HSE International

Is this what a renewables revolution feels like?

A tipping point is easy to define. It’s when the momentum shifts, when a threshold is reached and previously piecemeal changes turn into something much more significant. But what does it feel like to actually experience a tipping point? How would we know if we were at a tipping point now?

There’s no certainty, and without doubt a huge number of very powerful countervailing forces are still at work. But there are many signals that the tipping point in renewable energy is with us. Three sets of signals broadly suggest this.

1. Price signals

We’ve watched the cost of renewables coming down year-on-year for some time, and this trend is continuing, making renewable energy look more attractive — and centralized, fossil-fuel based energy less attractive — by the day.

Solar energy has been price-competitive with average grid electricity costs in Germany, Italy and Spain for a few years. Onshore wind power has achieved cost parity with the most expensive coal power plants in Europe. According to Citi Research, “Costs for solar and wind energy are falling rapidly, with learning rates of around 30 percent for solar and 7.4 percent for wind.”

2. Global market signals

This year, consumption of coal dropped in China for the first time in a century, by a few percentage points, despite the Chinese economy continuing to grow over 7 percent. The Indian government is investing in a renewable energy future, with financing of solar projects attracting five times more capital than coal in the last quarter. And Germany continues to amaze, with 74 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources on one day in May this year — not bad for the world’s third largest economy.

Pollution at Indian brickworks

India is moving away from funding coal-powered projects such as this brickworks, favoring solar energy instead.

At the same time, the divestment movement has continued to gather pace, with the Rockefeller Brothers’move in September being the symbolic highlight of the year.

3. Support from finance

There’s been a noticeable change in rhetoric from sources that no one could claim are inherently biased in favor of renewable energy. UBS stated that large power stations will become irrelevant in the future and Citigroup hailed the beginning of the age of renewables. Last month Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, said that the majority of the world’s fossil fuels were unburnable if we are to prevent dangerous climate change. And just this week, the World Bank announced that it no longer would invest in coal projects unless there is “extreme need,” in a policy designed to mitigate climate change and alleviate poverty. You can’t get much more mainstream than that.

The tipping point approaches

At Forum for the Future, we surveyed our membership network recently to see what they thought the big issues for sustainable business would be for the next couple of years. The overall picture is one of seriously intensifying pressure on business coming from multiple angles, alongside the rapid development of solutions that together show the way to a sustainable future.

It was a relatively small sample size (200 people), and most respondents have a sustainability focus in their jobs. But more than three-fifths agreed that the growth of renewable energy has unstoppable momentum, with fewer than one-fifth disagreeing. One respondent said, “The pace of installation of renewables in agriculture is phenomenal. Practically everyone you talk to is doing something.”

Which brings us to those countervailing trends. Reports of the demise of the fossil fuel industry may be exaggerated. Many of these signals pertain to the use of coal rather than oil or gas, and investment particularly in the latter continues apace. Fossil fuel prices have fallen across the board this year and even coal is on the up in some areas (such as Germany) where nuclear power is being phased out.

But if we are at a tipping point, then we could see a fundamental reconfiguration of energy systems in a very short period of time.

Incentives that once worked to reinforce centralized power systems instead will favor decentralized. Investment in a fossil-fuel future suddenly will look like a vanity project or wishful thinking, and renewables will attract the lion’s share of capital. Research and development of technologies to facilitate smart, decentralized, renewables-based systems will receive a huge fillip, and it will be increasingly difficult to fund research and exploration for new fossil fuel sources. In short, the whole system rapidly could flip.

In this context, many of the more cautious renewable energy targets in business and government — anything short of the 100 percent renewables targets of companies such as Ikea, H&M, Philips and BT — soon will look very weak, even anachronistic.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1rBa1ot

The €315bn Plan To ‘Kick-Start’ Euro Growth

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker says a €315bn (£249bn) investment plan to “kick start” the continent’s flatlining economy could create more than one million jobs.

Details of how the European Fund for Strategic Investment would work were outlined as the European Central Bank (ECB) was tipped to provide additional support  to the struggling eurozone through a programme of quantitative easing early next year.

Mr Juncker told the EU Parliament in Strasbourg: “Europe needs a kick-start and today the Commission is providing the jump cable.”

At the centre of his proposal is the provision of €21bn (£17bn) in so-called “seed” money from EU institutions, designed to spark private sector investment.

He estimated that for every euro invested by the EU, it would generate €15 and said the money would benefit education, transport, the digital economy and the environment and could create 1.3 million jobs.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) was to be the “prime mover” in delivering the seed money for investments, cash that Mr Juncker said would not have materialised otherwise amid low inflation, high unemployment and a stagnation in economic growth.

A number of Europe’s biggest economies are in trouble – with Germany narrowly avoiding recession, Italy’s output remaining in reverse gear and France flat.

In contrast to the euro area’s woes, growth in the UK economy during the third quarter was confirmed at 0.7% on Wednesday, with annual output 3% higher.

Downing Street reacted cautiously to the proposals, emphasising that there would be no overall increase in the EU budget as a result.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The EU budget for the period has been set and it was a reduction.

“That’s what’s been agreed by all 28 members and that’s what will be stuck to.”

Experts said the plan’s success depended purely on whether the private sector was interested.

Mr Juncker explained that EU and EIB officials, with input from member states, were drawing up a list of potential projects, with the fund set to be operational by mid 2015.

He added: “We need to send a message to Europe and to the rest of the world: Europe is back in business.”

European stock markets have risen since China cut key interest rates last week and ECB president Mario Draghi gave his strongest hint yet that more aggressive asset purchases were on the way – expected in the New Year.

Member states have also been urged to put more of an emphasis on growth versus austerity in a bid to support recovery while remaining under tight budget constraints.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1Cp7OB4

Manchester gets £100m EU support

The European Investment Bank has agreed to provide up to £100m to support urban regeneration and construction projects across Greater Manchester.

The long-term loan facility could be used to improve community facilities and public space, as well as initiatives to create jobs and cut energy bills across the city.

European Investment Bank (EIB) vice president Jonathan Taylor said the money would help to unlock regeneration projects and get them off the ground. The EIB is the bank of the European Union.

Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein said: “This long-term loan facility with the EIB for projects which will have economic and social benefits in Manchester and Greater Manchester and generate jobs, savings and improved facilities is very welcome. It means that where the council was already planning to borrow for these existing schemes we have scope to do so at a much more competitive rate than anything which can currently be obtained commercially.”

Other schemes which could benefit include the development of public realm at NOMA, regeneration of the New Smithfield Market and provision of improved community health, education and public space in Beswick. It could also support the two new community leisure and library facilities that are being built at Levenshulme and Hough End.

The new programme represents the first support for urban regeneration investment by the European Investment Bank in the UK outside London.

The EIB has previously supported the expansion of the Manchester Metrolink tram network and the construction of waste treatment works in the city.

Last year the EIB provided nearly £5bn for investment in water, energy, transport, health and education projects as well as corporate investment in the UK.

Original Source: http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/manchester-gets-100m-eu-support?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Industrial air pollution has high economic cost

Air pollution from Europe’s largest industrial facilities cost society at least €59 billion, and possibly as much as €189 billion in 2012, according to an assessment published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Half of these damage costs were caused by just 1 % of the industrial plants.

Air pollution and greenhouse gases from industry cost Europe between €59 and €189 billion in 2012, the report shows. The upper estimate is approximately equivalent to the GDP of Finland or half the GDP of Poland. Over the period 2008 – 2012 the estimated cost was at least €329 billion and possibly up to €1 053 billion.

The findings come from ‘Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities – an updated assessment‘, which evaluates a number of harmful impacts caused by air pollution including premature death, hospital costs, lost work days, health problems, damage to buildings and reduced agricultural yields. The EEA uses a range of cost estimates as there are several existing methods currently used by policy-makers to calculate associated damage costs.

The report also names the most damaging facilities in Europe (use Chrome or Firefox) and the costs in each country. Of the 30 individual facilities identified as causing the highest damage, 26 are power-generating facilities, mainly fuelled by coal and lignite and located predominantly in Germany and Eastern Europe. The report does not assess whether a facility’s emissions are consistent with its legal requirements to operate.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “While we all benefit from industry and power generation, this analysis shows that the technologies used by these plants impose hidden costs on our health and the environment. Industry is also only part of the picture – it is important to recognise that other sectors, primarily transport and agriculture, also contribute to poor air quality.”

Other findings

  • Fifty percent of the damage costs were caused by just 147 facilities, or 1 % of the 14 325 facilities assessed over the period 2008 to 2012. Three quarters of the total damage costs were caused by the emissions of 568 facilities — 4 % of the total number. This does not mean that regulation should only apply to larger facilities, as smaller facilities can cause significant local pollution.
  • Damage costs have declined over the five years monitored in the report, reflecting lower emissions reported by industrial facilities. This may be due to the impacts of legislation, improving plant efficiencies and the economic recession in Europe which caused lower rates of industrial activity in years immediately after 2008.
  • Eight of the top 30 facilities are located in Germany; six are in Poland; four are in Romania; three are in Bulgaria and the United Kingdom, two are located in Greece; and the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy and Slovakia all have one each. However, this ranking does not take efficiency into account – in some cases, larger plants may be more efficient than several smaller ones.
  • Countries such as Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, France and Italy, which have many large facilities, contribute the most to total damage costs. However, the ordering of countries changes significantly if damage costs are corrected to reflect the output of national economies. Emissions from a number of eastern European countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia and Poland) then become more important.
  • The report highlights the potential savings if more than 1 500 of Europe’s large combustion plants were to reduce their future emissions in line with best practice.

Original Source: http://www.eea.europa.eu/media/newsreleases/industrial-air-pollution-has-high?utm_source=EEASubscriptions&utm_medium=RSSFeeds&utm_campaign=Generic

Construction worker killed by falling tape measure in freak accident in US

A construction worker has died after being hit by a falling tape measure in a freak accident in the US.

The man, 58, was struck when another worker dropped the device from the 50th floor of a high rise building under construction in New Jersey.

The tape measure fell 500ft – probably reaching speeds of 140mph – before hitting a piece of metal 10 feet above the ground, authorities said.

Witnesses said it then ricocheted off the metal sheet and landed on the victim, who had been chatting to someone through a car window just before pulling his head away and being hit.

The man, who has been named locally as construction worker Gary Anderson, was taken to hospital but went into cardiac arrest and died of his injuries later on Monday.

The freak accident is believed to have happened as a construction worker on the 50th floor measured a wall for windows at the site, in Jersey City.

Witnesses said he had been unfastening the tape measure from his belt when it slipped from his hands.

Watchdog the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/10nYJqO

Commercial sectors push construction in the right direction

Commercial activity continues to ramp up at a marked pace, driving construction growth into the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the latest figures from industry analysts Glenigan.

The Glenigan Index for November, which covers projects starting on site during the three months to October, has increased by 4% compared to a year earlier. This figure is up slightly from 3% in September and marks the 17th consecutive monthly Index rise.

Office and retail starts both saw a 25% year on year increase, with the commercial sector boosted by a number of major London schemes, including the £95 million One Mitre Square development which broke ground in August.

Allan Wilén, economics director at Glenigan, said: “Commercial and civil engineering work are taking over from housing as the lead drivers of new construction starts.

“This broad footing of construction growth bodes well for the upcoming period of political uncertainty ahead of the general election, and as expectations of an interest rate rise appear to be dampening confidence among UK homeowners.”

Following last month’s dip, the Glenigan Residential Index is hovering just outside of negative territory, recording no change compared to a year earlier.

Private house building remains on the up, despite the recent stall, with starts rising by 15% so far in 2014. In contrast, social housing continues to struggle, with starts flat for the year to date.

This divergence can also be seen within the planning pipeline; during the three months to September the underlying value of private housing approvals was up by 24%, while social approvals were down 24%.

A weakening in industrial confidence has coincided with the first fall in project starts for the sector since July last year. Nonetheless, Glenigan expects this slowdown to be short-lived, with industrial remaining on course to be the fastest expanding sector during 2014.

A substantial flow of prospective industrial projects continues to make its way through the planning pipeline, with the underlying value of projects receiving approval up 42% in the three months to September.

Freed from the constraints of referendum uncertainty, a slew of work starting during October has seen Scotland return to growth after four months of declining starts. As in recent months, the northern English regions, Northern Ireland and Wales are gaining ground fastest, all seeing double digit growth over the last three months.

By contrast, the East and South West of England saw starts fall back compared to a year ago, while the South East has kept pace with the UK average of 4% expansion.

For the first time since July last year, London recorded a fall in project starts. However, Glenigan data points to momentum in the capital remaining. After a 21% rise last year, the capital is set to achieve double digit growth once again over 2014 as a whole.

The monthly Glenigan Index is based on extensive research of every construction project starting in the UK over the previous three-month period, providing an indicator of developing activity and future output in the industry.

Original Source: http://www.builderandengineer.co.uk/news/commercial-sectors-push-construction-right-direction

No time to lose: IOSH launches occupational cancer campaign

An industry-wide campaign to cut the number of deaths from occupational cancer has been launched.

According to conservative estimates, some 8,000 people die from cancer and around 14,000 contract the disease each year in the UK because of exposure to a work-related carcinogen, such as diesel exhaust fumes, silica dust or asbestos fibres. Worldwide, occupational cancer claims the lives of more than 666,000 a year – one death every 47 seconds.

The figures far outstrip those for fatal incidents in the workplace, but the invisibility of carcinogens, the long latency of their effects and a lack of knowledge continue to produce this staggeringly high number of preventable deaths and cancer registrations.

Led by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and backed by business leaders, academics and charity Macmillan Cancer Support, the No Time to Lose campaign will call for a collaboration of government and employers “to beat occupational cancer”.

A national database of work-related carcinogen exposure, more research into the potential cancer risks of new technologies, a greater focus on work cancer in medical courses and awareness training for apprentices are all part of the call to action.

IOSH, the world’s largest professional organisation in occupational safety and health, will also publish new guidance today for employers to help them identify and deal with cancer risks. And the Chartered body wants businesses to sign a pledge demonstrating their commitment to controlling carcinogenic exposures in their workplaces.

IOSH head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: “We need a concerted joint effort to educate and protect future generations from work-related cancer. Simple actions today will save lives tomorrow – there really is no time to lose in tackling this global tragedy.”

Findings of a survey of its members by IOSH found 80 per cent of respondents felt industry was doing too little to tackle occupational health issues, due to a lack of awareness and resources.

Dr Lesley Rushton, of Imperial College London, is lead researcher behind the most recent study into the UK’s work cancer burden. She said: “There’s no excuse for young people entering into work today and being exposed to carcinogens. And we need innovative ways to get key messages to the self-employed and those working in smaller businesses.

“If we don’t do something now, we are going to have thousands of occupational cancers annually, but if we take action now we can beat occupational cancer.

“We know there are problems with exhaust fumes and shift work, sun exposure is a problem. We know what the problems are, and we know how to reduce the risks. Now, we just need action.”

For more information about the campaign, this afternoon’s House of Commons launch, and the No Time to Lose call to action, visit www.notimetolose.org.uk .

Original Source: http://www.iosh.co.uk/News/Campaign-to-cut-work-cancer-deaths-launched.aspx?

Industry dangers highlighted with latest health and safety statistics

Figures published today show that while Britain continues to be one of the safest places to work in Europe, too many workers are still being injured or made ill by work.

Injury and ill-health statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that an estimated 28.2 million working days were lost due to work related ill health or injury in 2013/14.

As a result, the cost to society from such injuries and new cases of ill health due to current working conditions is an estimated £14.2 billion (2012/13 figures based on 2012 prices), according to the latest annual statistics published by HSE today.

Judith Hackitt, the chair of HSE, says that behind every number is the reality of a real person being killed or suffering injuries or ill health while simply doing their job.

The statistics show that, in 2013/14, there were;133 fatal injuries – a fall from 150 the previous year. 77,593 other injuries reported under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

That equates to 304.6 injuries per 100,000 employees. An estimated two million people in 2013/14 suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by current or past work.

Judith Hackitt said: “These latest figures remind us what health and safety is really about. We should remind ourselves what these numbers actually mean – the number of times in the last year someone went out to work and either did not return home to their loved ones or came home with life changing injuries.

“The health numbers also demonstrate the scale of harm being done to people’s health while at work, too often leading to premature death.

“Jobsworths using ‘elf n safety as a convenient excuse for all manner of things, and those claiming health and safety is a burden, need to reflect on this. Britain has one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but that is cold comfort to those who have suffered loss or suffering that is so easily avoided with sensible and proportionate risk management.

“We all need to commit to focussing on what really matters – ensuring more people return home from work every day and enjoy long and healthy working lives.”

The industries in which employees are most likely to be injured by their jobs have not changed significantly – with construction (1900 major/specified injuries), agriculture (292 major/specified injuries), manufacturing (3159 major/specified injuries) and waste and recycling (486 major/specified injuries) among the higher risk sectors.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/139Re8A

‘Further jump’ in construction workloads

Construction workloads rose at their quickest pace in around two decades during the third quarter of the year, according to new research.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) reported that improvements in the private housing and private commercial sub-sectors drove workloads upwards at their quickest rate since 1994.

Its third-quarter UK Construction Market Survey shows that 46% more chartered surveyors saw activity levels rise, compared to a 41% net balance in the previous study.

The result means that workloads in the construction industry have now improved for eight quarters in a row.

It comes despite Rics finding that quantity surveyor shortages are still proving to be an issue in some parts of the UK.

In terms of private housing activity, the group said robust growth was witnessed over the three-month period. London and the South East notably saw sturdy growth.

With regards to the private commercial sub-sector, the report said a balance of 59% more surveyors have recently seen activity levels go up.

Growth was less pronounced in the infrastructure sub-sector, where a net balance of only 27% of surveyors reported higher activity levels.

The marked improvements seen in terms of private housing and private commercial activity may fuel concerns about skills shortages within the construction industry.

Earlier this week, an analysis from the National House Building Council indicated that some property firms are finding it tough to source bricklayers, carpenters and decorators.

Respondents to the survey have also warned of the impact which labour shortages could ultimately have on the building trade.

Access to finance and a shortage of materials were also cited as key threats which may limit building activity in the months ahead.

Further down their list of concerns, surveyors said planning and regulatory issues could additionally limit the industry’s growth.

A Rics spokesperson stated: “Despite these concerns, the strength and breadth of the growth that is being reported is promising and feeding expectations for further growth over the coming year.

“As a result, 47% more surveyors expect to see profits increase, rather than decrease.”

The group added that 58% more respondents are now hopeful that they will recruit more workers in the near future, as their workloads rise.

Original Source: http://www.citb.co.uk/news-events/uk/further-jump-in-construction-workloads/

1.3 million tradespeople at risk from dangers of asbestos

Health and Safety Executive launches new safety campaign as an average of 20 tradespeople die every week from asbestos related diseases.

Tradespeople, including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators, could come into contact with deadly asbestos on average more than 100 times a year* according to a new survey commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)**.

As well as illustrating how often tradespeople can be exposed to asbestos, the survey revealed some common myths believed by those at risk, with 1 in seven (14 per cent) believing that drinking a glass of water will help protect them from the deadly dust and one in four (27 per cent) thinking that opening a window will help to keep them safe.

Only a third (30 per cent) of those asked, were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working, whilst more than half (57 per cent) made at least one potentially lethal mistake in trying to identify how to stay safe.

Twenty tradespeople, on average, die every week from asbestos related diseases. 

Asbestos can be found in walls and ceilings, or the structure of a building, as well as a host of other places like floor tiles, boilers, toilet cisterns, guttering and soffits.

It can be disturbed by basic maintenance work like drilling holes and sanding and once disturbed, the microscopic fibres can prove lethal if breathed in, causing lung disease and cancer.

The research, undertaken by Censuswide in September 2014, shows that while more than half (53 per cent) knew that asbestos could be in old buildings built before 1970, only 15 per cent knew that it could still be found in buildings built up to the year 2000.

And although many of those surveyed could pinpoint some asbestos-containing materials, others were clueless, with only 19 per cent recognising it could also be hidden in common fixtures such as toilet seats and cisterns.

To encourage tradespeople to think about asbestos on every job so they are prepared to deal with the danger, HSE has launched a new safety campaign. Mark Harper, Minister responsible for Health and Safety, launched the campaign at the TradePoint store in Cricklewood. TradePoint is supporting the campaign by distributing asbestos safety kits to tradespeople through their stores across Great Britain.

A key feature of the campaign is the creation of a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops that helps tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with the deadly material as they go about their day-to-day work and gives them tailored help on how to deal with the risks.

Mark Harper, Minister responsible for Health and Safety, said:

“The number dying every year from asbestos related-diseases is unacceptably high. Despite being banned in the construction industry, asbestos exposure remains a very serious risk to tradespeople. This safety campaign is about highlighting the risks and easy measures people can take to protect themselves. We hope the safety kits and the web app will encourage people to be aware of the risks, think twice, and take precautions to stay safe.”

Philip White, HSE’s Chief Inspector for Construction, said:

“Asbestos is still a very real danger and the survey findings suggest that the people who come into contact with it regularly often don’t know where it could be and worryingly don’t know how to deal with it correctly, which could put them in harm’s way. Our new campaign aims to help tradespeople understand some of the simple steps they can take to stay safe. Our new web app is designed for use on a job so workers can easily identify if they are likely to face danger and can then get straight forward advice to help them do the job safely.”

Former electrical consultant Simon Clark, who in 2012 was diagnosed with mesothelioma – the life-threatening and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos – when he was just 52, said:

“When I was younger I didn’t think of the dangers of asbestos and I must have been exposed to it frequently. Since being diagnosed, I’ve had to give up my work and let some of my employees go – which is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is vitally important that everybody knows when they might be exposed and takes the correct steps to protect themselves.”

To download the web app please visit www.beware-asbestos.info/news link to external website

For more information on asbestos safety please visithttp://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos

Original Source: http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/1-3-million-tradespeople-at-risk-from-dangers-of-asbestos/