Posts by Isabelle Etheridge

Modern Slavery Statements – Newsletter Article for AGS Loss Prevention Working Group

Article by

Nearly 200 years after slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire, by the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, it is the tragic case that an estimated 45.8 million people are ‘modern slaves’. (According to the Global Survey Index 2016 – http://www.globalslaveryindex.org).

 

Modern slaves are defined, in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, as those who are forced or coerced to work and/or are treated as if they are ‘owned’ by another person, or corporate body. The offence of modern slavery also includes ‘human trafficking’, i.e. arranging for someone to travel to a situation where it is known that they will become ‘modern slaves’.

 

Under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, it is now the law that you must publish a slavery and human trafficking statement every financial year if your company has an annual turnover of £36 million or more.

 

This statement should set out all steps that have been taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place at any point within the supply chain either to the company or issuing from the company. If no steps have been taken then the statement should set this out clearly. Currently, the legal obligation is on producing the statement only but obviously a statement that sets out no investigation has taken place will reflect badly on that company.

 

Some key facts about this statement:

 

  • The turnover figure applies to the combined turnover of parent bodies and their subsidiaries (including any non-UK subsidiaries);
  • The statement should be published ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after the end of the company’s financial year and certainly no later than 6 months after the end of the financial year;
  • The law on statements came into effect on 29th October 2015, but, due to transitional arrangements, the first companies that need to produce statements are those whose financial years ended on 31st March 2016. Eligible companies must produce financial statements no later than 6 months after the end of their financial years that end on or after 31st March 2016;
  • The statements must be approved by an appropriate senior person. In limited companies, this means approved by board of directors and signed by board of directors.
  • The statement must be accessible to all customers, suppliers, members of public, government agencies and should be published in a prominent place on the home page of the company.

 

There is a modern slavery helpline available (0800 0121 700) for further advice and the government has produced guidance on producing slavery and human trafficking statements, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/471996/Transparency_in_Supply_Chains_etc__A_practical_guide__final_.pdf

 

Johanna Jennings

Forum Court Associates

(AGS Secretariat)

SoBRA – Accreditation Scheme Launched July 4th 2016

Article Contaminated Land by

The Society of Brownfield Risk Assessment (SoBRA) was established in 2009 to support the growing number of professionals working in land contamination risk assessment. It recently launched a new accreditation scheme to demonstrate competence as a land contamination risk assessor. This is a standalone scheme. However, the scheme presents an opportunity for its members to demonstrate to a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP), under the Land Forum’s upcoming National Quality Mark Scheme, that they are sufficiently competent to support the SQP in undertaking or reviewing the risk assessment element of their project. For the many members of the AGS interested in land contamination this a great opportunity to demonstrate competency recognition.

SoBRA is a learned society for individuals, with membership drawn from the private, public, voluntary and academic sectors.  Its goals are to improve technical knowledge in risk-based decision-making related to land contamination applications and to enhance the professional status and profile of practitioners.

Risk assessment is a critical element in the evaluation of land affected by contamination and provides the cornerstone for wider decision making in land management.  To date there has been no single industry-wide scheme to demonstrate competence as a risk assessor. The SoBRA Register of Risk Assessors has been developed to fill this gap, recognising and rewarding the technical skills associated with land contamination risk assessment.

Inclusion on the SoBRA Register of Risk Assessors will not demonstrate that an individual is an expert but will demonstrate that the individual possesses the technical, scientific and communications skills required to design, perform and critically evaluate land contamination risk assessments.  The scheme is focussed on the technical detail associated with risk assessments but also requires that applicants have a broader understanding of the context and impact of risk assessment on the management of land affected by contamination.

The SoBRA Register of Risk Assessors has two grades of membership to reflect an individual’s experience and skills.  The entry level is Registered Grade; individuals who are capable of undertaking and/or reviewing routine generic quantitative risk assessments without supervision but who are likely to need some assistance or guidance in conducting more complex risk assessments.  The advanced register entry will be the Fully Accredited Member Grade which would be someone with a thorough understanding of land contamination risk assessment, with experience of carrying out and/or reviewing more detailed and site specific risk assessments.  On admission to the register, individuals will be permitted to use the post-nominal signature designations of RSoBRA and ASoBRA respectively.

As many risk assessors have differing levels of experience in different practice areas such as human health risk assessment or assessing risks to water environment or ecological receptors, registration entries will be linked to their specific areas of competence.  In very broad terms the two grades have been designed to be consistent with the Level 3 and Level 4 of the SiLC Land Condition Skills Development Framework.

The application procedure will require the submission of written evidence to demonstrate competency, attested by referees and attendance at an interview.  There is also a strict requirement for all register entrants to maintain membership of a professional body and a requirement for those seeking the Fully Accredited Member Grade to be chartered.

The first tranche of applications are anticipated to be accepted from July to October 2016.  If you are interested in being included on the register, then please visit www.sobra.org.uk for full details on the application requirements and start gathering your evidence for your written submission!

Follow us also on LinkedIn, for the latest news on technical issues, workshops and updates. See also our summer workshop in Bristol upon Risk Assessment to support Historical Landfill Redevelopment or simply visit our Stand at Contamination EXPO 2016 to learn more!

For editorial comment and contact on this please contact the SoBRA executive committee at info@sobra.org.uk

 

NHBC Ground Gas Update – Site Assessment, Characterisation and Design of Gas Protection Measures

Article Contaminated Land by

NHBC have published an update to their 2007 technical guidance for low-rise residential developments on sites affected by ground gases. The original document, entitled ‘Guidance on evaluation of development proposals on sites where methane and carbon dioxide are present’, included a simple multi stage classification method for low-rise housing, commonly referred to as the “Traffic Light system”.  The fundamental guidance offered in this document remains applicable but, since its publication, there have been a number of advances in knowledge, including guidance on alternative approaches for characterising gas regimes and updated advice on the design of measures to deal with gas risks.  These include the Characterisation of gas risks without gas monitoring on low-risk sites (CL:AIRE, 2012), Verification of gas protection systems (CIRIA C735, 2014) and the British Standard Code of practice for the design of protective measures for methane and carbon dioxide ground gases for new buildings BS8485:2015.

The full article is available at: http://www.nhbc.co.uk/Builders/ProductsandServices/TechZone/NHBCStandards/TechnicalExtra/

NHBC summarise the new guidance and comment on where they consider it to be applicable.  They also explain where their Traffic Light classification can continue to be used, for a “typical house”, as detailed in the figure below.

NHBC

Model residential property developed for calculated maximum permitted gas concentration within the subfloor void.

 

They advise that:

  • There have been a number of recent UK publications offering alternative approaches to ground gas risk assessment and improved advice for the design and verification of measures to deal with gas risks.
  • Practitioners undertaking gas surveys and assessing the risks should be conversant with updated guidance.
  • Robust site characterisation is required to design gas protection measures, but designers must also have an understanding of building-related influences, as these significantly govern design and construction options for gas protection measures.
  • Gas protection design, installation approach and verification requirements should be agreed with NHBC in advance of works, as satisfying requirements after construction is extremely difficult, often more costly, and can be disruptive.
  • Specific requirements relating to gas protection measures may be applied under planning and must also be considered.
  • The NHBC Traffic Light guidance can be used where the development proposals are based on the ‘typical house’ used for modelling in the traffic light classification system.
  • Verification evidence will be requested for gas regimes at Amber 2. For developments where the Characteristic Situation is applicable, the BS8485 scoring system requirements should be adopted, and verification evidence could be required for gas regimes at CS2 or above.

 

References

NHBC Technical Extra, Issue 20, April 2016.

Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments (CL:AIRE) Research Bulletin RB17 – A pragmatic approach to ground gas risk assessment. 2012.

CIRIA C735. Good Practice and verification of protection systems for buildings against hazardous ground gases. 2014.

BSI. Code of practice for the design of protective measures for methane and carbon dioxide ground gases for new buildings, BS8485:2015.

 

by Neil Parry

Contamination Expo Series – 12th & 13th October 2016

Article Contaminated Land by

The AGS has partnered with The Contamination EXPO Series, a major new European exhibition committed to providing the latest knowledge, products, and innovations to manage all aspects of contamination.

The series encompasses six different co-located events: Land Remediation Expo, Spill Response Expo, Clean Air Technology Expo, and Hazardous Material Expo, as well as Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Expo and Nuclear Decommissioning and Remediation Expo, all under one roof with their own conferences and workshops.

With 120 seminars and 200 suppliers, this lively environment will be the top networking event in the industry, bringing together all parties from across the sectors. For more information, or to register for your free tickets, please visit www.contaminationexpo.co.uk

Location

ExCeL, London

Event website

www.contaminationexpo.co.uk

Tel

+ 44 (0) 117 990 2005

Email

james.ashwood@prysmgroup.co.uk

 

Potential Pitfalls for an Expert Witness

Article Loss Prevention by

by Peter Witherington and Hugh Mallett

 

Many of us in the technical services industry aspire to be experts in our field.  To receive a request to provide expert witness services can be flattering and could be seen as validation of that status.  However, ultimately provision of this service can result in the requirement to provide expert evidence at an inquiry or in court where rules and behaviour can be very different to our day to day experience.

Therefore, before accepting instructions to provide expert witness services on a particular matter, practitioners from member companies would be well advised to;

  • refer to the recently published LPA 62 [Advice to Expert Witnesses] and
  • reflect upon the following Magnificent Seven potential pitfalls drawn from recent experience, that potential expert witnesses can face and must fully understand:

1.  Responsibility of an expert.

First and foremost experts must be aware that their responsibility is to provide independent evidence to the court unaffected by any desire to support their client’s case (see also LPA 62).  An expert should be formally instructed by the solicitor acting for the client and this should clearly define the terms of reference and responsibilities.

2. Ensure you are Fully independent.

Before accepting an instruction, an expert must carefully consider if there are any conflicts in the appointment.  This could be a question of being previously involved in the case, a connection with other parties dealing with or affecting the case or a less obvious connection with a matter that could influence the case.  As a minimum the expert should advise the instructing solicitor and be entirely transparent in the proof of evidence of the potential conflict and how it could have affected the opinions given.

3.  Ensure you really are an expert.

Although you might be expert in the general aspects of the case consider whether you truly are an expert in all the specific details you are required to give evidence on. For example you might be an expert remediation engineer but have never dealt with a petrol filling station. If the case is about a PFS, you should seriously consider whether you should accept or decline the instruction.

4.  Make sure you are fully conversant with all the documents

It is easy to be tripped up if you are unaware of documents. On cross examination of a politician who admitted she had not had time to read all the documents, the barrister stated “Madam, you do not have an opinion!”

5.  Make absolutely sure your proof of evidence is correct

There is nothing a barrister likes more than to find errors in a proof of evidence. So when writing your expert report or proof of evidence make doubly sure that everything is factually correct, that any calculations you have made are not flawed and your opinions cannot be disputed or undermined by virtue of simple factual or typographic errors. There is nothing worse than having to amend errors in a proof identified during cross examination and the barrister will use this to question the reliability of all your evidence. Although it is your evidence it always makes sense to get another expert to undertake a sense check before it is submitted to the court

6.  Do not be drawn under cross examination to stray beyond your area of expertise.

It is very easy to be drawn under cross examination to make statements that are be beyond your area of expertise. A common pitfall is to bluff your way through but this could destroy the credibility of your entire evidence. It is far better to admit the limitations of your knowledge and not offer an opinion that is outside your area of expertise.

7.  And finally

It is important to recognise the seriousness of being an expert. This is not just an exercise in mental gymnastics; beware that barristers do this day in day out and excel in getting under your skin to undermine your credibility – this is what they are paid to do! If anyone needs a confirmation of how merciless the process can be, it is worth reading the judgement of Justice Aikenhead on the Corby case and how he dealt with some of the witnesses.  But more important than personal credibility, many of these cases can affect the lives of real people (as in the Corby case) and we must remember we have a responsibility to them as well.

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