Kodi Boxes could put consumers at risk, warn experts

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Kodi boxes that allow the streaming of TV shows and films plus live sports, all for free, are being branded as a major health hazard, this according to Electrical Safety First who have conducted a review of a selection of the popular illicit streaming devices, as part of their regular product assessments.

Out of the screened streaming devices, all of them failed with several models found to be potentially life-threatening. Electrical Safety First tested 9 of the popular Kodi devices that had been previously confiscated from homes across the UK. The devices often tend to be cheap and unbranded with pre-loaded Kodi software along with seemingly illegal pirate addons that enable the user to access copyright-protected content for free.

All boxes tested failed to comply with the Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations 1994. Electrical Safety First explained how “Several of the samples were considered to offer a potential risk of injury to the user, which includes risk of electric shock and/or fire.”

“The product review relates primarily to the switched mode power supply units for the connection to the mains supply, which were supplied with the devices, to identify any potential risks to consumers such as electric shocks, heating and resistance to fire. “The boxes themselves were assessed in terms of any faults in the marking, warnings and instructions.”

Even more concerning was the estimate made by the Intellectual Property Office, that more than a million of these potentially dangerous streaming devices have been sold in the UK in the last 2 years. Product safety manager at Electrical Safety First, Steve Curtler explained how “given the nature of the safety issues we found, [the worst-case result of one malfunctioning] would be for a fire to break out, causing severe property damage and even fatalities, and of course fatalities from electric shock,”

Mr Curtler urged anyone who is using these devises, unplug and stop using them immediately.

£60k fine issued as 2 workers suffer serious electrical burns

 

A Derbyshire magistrate recently issued out a big £60k fine to a local company, this due to 2 of its workers having suffered serious electrical burns back in 2016. They were working to reinstate a power supply at the time for BAS Castings Ltd for a furnace after previous repair work had been completed by contractors. Once they had replaced fuses they then shut the door to the fuse panel, this engaged the interlock, then they attempted to close the main switch.

When this wouldn’t work, the workers opened the panel door and made the decision to bypass the interlock attempting to use a screwdriver to try at the main switch again. It was at this point that an electrical flashover happened seriously injuring both workers. Both employees suffered major burns that resulted in surgical work and a 2 week stay in hospital to recover. 

Following on from this incident, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) conducted an investigation, eventually finding that at the time of the incident BAS Castings Ltd did not have any electrical safety rules, safe systems of work or a permit system in place. There were no recorded systems or rules for working with electricity, no assessment of risk, also, the injured employees were not given any specific instruction regarding how to undertake the work in a safe manner. The company also did not stop the employees from working on live conductors and showed no consideration of the conditions which are stipulated in law.

BAS Castings Ltd, of Wharf Road Industrial Estate, Pinxton, Nottinghamshire, plead guilty to breaching Regulation 4 (3) and Regulation 14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. And were fined a total of £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1353.90

Google matches renewable power with electrical energy use for first time

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In 2017, the amount of solar and wind energy purchased by Google surpassed the amount of electrical energy used by the company’s offices and data centres around the world. This meant that for the first time, their electrical energy output had effectively been matched with renewable energy. Google has made deals to purchase 3GW of energy from renewable sources, compared to around 1GW each purchased by Amazon and Microsoft, and the 600MW agreed by Apple. The company claimed that their renewable energy contracts have generated over $3 billion in new investment from around the world.

“We’ve been working toward this goal for a long time,” said senior vice president of technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle. “At the outset of last year, we felt confident that 2017 was the year we’d meet it. Every year, we sign contracts for new renewable energy generation projects in markets where we have operations… From the time we sign a contract, it takes one to two years to build the wind farm or solar field before it begins producing energy,” he said.

In 2016, Google’s renewable projects made up 57% of all the energy used by the company, and the same year they signed a record number of contracts for incomplete wind and solar projects. Many of these projects were finished by 2017 when Google was able to match a much higher percentage of its electrical energy usage. The corporation reportedly uses 1.5 million tonnes of carbon annually, and contributes towards 2% of America’s electricity use, similar to the amount used by the airline industry. Hölzle however plans to increase the efficiency of Google’s buildings across the country;

“We’re building new data centres and offices, and as demand for Google products grows, so does our electricity load,” he said.

“We need to be constantly adding renewables to our portfolio to keep up. So we’ll keep signing contracts to buy more renewable energy.”

Google’s efforts are in keeping with the 2018 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, showing solar power as the world’s fastest-growing energy technology in 2017.

Young staff in the workplace failing to take Health & Safety seriously

In a survey out of 2000 professionals, it was discovered that over a quarter of young employees between the ages of 18 – 34 have at some point, put themselves in danger within the workplace. The research discovered that this 27% had put themselves in danger at work by failing to follow their company safety procedures. This stat was a strange one because in this same survey, 56% of those people between the ages of 18 – 34 said they were more likely to read through safety guidance than the 30% of participants aged 45-64 that stated that they were likely to read through safety guidelines.

Despite less of the older demographic out of the surveyed participants saying that they are likely to read through safety procedures and guidelines, out of these participants only 8% had put themselves in any kind of danger by not following company guidelines within the workplace.

The research that was conducted and captured by company WorkMobile, also revealed that many of the younger demographic of professionals would not know how to cope when put in a hazardous situation, despite having read handbooks on safety procedures.

33% 0f 18 – 34 year olds openly admitted that they would have no clue on what to do if a potentially hazardous situation occurred. Interestingly, 11% of the 18 -34 demographic, stated that whilst they wouldn’t immediately know what to do if an incident occurred, they would know where to locate the information required to solve the issue.

A much larger percentage of older professionals, a massive 67% 45 – 64 year olds were confident that in a potentially dangerous situation at work, they would immediately know how to handle a problem.

The survey comes as a part of “Work Safe” report, this report looks at the current state of health and safety in the UK, looking at what aspects require improvements.

 

Gender pay gap reporting and progression

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Yesterday saw the deadline for the Gender Pay Gap declaration, meaning that all large business firms would have to publish information showing the average pay difference between men and women in their companies. Carolyn Fairbairn of the Confederation of Business Industry described the step as “an opportunity for businesses to drive change in their workplaces”, praising the reporting for initiating this kind of exposure of inequality.

She added: “What gets measured gets changed – helping to develop more inclusive workplaces and support more women into senior roles.

 “There’s nothing more important for firms than attracting and retaining the best possible people. Companies want to close the gender pay gap. They have plenty of good practice to draw on – from great flexible working policies, to widening recruitment and engaging with schools to inspire young women into STEM subjects.

 “It’s important that the gender pay gap is not confused with unequal pay, which is already illegal. 

 “Firms have had plenty of warning and have no excuse for failing to submit their gender pay gap data accurately and on time. But businesses can’t close the gap by themselves. Many of the causes of the gender pay gap lie outside the workplace, and will require a partnership between companies and government if we are to deliver long-term, lasting change.”

This follows the announcement by Women and Equalities Minister Amber Rudd in March that a £1.5 million fund would be launched to help workers of all skill levels back to work after time out caring. As the majority of people who take time out for this reason are women, this is indicative of the government’s strategy to slowly close gender pay disparities.

UK workers more than happy to use AI for repetitive tasks

A recent report found that UK workers would be happy to hand over task of a repetitive nature to the hands of artificial intelligence. The idea of this being introduced is to help reduce time wasted on tasks that are repetitive and take up too much time. The report carried out by “The Wrike Digital Work Report 2018” found that 86% of employees expressed an interest in technology that could allow for this to happen. Whilst 73% felt that this AI technology will not help to improve operational efficiencies by taking on repetitive tasks. The study also highlighted how more than 50% of UK workers feel that AI technology would free up at least 25-50% more time for other none repetitive tasks.

With this free time available in their workday, workers feel they would be able to focus more on creative elements of their job and have more time to collect customer and client feedback. The research was conducted using 3000 employees across Europe, including France, Germany, and the UK.

Levels of stress and high workloads are reportedly on the rise in the UK, with around 60-70% feeling that this is the case. Just over 50% say that time spent at home as decreased quite a bit. which has a negative knock on effect to the workplace. A general conclusion to this, is that in an economy where the demand to work faster and smarter is ever increasing, automation is somewhat inevitable, as it is key to competitive advantage.

The right classroom lighting can significantly boost learning

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A recent study by the California Energy Commission has shown that the correct type of lighting in a classroom can significantly improve the rate of children’s learning. It highlights that classrooms which receive a high level of daylight can improve a child’s learning by up to 20 per cent in maths and 26 per cent in reading, compared with classroom which see little natural light.

Full spectrum lighting, such as sunlight and artificial lighting that replicates natural light, has been shown to improve behaviour, reduce anxiety and maintain good health; all factors which feed in to an overall improvement in learning.

Bruce Cantrill, the Head of Marketing and Business Development for CMD, said; “The days of ‘one size fits all’ fluorescent lighting in schools are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Innovations in dynamic lighting technology now mean that natural daylight can easily be replicated to create a much more positive learning environment for both pupils and staff.”

Overhead fluorescent or white lighting commonly found in school classrooms for years has been found to be detrimental to learning, increasing hyperactivity and off-task behaviours of children reducing efficiency. Furthermore, the reflection of this kind of light off of whiteboards, paper and other classroom materials can hinder student’s ability to read properly and result in further disengagement. Another solution to classroom lighting, published by the journal Optics Express, says that dynamic lighting which can be remotely altered to suit particular lessons or activities can also enhance learning in the classroom.

Government stats indicate a fall in cable related fires in the UK

 

According to the Approved Cables Initiative (ACI), they believe that there has been at least a 15% reduction in incidents relating to electrical fires that stem from issues with wiring, cables, or plugs, this since their initiative which launched in 2010.

Latest Government Fire Statistics gathered by the Home Office from detailed reports on incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services, show that since 2010, there have been 962 fewer fires. This is a huge reduction for just over 7 years.

Despite this reduction in overall incidents, the ACI still remains concerned by the latest findings. For example, of the 29,312-total accidental electrical fires in England, 5,241 (18%) of these were accredited to wiring, cabling or plugs, and of these 2,693 (51%) were due to faulty electrical supplies, with 1,728 (33%) being caused by faulty appliances and leads.

With its creation in 2010, the ACI was established to highlight the ever-growing issues of poor cabling in the UK. Today it continues its progress in working towards improving the cabling supply industry in the UK. Working towards creating awareness of substandard cabling and calling for tougher laws and legislation regarding cabling. This is done by reporting, exposing, and monitoring those who appear to be falling below required standards. 

Director of ACI Llyr Roberts, explained – “These latest Government statistics demonstrate a fall in the number of fires caused by wiring, cables or plugs which is encouraging and an indication that the work we are doing is delivering some success. It is however concerning that nearly a fifth of all accidental electrical fires in England are still caused by wiring, cabling, or plugs.

“At the ACI we see a steady stream of substandard cable product. We lobby and campaign for effective legislation to be introduced to address the serious issue of substandard electric cable entering the UK market, but our call is still being ignored. Voluntary co-operation is not enough. All electric cables should be independently third-party approved before being placed on the market, sold, and installed in the UK. It is only by adopting such an approach that these figures could be reduced even further.”.

2016/17 stats show the following:

  • Since 2010 incidents of accidental electrical fires in wiring, cables and plugs in England, attributed to faulty electrical supplies has fallen from 2,896 to 2,693 – a fall of 7%.
  • Since 2010 incidents of accidental electrical fires in wiring, cables and plugs in England, that were attributed to faulty appliances and leads has fallen from 2,327 to 1,728 – a fall of 25%.
  • In 2016/2017, of the 8,008 accidental electrical fires caused by faulty appliances and leads, 1,728 (21%) were attributable to wiring, cabling and plugs.
  • In 2016/2017, of the 5,905 accidental electrical fires caused by faulty electrical supplies, 2,693 (46%) were attributable to wiring, cabling and plugs.

No removal of dangerous cladding from social homes in past month

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Recent data has shown that in the past month there has been no removal of dangerous cladding, similar to that which was in place on Grenfell Tower, from high-rise social housing blocks acrosss the UK. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the government committed to removing this type of cladding from high-rise buildings as it proved to be ineffective in minimising the danger of a building fire. However, since the tragedy last June, only seven social housing buildings have seen a full replacement of its cladding. In other words, only 4 per cent of social buildings that need the replacement have received it.

There are currently 306 buildings across the UK standing over 18 metres high with Grenfell-type cladding – and 158 of these are social housing blocks. Of the affected social homes, 35 per cent of them have not seen work even begin to remove the cladding from their buildings.

A spokesman from Shelter said; “It’s astonishing there’s been such little progress and that we have still failed to replace cladding on so many homes, when it has failed safety tests and is considered unsafe.

 “More than nine months have passed since the Grenfell fire and the government has a responsibility to step up and coordinate efforts to ensure these homes are safe. Instead, this vital safety work is mired in delays and confusion… The secretary of state must urgently provide clarity on fire-safety and far stronger guidance on who should pay for and carry out these essential works.”

All of the 306 buildings in question have an Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding system which will not meet new building regulations. A government spokesman commented; “Work has begun on 65 per cent of the buildings identified with ACM cladding in the social sector. This work is complex and will take time to complete.

“In the meantime, bespoke safety measures are already in place in these affected buildings to ensure residents are safe.”

Government urged to focus on environment by construction industry

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An open letter has been written to government ministers, signed by over 50 business leaders from across the construction and property industries, urging them to shift their policy focus towards economically sustainable buildings in the upcoming years. The main goal highlighted in the letter is that they wish to see all new projects built to net-zero carbon standards by 2030, and seek confirmation from the government that from 2020 energy performance standards of new buildings will be raised.

The letter was coordinated by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and addressed to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government as well as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. It asks ministers to provide clear medium and long-term policy direction, to increase investment and innovation for future sustainable projects. The proposal is backed by a number of notable leaders from across the relevant sectors, including REITS and institutional investors, volume house-builders and property developers, manufacturers, architects and consultants.

The chief executive of UKGBC, Julie Hirigoyen, said; “The built environment has a huge part to play in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. We recognise this, the government’s independent advisers – the Committee on Climate Change –recognise this, and as this letter demonstrates, the industry recognises this.

“Time and again, UKGBC members tell me they are looking to government to provide policy certainty in order to drive investment and catalyse innovation… We’ve heard a lot from government recently on the environmental agenda, with some impressive commitments in the Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan. Now it’s time for the government to act on those commitments, with the industry’s backing, and put policy in place to turn their low-carbon aspirations into reality.”