Our grave concerns about Barnet Council “Mind the gap” depot.

Barnet UNISON read with dismay the following report entitled “Oakleigh Depot Remedial Works” which is going to Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday 3 October 2019.

(Source: https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s55442/Oakleigh%20Depot%20Remedial%20Works.pdf

What’s it all about?

The issue of subsidence was noted by Barnet UNISON from the moment we moved into Oakleigh depot in August 2017.

The report which is going to Policy and Resources Committee does not reference the significant involvement of Capita.

Capita Property & Infrastructure Ltd (“Capita”) provided the following report entitled: The “Oakleigh Road South Depot Phase 2 Ground Investigation & Assessment April 2015 report” and the “Soil Stabilisation report dated 1 February 2017”.

Here are the two key documents

Barnet UNISON has over the last 18 months attempted to work with Council officials to ensure safe working at the depot. However once the crack opened up across the road and the fuel tank area was splitting from the pavement, management stopped sharing vital information.

Below is a summary of UNISON requests for information.

  • August 2017. UNISON raised concerns over the sufficiency of reinforcement measures to prevent ground movement at the depot.

The Council responded that it did not believe that the reinforcement was insufficient.

  • March 2018. At a meeting with the Council UNISON asked if the Council had investigated the problem and what plans had been made for repairs. We asked for the surveyor’s report which the Council had commissioned.

We were given details on the plans for repairs and have not yet received a surveyor’s report.

  • July 2018. UNISON submitted an Inspection report for the depot which identified that the rifts in the surface had widened and deepened and extended over a larger area.

The report included a request for the relevant surveyor’s reports and asked what contingency plans for the service were in place if vehicles were prevented from using the depot should repair works be needed.

We received neither the surveyor’s report nor any information on a contingency plan

  • September 2018. At a meeting with the Council, UNISON repeated our request for a surveyor’s report.
  • January 2019. Following another UNISON inspection of the depot which noted that the fissures and subsidence had not been repaired the Council’s response was that the situation was being monitored and there was no imminent danger. UNISON requests for details of the monitoring where not met.

 

What does the “Oakleigh Depot Remedial Works” report say?

In paragraph 1.10 it states “With health and safety a priority…….” and in paragraph 3.1 it states: “Officer have been unable to identify options that have no, or lesser, impact on service. The option to do nothing was discounted due to health and safety risk.”

In paragraph 5.5.1 refers to an “Environment risk register” it goes on add “To manage health and safety risk, the council’s health and safety lead is reviewing proposals alongside operational staff. Additional health and safety capacity will be brought in if and when required.”

The reason for our grave concerns is that Barnet UNISON was unaware of any Health and Safety risks at the depot because someone in the Council had made a decision not to share this information. This shocking revelation that there are health and safety risks raises serious questions marks as to who decided not to share information with the trade unions.

Health and Safety legislation is very clear:

“Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations, 1977.Regulation 7 Inspection of documents and provision of information.

(1)       Safety representatives shall for the performance of their functions under section 2(4) of the 1974 Act and under these Regulations, if they have given the employer reasonable notice, be entitled to inspect and take copies of any document relevant to the workplace or to the employees the safety representatives represent which the employer is required to keep by virtue of any relevant statutory provision within the meaning of section 53(1) of the 1974 Act except a document consisting of or relating to any health record of an identifiable individual.”

Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974

“2 (6) It shall be the duty of every employer to consult any such representatives with a view to the making and maintenance of arrangements which will enable him and his employees to co-operate effectively in promoting and developing measures to ensure the health and safety at work of the employees, and in checking the effectiveness of such measures.”

Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations, 1977. Regulation 4A

“(1) Without prejudice to the generality of section 2(6) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, every employer shall consult safety representatives in good time with regard to – (a) the introduction of any measure at the workplace which may substantially affect the health and safety of the employees the safety representatives concerned represent;”

In light of the publication of the above report Barnet UNISON wrote to all three authors of the Council “Oakleigh Depot Remedial Works” report.

We have made the following demands:

  1. All reports/documents in relation to the ‘crack’ which identify health and safety issues are provided to the trade unions by the end of the week, including all data relating to ground movement.
  2. A weekly update meeting to take place at the depot with the trade union health and safety reps.

Failure to provide the information above will mean Barnet UNISON has no option but to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

View reports click on links below

CH-SSP-UK-MGridEG-Oakleigh Road South Depot-Rev 01 Feb 17

15_04005_FUL-SITE_INVESTIGATION_REPORT-3112004 (1) (1)

 

 

“Breathe Life – How air pollution impacts your body”

Barnet UNISON notes the dangers air pollution can have on our members working in Barnet.

We have already started discussions with Barnet Council about what can be done to mitigate the dangers of breathing in polluted air.

It is important our members understand the risks and what measures their employer can take to help both mitigate and or reduce the risk of air pollution.

The following video entitled “Breathe Life – How air pollution impacts your body” was made by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is a short and easy to understand video.

There is a Climate Emergency and it is impacting on all of us now. It would be wrong to ignore it. Action is needed now. Please keep up to date by ensuring you receive our weekly Barnet UNISON eNews email by contacting the branch on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

 

 

 

Colindale office UNISON H&S Inspection

 

Colindale office UNISON H&S Inspection

Background

Barnet Group to move staff and operations from Barnet House to new office site in Colindale. Move to commence June 2019.

UNISON representatives from the Barnet Group undertook a Health and Safety Inspection of the new site 12/4/19.

 


Housing Options Reception

 

Current arrangements – Barnet House

Client’s visiting Housing Options are initially held on the ground floor.

This means they can be searched away from Housing Options staff, and for security to confirm who has an appointment.

If there is an incident on the 2nd floor, clients can be held downstairs.

There is also space for client’s to wait and call Housing Options if they don’t have an appointment (as Housing Options is appointment only), although in some cases clients use phones on the second floor to contact benefit advisers etc.

UNISON notes that part of current security arrangements mean that when clients initially arrive at the building they can only gain access to the 2nd floor prior to being searched, and that the one member of reception staff on the ground floor is behind protective glass.

Current statistics on Barnet House anti-social, verbal and physical abuse incidents are too low – UNISON is concerned that there is a culture where abuse of staff is tolerated and incidents not recorded.

Proposed arrangements – Colindale

The proposed new reception has entrances straight from the street with clients queuing up and being searched in the reception area.

UNISON has been informed that there will be no barriers by the entrance, however there will be a reception desk with one or two security guards [to be confirmed], and a side room for more extensive searches.

Total security presence on the ground floor Housing Options Reception area has, as yet to be identified.

Concerns:

 

  1. As there is no protective barrier between clients and staff, clients could throw objects or liquids at staff without/before being searched.

  1. A violent client can push past security and gain access to staff without being searched.

  1. Customers in winter will not want to queue outside meaning they will be in the reception and potentially have access to staff without being searched.

  1. If there is an incident that requires security staff to deal with a violent client, there is no provision to stop other clients from entering the building.

  1. No way of stopping the flow of people to the entrance from outside the building whilst an incident is being managed.

  1. Housing Options regularly have violent clients who need to be removed from the building, there will be a safety issue in removing a disruptive client if other clients are queuing at the entrance.

  1. Housing Options clients include a high proportion of very vulnerable people, including children, who can be waiting the majority of the day for temporary accommodation – this will be unmanageable in the small space provided.

  1. Housing Options staff deal with many victims of domestic violence who may be fleeing violent and abusive partners. At the moment the proposed seating arrangements for people waiting for temporary accommodation mean that clients would be visible from the street through the large glass walls. This could potentially put both the victim of abuse and staff and other clients in danger if the perpetrator of the abuse sees them and would be traumatic for the vulnerable client.

  1. If a client doesn’t have an appointment there appears to be no place where they can call Housing Options to be triaged and assessed prior to seeing a member of staff. This needs to be resolved.

  1. General issues of safety in such a small space given that on a busy day Housing Options staff can have up to five or six families waiting to be seen by staff at any time, as well as families waiting for temporary accommodation.

  1. There does not seem to be any thought been given to the ‘maximum’ number of people that can be in the Housing Options Reception area at any one time.

  1. The Housing Options reception will be shared with Officers from Rental Income, Neighbourhood Housing, Antisocial Behaviour Officers and Leasehold Officers as the only secure interview space for staff to meet with customers. This will lead to severe delays in clients being interviewed. Staff may be tempted or feel pressurised into interviewing clients elsewhere in an unsafe environment due to lack of resources.

  1. Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers have not been given the opportunity to complete a joint inspection with UNISON.

  1. As there will be very limited space/privacy, clients visiting the interview area may be put in the position of having to disclose personal information and details which could be overheard by other members of the public, breaching Data Protection guidelines.

  1. There seems to be a lack of toilet facilities for clients in the Reception area and none in the waiting area.

Fire Safety

 

  1. Fire safety – Number of Fire Points. No fire safety documentation has been provided, as yet, in regard to the number of fire call points in each area.

  1. Disabled access – Unison request more details on this, particularly emergency procedures and evacuation protocols.

  1. UNISON is in ongoing dialogue with the Council and facilities in regard to evacuation protocol and PEEPs [see attached Appendix]

 

 

General Building Health and Safety Concerns

  1. No details available/provided of the building Temperature Control system.

  1. Toilets – at least one single gender toilet should be provided – Cubicles seem quite small for those who may need to wash upper bodies before prayer also wash hand basins are very small. Disabled toilets (public) Access? Mobility WCs should have grab aids on both sides of pan – not all users transfer from same side.

  1. Security arrangements for main building – can this be confirmed and Risk Assessments shared.

  1. Currently no provision where other Barnet Homes staff [not Housing Options] will be able to interview visitors. Lease Hold Services currently have visitors who drop off Right to Buy applications and attend RTB interviews and financial interviews. Rental Income Team, Neighbourhood Housing and Antisocial Behaviour Officers will need access to secure interview areas. Operations guidelines for these services need to be identified and fully Risk Assessed before the service is implemented.

  1. Main reception – the entrance doors partially obscured by stairs to 1st floor and a pillar, what security provision has been made to cover the ‘blind spot’?

  1. Roof garden – railings on the roof are low and easily accessible.

  1. Originally staff were advised that teams would have designated areas of work and on plans these were shaded in. UNISON has now been informed that all areas are hot desks. Does this mean that those who work from 10am will never get a desk?

  1. Cycle parking seems to be very limited – not under cover and just the metal hoop types – as the Barnet Group and the Council is encouraging staff to cycle to work more will need to be provided.

  1. Car parking Areas are located some distance from the main building – staff safety in walking to these areas needs to be Risk Assessed and shared.

  1. Car parks – need to be inspected for adequate lighting – it is unclear if any other safety measures will be put in place [such as CCTV] before the building becomes operational.

 

 

Risks

 

As there is no filter system for members of the public on entering the reception area clients will have to disclose personal details to security/reception and be overheard by other members of the public. The Barnet Group may be in held in breach of General Data Protection Regulations should a member of the public/client make a complaint.

Safeguarding of vulnerable clients visiting the Housing Options reception area is a priority – if victims of domestic abuse don’t feel safe to access council services and be seen by an Officer without the possibility of the perpetrator of the abuse seeing them then they won’t do it.

 

There is an overriding detrimental concern for Barnet Group staff Health and Safety putting the Barnet Group in legal jeopardy.

In addition, the Health and Safety of the Public could be put at risk leaving the Barnet Group open to litigation.

Staff in Housing Options have made it clear to UNISON that the proposed reception area is fundamentally unsafe.

As previously identified the recording/reporting of incidents at the Barnet House Reception is poor – This cannot continue at the new site.

UNISON is given to understand that many of these issues have been raised by staff and line-managers across the whole of Housing Options, but as yet the concerns have not been addressed.

If frontline staff are essentially expected to work in a dangerous environment UNISON will be left with no alternative other than to act on members concerns, inevitably leading to a breakdown in Industrial Relations, if the identified risks are not addressed before Housing Options reception becomes operational.

 

Recommendations

 

  1. Meaningful dialogue between UNISON, management and staff in regard to Housing Options reception to resolve the issues identified and the suitability of the Colindale site.

  1. Security provision to be identified and established, (including lines of reporting and training) and fully Risk Assessed before the building becomes operational.

  1. Public access procedures identified and fully Risk Assessed.

  1. Anti-social behaviour policy in regard to prospective clients to be produced and a zero tolerance of abuse towards staff to be implemented.

  1. Risk Assessments for the reception and interview areas, including those for violent and abusive members of the public to be completed.

  1. A further joint UNISON Health and Safety inspection in conjunction with Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers to be arranged to assess risks to staff and the public before the building becomes operational.

  1. UNISON to work in conjunction with Barnet Group Health and Safety Officers to encourage staff and managers to record/report any incidents of physical and verbal abuse. UNISON and Barnet Group H&S to co-operate, investigate cases of concern and produce joint recommendations.

  1. Safeguarding of vulnerable clients to be acknowledged and addressed contacting  the Safeguarding team at the Council about the risk to  vulnerable adults, children and the victims of domestic abuse visiting the Colindale site would be recommended.

  1. General Data Protection Regulation issues to be acknowledged and measures put in place to minimise risk.

  1. UNISON suggests that Housing Options clients use the main council reception when they first arrive, enabling clients to be filtered to the Housing Options reception once it has been confirmed that they are due to be seen by an Officer. This would significantly reduce the flow of people through the main Housing Options front entrance, It would also have the bonus of freeing up space as clients could wait in the main reception for temporary accommodation and the officers from the TA team (soon to be Housing Solutions team) come straight down in the lift to the main reception area . This would be a better solution for clients as there is a Costa Coffee in the foyer for their use while waiting to be seen.

Conclusion

Given the unpredictable nature of Housing Options operations as the tragic incident on the 2nd floor last year demonstrated – UNISON recommends that the concerns of staff, managers and Trade Unions should be fully addressed and the suitability of the proposed Colindale site fully assessed before the Housing Options Reception Area becomes operational.

 

 

BREAKINGNEWS: Grounds Maintenance for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards ends 1 April 2019

No, this is not an April Fools joke it is for real.

Barnet UNISON have been informed that our members who work for Grounds Maintenance have been told as from Monday 1 April that they will no longer providing the following services for Barnet War Memorials and Closed Churchyards

  • Weed spraying
  • Shrub Prune
  • Remembrance Sunday works
  • Grass Cutting
  • Hedge Cutting
  • Planting Weeding and maintaining annual bedding

To the best of our knowledge this decision has not been subject to any public consultation the sites affected are as follows.

  1. Bells Hill Burial Ground
  2. Christ Church yard , St Albans road
  3. East Barnet Village War Memorial
  4. Golders Green War Memorial
  5. Holy Trinity Church yard
  6. Ridgeway War Memorial
  7. St James’ Church yard
  8. St Marchs Church
  9. ST Mary’s Church Green
  10. St Marys Church Yard /Church End.
  11. John the Baptist C.O.E
  12. Station Road War Memorial

At the time of this post Barnet UNISON has asked the following:

  • Which Council department proposed the termination of the services?
  • When did the public consultation take place for this proposal?
  • Where was this saving identified in the recently agreed Councils Medium Term Financial Strategy 5 March 2019?
  • Are there any Health and Safety risks as a result of the termination of this service?

Barnet UNISON is supporting World Mental Health Day 10 October

Barnet UNISON is supporting World Mental Health Day 10 October

As the song goes: “Everybody hurts sometimes”

 

In a number of our services stress and mental health issues account for the leading reasons for sickness absence. These are often services where our members have roles looking after the wellbeing of residents they serve so it can be difficult admitting you’re not coping when you are supposed to be the “strong one”. Please view this link where our own Branch Secretary, John Burgess, gives a personal account of his own experience.

Fire Safety at Barnet House Update 3

New developments

On Thursday 13 September 2018, a Barnet UNISON rep accompanied the Fire Alarm engineer on a comprehensive test of the Alarm points. Barnet UNISON has consistently requested that every single Alarm point be tested since 16 August 2018.

We can report that every Alarm point successfully set off the alarm.

One of the big issues has been the delay time from pressing the Alarm which can be as high as 10 seconds.

It has come to light that this is because the Alarm system works on radio waves. Barnet UNISON view is that there should be no delays once the button is pressed which is why Barnet UNISON want the Fire Alarm system to be hard wired in order to ensure the alarm sounds immediately.

We can report the following actions agreed with Barnet Council and Barnet UNISON:

  1. The London Fire Brigade (LFB) will be invited in to conduct a risk assessment of their own to provide additional assurance. ACTION: by agreed deadline with LFB.
  2. August 18 Fire Risk Assessment Review to be assessed to ensure validity and that actions are in-hand. ACTION: by 22 Sep 18.
  3. Timings for fire alarm technical testing are to be shared with UNISON.
  4. Timings for replacing the 2nd floor call point are to be shared with UNISON as soon as possible close of play 18 Sep 2018.
  5. Second floor call points are to be functionally tested by physically activating, with UNISON in attendance. Completed.
  6. Lift repaired. Complete.
  7. Fire evacuation procedures will be reviewed in collaboration with UNISON: Action: by 1 Oct 18.
  8. Fire Safety Training will be conducted to brief staff on:
  • How the fire alarm system is operated and how it works
  • How the system is tested, including call points and tamper alarms
  • Fire evacuation procedures. ACTION: by 20 Oct 18.

9. Barnet House fire drill is to be conducted once evacuation procedures have been reviewed and additional training conducted. ACTION: by 1 Nov 18.

Please keep a look out for eNEWS and the Barnet UNISON website for details of any further developments here http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/

 

 

 

Incident on the 2nd floor Barnet House

ATTENTION all Barnet UNISON members.

You are probably aware of the incident that occurred on 2nd floor reception on Wednesday 15 August 2018.

If you have anything that you feel you would like to report or discuss in confidence, please come to the UNISON office and speak to our Branch Health & Safety Officer Hugh Jordan Hugh.jordan@barnetunison.org.uk

Barnet UNISON are working with Barnet Group H&S, chiefly Ben Wildman along with Capita H&S and Facilities  to address any failures which may have led to, or exacerbated the incident.

Barnet Homes have put counselling in place for staff who witnessed the incident, but ANY staff who feel they would like to talk to someone, please do not hesitate to contact the UNISON office on the first floor.

The Health & Safety of UNISON members at work is our top priority.

Meanwhile back in the real world #2 : “Taxing the sick update 2”

Barnet Council are in a serious financial crisis and are in talks with Capita as to how many services will have to be come back in-house. Staff are already worried with having to cope with more work and less resources without the added stress that the Council may start making mass redundancies in a bid to make more cuts.

It is therefore deeply troubling that the Council have announced that they want to consult on a proposal to deduct pay from staff off sick from work.

From the brief consultation we have had so far it is already very clear that the sickness levels are high with staff with serious illnesses such as cancer, strokes etc. hence we are calling the proposal “Taxing the sick”.

In September 2018 we are going to be consulting with our members on this proposal.

There will be opportunities to discuss the proposal with local reps at a number of Barnet UNISON meetings in September.

Barnet House

  • Wednesday 5 September, 12 noon, Committee room 2
  • Wednesday 12 September, 12.30 pm, Committee room 1
  • Friday 21 September, 12.30 pm, Committee room 1
  • Thursday 27 September, 12.30 pm, Committee room 2

NLBP

  • Thursday 6 September, 12.30 pm, Building 4, Central room
  • Friday 14 September, 1 pm, Building 4, Central room
  • Thursday 20 September, 12.30 pm, Building 2, G2 room
  • Tuesday 25 September, 1 pm, Building 4, Central room

However, if you need some advice or a meeting with a Barnet UNISON rep please contact the office on 0208 359 2088 or email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Barnet Homes Fire doors not up to standard

 

Below is an extract from the Housing Committee Thursday the  21st of June, 2018

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g9486/Public%20reports%20pack%2021st-Jun-2018%2019.00%20Housing%20Committee.pdf?T=10

 

Appendix 1

Fire safety and the Council’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster

 

Further developments – Manse Masterdoor

23.On the 15th March 2018, the Government released a statement regarding potential
issues identified with door-sets produced by the company Manse Masterdoor.
Further testing of these doors was undertaken and an updated statement made on
the 16th May 2018. An excerpt of this statement is as follows:

“The expert panel has concluded there is a performance issue with these Manse
Masterdoor fire doors, which do not consistently meet the 30-minute fire resistance standard. Nevertheless, the National Fire Chiefs Council has advised the expert panel the risk to public safety remains low”

24.The full statement can be viewed at;
http://www.gov.uk/government/news/update-on-fire-doors-investigation-risk-topublic-safety-remains-low.
The statement also confirmed that the MHCLG is
writing to affected customers. The affected doors were supplied between 2013
and 2014.

25.There is a total of 1,183 of these doors on Barnet Homes properties. All affected
residents have been written to confirming the steps are being taken to replace the
door-sets, whilst also confirming the Governments advice that the risk posed
remains low.

26.In addition, Barnet Homes has arranged for the fire risk assessments to blocks
containing these doors be updated in light of this matter. This will be completed by
29th June 2018. These fire risk assessments will form the basis for prioritising the
door replacement programme.

27.The estimated costs for replacing these doors is in the region of £1.5m, however Barnet Homes are engaged in positive discussions with the contracted party that
installed the doors in order to mitigate any cost implications to the Council


 

Worryingly, the same document details a fire at a block of 20 flats in Graham Park Estate.

 


18.In early April 2018, a serious fire occurred at a small block on the Grahame Park
Estate. Although nobody was hurt, the whole block of 20 flats is now uninhabitable,
and residents have been provided with alternative accommodation. Following this
fire, Barnet Homes instructed an intrusive survey of the communal areas of the
block which highlighted the need for some improvements to the fire separation
measures within areas not generally accessible through the Fire Risk Assessment
process, such as within enclosed riser ducts and suspended ceiling void spaces.
Surveys were undertaken to blocks of a similar construction on the same estate,
which highlighted the need for similar improvements. Arrangements have been
made to implement works to address these matters.

19.Whilst the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 focuses on communal
areas, Barnet Homes have piloted some surveys which go over and above these
requirements and include areas within dwellings. Within some properties areas for
further improvements have been identified of a similar nature to that of the highrise
properties.

20.It is therefore recommended that Barnet Homes extend its programme of fire safety works to include all blocks of flats.

This would include;

 Surveying of sample properties internally as part of an extended fire risk
assessment programme

 The installation of enhanced fire detection and alarm systems within all
tenanted flats.

 That measures identified as part of the extended fire risk assessment surveys
are undertaken through a programme of works to be developed as the surveys
progress.

21.Until the surveys have been undertaken to all blocks it is difficult to accurately
estimate the cost of undertaking the arising works. The next fire safety update to
the Housing Committee will include more a detailed and costed programme along
with proposals for funding these works.

22.Barnet Homes will make use of existing capital budgets to address any urgent
works identified that need to be dealt with prior to the October 2018 Housing
Committee up to a value of £200,000.