAAC,)

Grenfell Tower,

HSE and HGV Drivers Mental Health,

Personal Protective Equipment- ensuring the right fit.



RAAC – Could it be in your building? Is it the road to RAAC and ruin?

This month what else could we start with other than RAAC concrete. It has been all over the news so what is it and why is it a problem?

As recent as the 8th September, theatres are now being drawn in as surveys are carried out on them. Jimmy Carr has been affected!

Although the concentration has been on schools, many public and private buildings used the material.

What is RAAC and why is it a problem?

RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete used in roof, floor, cladding and wall construction in the UK from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980. It was used by some municipal architects primarily in office and schools, but RAAC has been found in a wide range of buildings, not all of which are still in the public sector.

The limited durability of RAAC roofs and other RAAC structures has long been recognised; however recent experience (which includes two roof failures with little or no warning) suggests the problem may be more serious than previously appreciated and that many building owners are not aware that it is present in their property.

– The problems of RAAC –

RAAC soaks up water like a sponge and increases the load on the building if it is exposed to rainwater.

Stress tests showed it becomes 25% weaker when wet.

And analysis under a microscope showed that cracks can appear around the steel rods running through the RAAC.

All of this is made more likely by a lack of proper maintenance.To make matters worse, these problems aren’t really apparent until the material breaks.

Researchers at Loughborough University have stated that it could be present in many offices, factories and private houses built between the 1950s and 1990. If your building falls into this period, it will be worth your time and peace of mind to commission a survey in order to determine as to whether your building contains any of the material or not. I can imagine this will have insurance implications going forward.

The preferred method of identifying RAAC is by taking samples of materials and analysing them. This is a destructive test. In the past visual tests have been the norm but these are now deemed to be no longer sufficient. You must ensure that you get a reputable and qualified consultant to undertake the survey.

 If you have RAAC in your building, what is the recommended course of action ?

Bearing in mind insurers will see this as best practice.

You are advised to:

Ensure that the condition of all buildings are regularly monitored, taking a risk-based approach that gives due deliberation to the use of the building with consideration given to the possible impact of reduced maintenance.

Ensure you have identified any RAAC property in their portfolio.

Ensure that RAAC properties are regularly inspected by a structural engineer including using a cover meter to check the provision of traverse and longitudinal reinforcement, note deflections, check the panels in the vicinity of the support, the width of the support bearing, cracking, water penetration and signs of reinforcement corrosion and any inconsistencies between panels. The frequency of subsequent inspections should be determined by the structural engineer conducting the initial inspection.

Adopt good roof maintenance practices:

ensure water outlets are clear and are at such a level that allows free drainage of water from roof areas.

If the internal surface of the planks is to be decorated, use paint which allows moisture vapour to pass through it. Protect external surfaces with a coating which provides an effective barrier against the transmission of liquid water.

Where appropriate, reduce the dead load on roofs by removing chippings and replacing them with an appropriate solar reflecting coating

Ensure that all waterproof membranes are maintained in good condition

Keep records of deflections of RAAC planks and inspect the construction regularly.

Ensure that those responsible for the day-to-day management of any RAAC building:

Know that RAAC is used in the building and where it is used

Check regularly for visual signs of cracks, water penetration, deflection to soffits and ponding to roofs

Ensure that all staff know to report any cracks and or other identified potential defect issues

Are instructed to immediately close off any part of the building where cracks or other material defects appear pending further checks.



In a case which is potentially a portent of the complexity of the prosecutions in the Grenfell Tower Case, six companies were prosecuted following a fire at a Care Home in Cheshire.

More than 150 residents lost their homes and possessions in the August 2019

fire at Beechmere retirement village in Crewe.

As a result of what it describes as a “long and complex” investigation, the Cheshire fire service has charged six companies with various offences under the legislation.

The companies being prosecuted are:

Advantage (Cheshire) Ltd: Contracted to procure the design, build and finance of Beechmere and the operation of the village (Advantage is a subsidiary of Your Housing Ltd)

Your Housing Ltd: Employed staff at the retirement village and as such, was the responsible person for fire safety measures, as defined by Article 3(a) of the Fire Safety Order 2005

Morgan Sindall Property Services Ltd: The facilities management subcontractor to Advantage, with responsibility for responsive repairs and cyclical maintenance

WSP UK Ltd: Contracted to produce a detailed fire strategy in 2007, and in 2008 produce an operational fire safety manual and carry out a fire risk assessment of Beechmere.

Total Fire Group Ltd: Contracted to carry out fire risk assessments in August 2017 and August 2018 at both Beechmere and Hazelmere retirement villages

MAC Roofing and Contractors Ltd: Contracted by Morgan Sindall Property Services to undertake roofing works at Beechmere between 6 and 8 August 2019.

The actual charges against each company are detailed in the

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

A number of charges for breaches of the legislation have also been brought in connection with another retirement village – Hazelmere in Winsford – which were discovered during the investigation at Beechmere. Work to rectify these issues has already been carried out at Hazelmere and at other retirement complexes that were built to the same design specification and managed by Your Housing.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said it is “satisfied” that fire risk in these properties is now “appropriately managed”.

Additional £40 million civil case charges

In a separate £40 million civil action following the fire at Beechmere, proceedings have been brought by the freeholder of the village, Cheshire East Borough Council, the PFI contractor, Advantage, and the lease holder of the property, Your Housing against those involved in the design and construction of the retirement village.

They are – PRP Architects Holdings Ltd, fire safety engineers WSP UK Ltd, structural contractors Prestoplan Ltd, clerk of works Mascot Management Ltd, and GB Solutions Ltd. GB Solutions is a former subsidiary of Gleeson and was dissolved in 2018 before the fire.

The three claimants are seeking damages of £40 million for “alleged deficiencies in the design and construction of the property – including the absence of compartmentation, cavity barriers and sprinklers – resulting in a failure to inhibit the spread of fire.” The court case has now been postponed until April 2024 after efforts to resolve the dispute fell through.


HSE and HGV  Drivers Mental Health.

More needs to be done to protect Britain’s truckers from work-related stress.

That’s the view of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), whose “Working Minds” campaign will now target HGV drivers – and their bosses – to promote good mental health whilst at work. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is a campaign partner.

Long hours away from home, demanding delivery times and limited access to toilets and showers are common causes of stress for drivers.


Common causes of stress for drivers are –

Long hours away from home,

Demanding delivery times,

limited access to toilets and showers.

When safe to do so, drivers can text “BeAMate” for free confidential health support 24/7 – a service provided by Working Minds campaign partner, Mates in Mind.

Elizabeth Goodwill, from the HSE’s Stress and Mental Health Policy Team said:

“HGV drivers keep the country and our economy moving. It is therefore vital employers meet their legal duty to ensure risks of stress and mental ill health are factored into risk assessments. Take note and ensure it is included in your Company risk assessment. Initiatives such as ‘BeAMate’ are helpful for people needing individual help, but we would like to see more focus on preventing work-related stress at an organisational level, to stop it developing into poor mental health. Driving a HGV and its cargo naturally comes with pressure. However, that does not mean the simple steps in our “’5R’s” (Reachout>Recognise>Respond>Reflect>make it Routine)

can’t be followed. Problems arise when there is excessive pressure workers are unable to cope with.”


Personal Protective Equipment- ensuring the right fit.

Although PPE has to be suitable for the person who is using it, that is often not the case. Here we look at the importance of ensuring that PPE is suitable for all employees. This should also be considered in your PPE risk assessments.

A survey conducted by a number of organisations showed that 57% of those women who took part found that their PPE sometimes significantly hampered their work. This is not surprising as most PPE is based on the sizes and characteristics of male populations from certain countries in Europe and the United States.

As a result, most women, and also many men, experience problems finding suitable and comfortable PPE, because they do not conform to this standard male worker model. For instance, the use of a ‘standard’ US male face shape in the manufacture of RPE means that it does not fit most women as well as a lot of men from black and minority ethnic groups or with facial hair.

The same applies to most other types of PPE including hard hatsoverallseye protectorsgloves and boots. Often employers think that all they need to do for women is get the same PPE for men, but smaller.

This unisex approach to PPE can lead to significant problems. Items such as fall-arrest harnesses need to fit well but differences in chest hips and thighs can affect the way that the straps fit. Another example is safety boots as atypical women’s foot is both shorter and narrower than a typical man’s foot, so a smaller boot may be the right length but not the right width.

The survey found that just 29% of women who responded said that the PPE they use is specifically designed for women. This meant that many people found that it was not suitable for the purpose. This was particularly the case with trousers, where 41% of women said that what was provided was not suitable as against 10% who found it good. In the case of overalls, 35%

The Women’s Engineering Society (WES) explored the issue of poor fitting and unsuitable PPE in construction by conducting a large scale safety clothing and footwear survey. The survey results showed a lack of availability of PPE designed for women, it was usually smaller sizes of menswear. WES partnered with a manufacturer to develop and retail a new pair of boots.

Through its campaign, WES was able to raise the awareness of women and so obtain PPE that was suitable for their size and shape. Personal protective equipment and women find them unsuitable with only 10% rating them good.

Women also find that it is very difficult to get suitable PPE during pregnancy.

Many employers are reluctant to buy appropriate PPE at each stage of the pregnancy even if it is available (and often it is not.) The  survey showed that very few women had worn maternity PPE and of those that had been pregnant, half had curtailed their normal range of duties or had to change their role in the run up to maternity leave.

Problems with PPE used to protect against chemicals can be even more critical during pregnancy as current occupational exposure limits are set based on studies of non pregnant adults, and so the maximum legal levels may be more harmful for pregnant women or unborn babies.

 Inappropriate PPE can impact on a person’s work and their safety. 57% of women stated that their PPE sometimes significantly hampered their work. The problem was worst in the emergency services, where only 5% of women said that their PPE never hampered their work.

In fact ill-fitting, uncomfortable or inappropriate PPE not only prevents women doing their job, it can be a significant health and safety issue. PPE is after all meant to provide protection, so if it is unsuitable, then it is not doing the job properly.

57% of women stated that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work.”

The wrong PPE can increase risk from injury. For instance ill-fitting gloves can lead to problems gripping, while the wrong shoes or overalls can increase the chances of tripping. Inappropriate shoes can also lead to callouses, bunions, foot deformities and back pain, over and above the risk of crushing your foot.

Women also often report that safety harnesses, belts and body armour can cause significant problems due to rubbing against the skin or not being designed to accommodate different sized breasts or hips. If PPE does not fit, is uncomfortable, or causes health problems, then women often will not use it.

 The consequences of not wearing proper head wear or footwear can be catastrophic, and even failing to use gloves, overalls or jackets can lead to injury.

Remember all PPE should have a UKCA/ CE mark. The mark signifies that the PPE satisfies certain basic minimum safety requirements, including meeting the European standards for that equipment.


If you have any questions relating to the topics covered in this issue of the newsletter, then please get in touch.

Contact Us


Health and Safety Legal Update –Thursday 21st September 2023; Stafford

IOSH Managing Safely Refresher – Thursday 12th October 2023; Telford

COSHH Risk Assessment Training – Wednesday 15th November 2023; Telford

Mental Health First Aid, Level 2 – Thursday 16th November 2023; Telford

Manual Handling ‘Train the Trainer’ – Wednesday 22nd November 2023; Telford

For more information on our training courses, please contact Rebeckah on reb@ryderpartnership.co.uk or call 07956734831.

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