UK too trusting of tradesmen, survey finds

A survey found recently that renters in the UK are too trusting of tradesmen, this information came from a recent survey carried out by “Gas Tag”. They were carrying out the survey to understand the relationships that tenants have with their gas engineer. the results of findings regarding the electrical sector were shocking, with many not sure about and not asking for credentials before entry.

Among the findings it was discovered that 33% of women did not ask for evidence of certification or any other form of competency, this was 13% higher than the 20% of men that fail to check for competency. This survey was worrying also as it highlighted a major lack of basic safety knowledge from renters.

Nearly 10 million people in the UK are renters, around 5 million rent privately and around another 5 million in social housing. The CEO of Gas Tag, Paul Durose, who was responsible for the survey, explained how – “It is disturbing that 33% of women admit to not asking their engineer for their credentials before letting them into their home. This is despite 1.1million gas jobs a year being carried out by illegal gas fitters who are not qualified. Tradesmen should insist that you check their credentials but, if they don’t, then the onus is on householders to not fall into the trap of either being too scared to ask or too trusting to check.”

Paul added – “There is also huge confusion and lack of understanding about the responsibilities of landlords renting out properties. The overall conclusion is that large sections of the UK’s rented population are putting their lives at serious risk.”

£29bn spent yearly by UK businesses on energy, could be cut by simple tweaks

UK businesses spend a whopping £29bn on energy every year. This is way higher than they need to be paying according to a report carried out by “”, This came shortly before earth day last Sunday, in the report it is said that by making small alterations to working routines could redu7ce the expenditure of company electricity bills, whilst reducing the impact we are having on the environment.

According to findings from the report it is with desktop monitors, computers, and office lighting which businesses could be saving the most money on. The report states that the standard UK office has 16 employees, so this means each desktop computer running for an average 8 hours, 260 days a year, uses 3,328kWh of energy, this is worth around £582 in working hours. By turning off devices when they’re not being used or setting them to a timer is a great way to reduce energy wastage. If all office workers left their computers on and put their computer screens in sleep mode whilst not working, the average 16 office workers use a massive 9,955kWh in a year – that’s around £1,742. By simply making sure all devices are fully switched off when away from your desk means an impressive 63% reduction on energy costs, only 3,702kWh would be used.

Heating is a tricky issue in most offices, a standard flat panel wall heater uses about 1,560kWh per year, but to get great savings on office bills, portable electric heaters should definitely be avoided as they remain one of the worst workplace energy drainers, using up to 2,080kWh – a massive £364 in less than half a year.

Argos recall heater over serious safety concerns

Argos are to recall faulty heaters that were being sold by the company both in UK stores and online. The Chartered Standards Institute sanctioned the recall along with Electrical Safety, after the first heater was recalled back in winter last year. Electrical Safety posted on their website that –  “Argos have recalled the Simple Value 2kW Upright Fan Heater, the product is being recalled due to a risk of electric shock and burn hazard. If you have purchased one of these fan heaters, please stop using it immediately and return to your nearest Argos store for a full refund or replacement product as soon as possible.”

The heater is being urgently recalled due to a risk of electrical shock and burn hazard. Worryingly it is thought that approximately 5,000 units have been sold in Ireland. FYI Argos are recalling the heater with product code number – 730/9687 in the catalogue, the model is known as FH03. An image of the recalled heater can be found below:

It has not been reported that the recall of the heater has affected any other Argos product. Any customers who want to speak to the Argos helpline can do so by calling this number – 0345 600 5388.

Evaporating water could power almost 70% of the US Electrical Grid

Nowadays, most of us are very aware of the promotion of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, so learning about a new one is bound to gain interest.

US scientists have recently highlighted the potential of harvesting energy from evaporated water, saying that doing this across all the lakes and reservoirs in the US could power almost 70% of the nation’s electricity demands, generating 325 gigawatts of electricity.

The system works by the use of bacterial spores, which are put into an ‘evaporation engine’ which is set up so that the humidity level is continuously altered as more and more water is evaporated. The cycle created by this engine converts water into energy. This system, as well as creating a new energy source, is estimated to be able to save around 95 trillion litres of water per year lost to evaporation.

Advocates of this system recognise the issues with it; it would be a controversial eye-sore and would destroy hobbies such as fishing and sailing if done on the scale suggested here. However, they do not argue that it should be implemented across all US water sources, just that it should be trialled on a smaller scale to test how it well it can save energy. This may be a system we should keep in mind for the future, in the likelihood that sustainability becomes even more of an issue in the years to come.

Power finally restored to most of Puerto Rico after further blackouts


The island of Puerto Rico was once again plunged into darkness after an excavator hit a transmission line on Wednesday, almost seven months after Hurricane Maria devastated the country’s power. The Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said that power had been restored to over 80 per cent of customers after the blackout (1.1 million people) and that they were hoping to restore power to the remaining 326,000 people later the same day.

The power line failure caused the first total blackout across the island since the electrical grid was crippled in September by Hurricane Maria. However, before the blackout much of Puerto Rico was still without electricity, following slow responses to the power crisis caused by the hurricane. More than 44,000 customers of the PREPA were still awaiting the return of their power when the outage occurred. Around 1 million customers have been waiting even longer for power to be returned, as Hurricane Irma caused power losses at the start of last September.

One of these who has been without power for seven months is university student Jonathan Rodriguez, who commented; “I knew we’d be without power for some time, but not this long.”

The US Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the power restoration efforts, and expects the whole island to have its power back by late May. But many Puerto Ricans are understandably pessimistic about US efforts and federal lawmakers have asked that the Corps’ assignment be extended to ensure the entire island’s power is fully restored. The Power Authority has been in bankruptcy since July with a debt of about $14 billion.

Macmillan to launch new campaign “Just say the word”

Macmillan Cancer Support have united with 9 companies across the trade industry for their new campaign titled ‘Just Say the Word’ – created specifically for supporting males with cancer. The companies involved in the campaign are CEF, ISG, Mace, Selco Builders Warehouse, Topps Tiles, Travis Perkins, Benchmarx Kitchens and Joinery, Telent Technology Services, and Wolseley. These traders have joined together to encourage men to speak up if they need support and raise awareness of the impact of cancer on men.

New research conducted by both Macmillan and Toluna research has revealed that 26% of tradesmen would not feel comfortable having serious dialogue regarding their health with their fellow colleagues. Associate Director at Mace, Dave Watkins, 59, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. He explained how – “When I was diagnosed, I initially found it really difficult to talk to others about my cancer and the emotional toll it was taking. Mentally, I found it difficult to come to terms with cancer and was in a dark place. But my experience really improved when I published my story on Mace’s staff intranet. My company and colleagues were incredibly supportive and helped my drive to stay positive.”

Marketing director at Selco Builders Warehouse, Carine Jessamine, explained: “We are long-standing supporters of Macmillan Cancer Support and, through the amazing efforts of our staff, customers and suppliers, have raised over £500,000 for the charity within the last five years. We are all as motivated as ever to keep up the fundraising and we are also delighted to support the ‘Just Say the Word’ campaign to help spread key messages to people operating in the trade.”

Out of the tradesmen included in the survey, around 30-40% of the people with cancer also experienced stages of depression and anxiety. with around 10% feeling a sense of shame post diagnosis. The campaign will run from 23rd of April to the 6th of May.  

Chinese city illuminated with smart city lighting


Philips Lighting has completed a large-scale smart lighting project throughout the city centre of Ningbo in China. The project exhibits a series of LED architectural lighting, connected across 37 large buildings through the centre of the city, creatively illuminating a 9.2 km stretch of road.

The aim is that this project will boost the city’s cultural heritage and increase tourism, as well as stimulating the commercial activity in the city centre. Philips Lighting was keen to initiate the project, demonstrating their progression on the modern uses of LED lighting, and also further emphasising their position as the official lighting company for the Internet of Things.

The buildings involved in the project have been successful in attracting huge amounts of tourism to the city. The lighting system itself uses around 2,000 Philips Color Kinetics fixtures controlled by Philips Activesite software. The main attraction of the project is the sparkling night scenes created in the city’s business district and Tianyi Square.

Dongliang XU from Toryo International Lighting Design Centre said: “The lighting design of the Zhongshan Road project illuminated took advantage of powerful mix of color architectural lighting and world class narrow projection. Philips Lighting brought our design concept to life, delivering high performance energy efficient lighting and control software which enable everything to be monitored and controlled remotely. The design, the technology and controls combine to not only raise the bar of city illumination in China but does this in a highly sustainable way.”

Furthermore, the Philips Activesite lighting system is more sustainable than many alternatives, in this case enabling energy savings of 30-40 per cent compared to the previous lighting system that was in use.

Main safety failures identified in Grenfell case

Multiple faults in the make up of Grenfell tower are what led to the rapid spread of fire throughout the whole building. These deficiencies included problems with the windows, the cavity barriers and the cladding system, which was was arguably the biggest reason that the building became so engulfed with flames so quickly.

A leaked report from the Met Police, offered the biggest incite into the poor refurbishment that had been done on the building. In the report it is mentioned how the fire would not have even spread beyond the flat numbered 16 on the fourth floor and would not have taken a single life if the original structure of the building had not been over clad between 2014-16.

Multiple faults in the makeup of the Grenfell tower are what lead to the rapid spread of fire throughout the whole building. these deficiencies included problems with the windows, the cavity barriers, and the cladding system, which was arguably the biggest reason that the building became so engulfed with flames so quickly.

A leaked report from the Met Police, offered the biggest insight into the poor refurbishment that had been done on the building. In the report it is mentioned how the fire would not have even spread beyond the flat numbered 16 on the fourth floor and would not have taken a single life if the original structure of the building had not been over clad between 2014-16.

The reported figure for the number of deaths was 71 after the government released its statement. Certain parts of the building were also very close to collapsing when the blaze when was at its hottest. The thick floor slabs that were installed were what stopped the buildings structure from crumbling.

Experts from BRE Global were said to have written up a leaked draft report which pointed out the buildings failure to meet fire safety standards on multiple accounts. The London evening standard were the newspaper that reportedly read the leaked report.

There were reportedly 15cm gaps between the window frames and the concrete columns that were filled out with foam insulation, rubberised membrane, and lightweight plastic panels. These materials were highly flammable and allowed the flames to travel at a considerably quicker rate. They served as fuel helping the flames penetrate the building’s facade and get into other flats as it moved up with exterior of the building.

The cavity barriers of the building failed to seal the gap between original concrete of the building and external aluminium cladding during the fire. Many of the fire blocks were simply too small or had not been installed correctly.

Another finding from the BRE report also found that insulation fitted to the outside of the building was combustible, allowing fire spread across sections of the facade. 

ACM cladding panels used had highly flammable polyethylene or plastic cores this enabled the fire spread upwards and across the building, causing burning drops of the polyethylene also falling and causing further materials to ignite. The report identified also the lack of door closers which ultimately meant when people fled their rooms, many doors were left open and vulnerable to smoke and fire spread down corridors. This also affected peoples escape down corridors.


UK cities acquiring fast-charging stations for electric vehicles


Dutch company Fastned has secured a deal with the North East Combined Authority and Newcastle University to install state-of-the-art fast charging stations for electric vehicles in two North-eastern cities; Newcastle and Sunderland. The project will be co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the UK government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles. These new stations, known as ‘Go Ultra Low Filling Stations’, will each contain six rapid chargers under a solar photovoltaic canopy. The Newcastle station will be installed on a part of the Newcastle University campus while the Sunderland station is being installed in the town centre.

The introduction of these new charging stations represents a huge step in the transition towards renewables in the transport industry. Fastned estimates that these new chargers are capable of charging vehicles up to 100 times faster than the current vehicle chargers. Once installed, the stations are thought to be able to add 125 miles of range to the latest models of electric vehicles in under 10 minutes. Less up-to-date electric vehicles can also be charged using the new stations at their maximum rate.

As well as the installation of the new stations, Fastned and Newcastle University will work in collaboration to help understand and spread knowledge of the impact of electric vehicles and charging grids. They will also try and assess the future roles for electric vehicles and how to prepare for the smart charging grids of the years to come. Furthermore, they will strive to gain an understanding of appropriate business models for this type of infrastructure in the UK.

This follows the progression of Fastned in the UK last year, when they won a tender with Transport for London to build fast charging stations in Greater London, and it is thought that they plan to install multi-charger stations across the UK to facilitate the move towards sustainable transport.

Government to back SME’s in new proposal

The government have vowed to exclude suppliers from major contracts if they fail to show fair payment practises to subcontractors, this under new government proposals. This as well as allowing subcontractors to have more access to buying authorities in order to report poor payment.

They will need to make it visible that their supply chain is benefiting smaller suppliers in supplying to central government. In 2015/16 the government spent £5.6bn, this figure rises to £12.2bn when you consider the sub-contractors to the small businesses from large suppliers. 

The minister for implementation, Oliver Dowden, explained how the government are committed to making the industry a more level playing field for the smaller suppliers in the UK, enabling them to win more work within the public sector. Quoted saying: “We have set a challenging aspiration that 33 per cent of procurement spend should be with small businesses by 2022 – and are doing more than ever to break down barriers for smaller firms.”

The national chairman for the federation of Small Businesses, Mike cherry also added: “Companies who pay late should not be rewarded with public sector contracts. We need a robust public procurement process that holds larger companies to account for their payment practices.”.