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The House of Commons commission approved the restoration plans, which involve extensive repairs to the entire clock tower -- officially known as the Elizabeth Tower -- as well as the dismantling and restoration of the tower's clock, including its great bell, commonly known as Big Ben.
However, after the announcement on Monday that Big Ben would stop chiming from next week for four years, some members of parliament complained about excessive "health and safety".
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, told LBC radio yesterday: "There's hardly a health and safety argument in replacing a bell".
One of the reasons given for the decision to silence Big Ben was to protect the hearing of workers who are undertaking the restoration.
The TUC released a statement that protecting workers' hearing was far from "health and safety gone mad. It's just plain common sense".
TUC senior policy officer Hugh Robertson responded to the negative press coverage in a blog post titled Big Ben Bong Bonkers.
He said: "The clock tower and clock are being subjected to the largest restoration work ever attempted in their history, with the entire mechanism being dismantled piece-by-piece and each cog restored for the first time since it was built. Also, the four clock dials will be cleaned and repaired, the cast-iron framework repaired, all the masonry renovated, a lift is being installed and there is a range of other conservation works."
As part of this process, he added, the bells will be disconnected and the weights lowered to the bottom of the shaft. "The idea of keeping the bells ringing, or even ringing them once a day is a non-starter," he said.
Employers must provide hearing protection at 85 decibels and the bells in the clock tower ring at 118 decibels. Robertson said this was "over eight times the level that is considered dangerous for hearing and much the same as standing next to a jet plane at ramp".
He argued that ear protectors were not an option because workers would not be able to communicate or hear alarms. Robertson added that because the peals are every 15 minutes, the likelihood is that "the workers would take the protectors off in between and forget to put them on in time."
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also issued a statement defending the decision. A spokesperson said: "People's health should not be made worse by the work they do, so it is important that no worker should suffer any hearing loss while working on this project."
The HSE said that it has liaised with both the client and the principal contractor on the project. "We've noted how intricate, complex and challenging this particular exercise will be. Health and safety aside, we understand these challenges would have silenced Big Ben's chimes for at least two years anyway," a spokesperson added.
"While we were aware part of the project related to the clock, we have not been involved in discussions about how that work will be specifically carried out.
"There is broad agreement that the noise risks associated with working around the clock bells are highly significant and we would expect the principal contractor to manage those risks. How it does so is a matter for those involved and their client."
R J Scaffolding had not trained its employee, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said, nor had it given him appropriate equipment.It also found that the supervisor overseeing the work was not competent. The worker was in an induced coma for two weeks after the fall on 2 June 2016. Bristol Magistrates’ Court was told that he sustained five skull fractures and lost the sight in his right eye. R J Scaffolding pleaded guilty to breaching reg 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It has been fined £26,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,658.
Lincoln Magistrates’ Court was told on 25 August that the 60-year-old joiner was working on the first floor of a building in Grimsby, Lincolnshire when the incident occurred in December 2016. He was installing joists and flooring for Mager Homes and had stepped back after laying a floorboard when he missed his footing and fell through a gap between the joists to the ground floor.The joiner sustained broken vertebrae and was left paralysed from the chest down. He now uses a wheelchair and cannot return to his former trade.
No one was injured when the 35 m tall crane with 60 m horizontal jib toppled onto a building on West Street just before 2pm on Saturday 29 July.Work continued last night (30 July) to dismantle the jib after another crane was used to stabilise it. Engineers from the Netherlands have been called in to assess the damage and head the recovery operation. Thames Valley Police superintendent Robert France said “it may take a number of days to repair the jib and remove the crane from the scene”.
North Somerset Magistrates’ Court was told that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) took enforcement action against Ikon Construction after a member of the public alerted inspectors to poor standards on a site in Clevedon, north Somerset in May 2016.HSE inspectors had previously found failures to plan and manage work on four of the company’s other sites and had issued six notices of contravention and three prohibition notices. One site had been visited multiple times.
In October 2016, a member of the public raised concerns about conditions at the building site in Mitcham, south London and alerted the HSE. HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers visited Pitcairn Road and found workers demolishing a two-storey block of flats in preparation for the construction of six flats.
The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, received the terms of reference from Prime Minister Theresa May on 15 August, following a public consultation. IOSH has welcomed the terms for the inquiry, which it said must be a “watershed for safety”. They will cover: