Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Ebbw Vale company fined over £14K after lorry driver was hit by forklift truck

Platt Packaging Limited, an Ebbw Vale packaging company, was fined £14,663 (inc. costs) after a delivery driver was hit by a forklift truck at its premises.
The circumstances were:
  • Graham Williams visited Platt Packaging on 7 October 2013 to collect palletised products.
  • Platt Packaging had no formal safe system of work in place for delivery operations at the site. 
  • The company also failed to provide instructions for delivery drivers to be in a place of safety while the forklift truck was being used. 
  • While his lorry was being loaded, Mr Williams was on a telephone call with his employer and was standing nearby with his back to the vehicle.  
  • Suddenly he was struck by the reversing forklift truck and knocked to the ground.
  • He suffered a double fracture to his left ankle, damage to his leg and spent over a month in hospital. He has been unable to return to work.

The HSE Inspector said:
“The dangers associated with workplace transport are well-documented in the industry. Incidents involving moving vehicles and pedestrians on the same site have resulted in major injuries, and even fatalities in the workplace. Platt Packaging should have provided a clearly marked, designated safe zone for delivery drivers and implemented a safe system of work that incorporated the need for communication between the delivery driver and the forklift operator. Had these basic safety requirements been fulfilled, the incident would not have happened and Mr Williams would not have been injured.”

Lack of isolation causes injury when conveyor belt started up

BW Riddle, a Lincolnshire metal recycling firm was fined £88,000 (inc. costs) after an employee fell from a conveyor belt when it started up.
The circumstances were:

  • In August 2010 the HSE found there were no formal procedures for isolating the conveyors during maintenance. They issued an Improvement Notice which was complied with.
  • Further enforcement action was taken in 2010 relating to failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery, and again in 2011.
  • On 7 February 2013 a worker was carrying out maintenance on the conveyor belt, leaning over the top end while working on the bearings. 
  • There was no isolation/lock-out procedure.
  • Whilst he was still on the belt, the main power was switched on again and the whole line, including the belt, reactivated.
  • The man fell from the belt onto a heap of scrap metal below, and then onto the concrete floor, breaking ribs on both sides of his body.
The HSE inspector said:
“The incident could easily have resulted in a death and only luck saved this worker from more serious injury. Had the company put in place the correct, formal procedures for locking off and isolating the conveyor belts, this incident could have been prevented entirely. However, it is clear that while BW Riddle had complied with previous enforcement action, the firm neglected safety again and again, and disregarded lessons that should have been learned from previous HSE interventions.”

Jaguar Land Rover fined after employee was dragged into poorly guarded machinery

Jaguar Land Rover Ltd was fined £53,474 (inc. costs) after an employee suffered life-threatening crush injuries when he was dragged into inadequately guarded machinery.
The circumstances were:

  • The incident happened in the paint shop at the company’s site in Solihull .
  • There was a gap in the perimeter guarding that surrounded the vehicle body lifting equipment.
  • This gap was to allow fixtures on a chain conveyor to pass.
  • On 14 June 2013 there were a series of frequent production line stoppages. 
  • maintenance electrician approached the gap so he could witness the troublesome process in operation.
  • As he watched he was hit by an empty vehicle body carrier that was travelling through the gap on the conveyor
  • He was knocked to the ground and forcibly dragged through the gap into a restricted processing area where he was severely crushed.
  • He punctured both lungs and broke ten ribs, his breastbone, two bones in his spine and two in his right hand. He had blood clots on his heart and kidneys and was in an induced coma in intensive care for 12 days. He was in hospital for a further seven days but was back at work within 17 weeks.
  • The gap remained unguarded following the incident until HSE enforcement required that further protective measures be provided. 
  • The area of conveyor was then enclosed with fixed perimeter guards by Jaguar Land Rover and a robust key exchange access system introduced. 
The Judge said "Jaguar Land Rover fell far short of a safe and reasonable standard. This was an entirely reasonable, foreseeable situation. The breach was an ongoing failure and an accident waiting to happen.”
The HSE inspector said:
“The incident was entirely preventable. Although the gap was minimally sized to allow empty carriers into the restricted area, it also allowed access to dangerous moving parts within the production process while in itself creating a crush hazard with the moving conveyor. Jaguar Land Rover has extensive safety systems in place and the Lode Lane plant had other facilities with similar processes that are guarded much more effectively. The company should have ensured the same level of protection at this location. It didn’t and as a result a man suffered horrific injuries. It is remarkable that he recovered enough to return to work within 17 weeks. The incident could very easily have ended his life.”

Friday, 19 December 2014

Yet another brand new machine with a CE mark yet with inadequate guarding

I make no apologies for being boring about being wary of the CE mark.

Just because a machine is new and has this mark, it does not necessarily mean it is safe. Nor does it mean that it has been passed by the "CE Inspector"; there's no such beast, apart from some very specific pieces of equipment.

This is (obviously) a brand new grinder. The clear plastic guard simply lifts out and has no interlock. Both it and the blue guards are not high enough and you can easily reach the rotating grinding wheel.

Were there to be an accident, the employer would be liable for prosecution.  The supplier of the equipment should also be liable but, as the machine is foreign (Italian), it is normally too difficult to bring a case.

The employer now has to incur
 the cost of fitting proper guarding. 

What I always recommend is that companies specifically state in their purchase order that a percentage of the final payment will be withheld pending assessment of whether or not the equipment meets the requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations. 

See more about CE support

Co Durham company fined after lorry driver was hit by a forklift truck

Meditek Ltd., a County Durham stairlift manufacturer was fined £5090.60 (inc. costs and compensation) after a delivery driver was seriously injured when he was struck by a reversing fork lift truck.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred in the goods in area of the company on 7 November 2013.
  • Although there was a risk assessment covering the “goods in” and “goods out” areas, it did not consider the foreseeable risk that people in those areas might be struck by a moving vehicle.
  • The management of vehicles and pedestrians was inadequate.
  • In particular, delivery drivers were allowed to walk around the loading area watching while their lorry was loaded.
  • The driver was heading back to his vehicle. 
  • The driver of the fork lift truck failed to ensure that there was no one behind him before he reversed.
  • The lorry driver saw the fork lift truck reversing towards him and he instinctively moved to his left, towards his trailer, in an attempt to avoid it.
  • However, the fork lift turned in the same direction, knocking him to the ground and running over both of his feet.
  • He suffered de-gloving of the big toe on his left foot and severe bruising and grazing to both feet and legs. He had to undergo surgery to repair his toe, but this was unsuccessful and the toe was amputated on 9 December 2013.
  • While some improvements were made by the company immediately following the incident, an Improvement Notice was still necessary to ensure external areas of the workplace were organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles could circulate in a safe manner.
  • The company complied with the notice by reviewing its management of pedestrians and vehicles across the factory, and by simply preventing delivery drivers from standing in the loading and unloading areas while the fork lift truck was operating.

The HSE inspector said:
“Meditek cooperated fully with HSE’s investigation and accepted that this incident was easily preventable had it identified the risks to pedestrians in the loading area associated with moving vehicles. The close proximity of the delivery driver in an area where a fork lift truck was reversing was unsafe. The risks associated with pedestrians and vehicles working in proximity to each other are well known and there is plenty of advice available on how to reduce those risks. This delivery driver suffered a serious injury because of the company’s failures.”

Complete Utilities Ltd fined £107,000 after lorry driver crushed between container and vehicle

Gloucester-based Complete Utilities Ltd was fined £107,000 (inc. costs) after an employee died from being crushed between a vehicle and container during a loading operation.
The circumstances were:
  • On 24 October 2012 Spencer Powles was at the company's yard with his lorry to collect a road saw.
  • There was no system of work for lifting such items.
  • The site was disorganised and chaotic with no measures to organise traffic or safely separate vehicles and pedestrians on site.
  • The operator of a telehandler was attempting to position its front carriage above the road saw, with the intention of lifting it onto Mr Powles’ lorry.
  • The operator of the telehandler had not received proper training from a qualified instructor.
  • In addition, the telehandler was poorly maintained, though this was not a contributory factor.
  • The operator braked suddenly when he saw Mr Powles appear by the saw. 
  • This caused the vehicle to lurch forward, trapping Mr Powles between the carriage of the telehandler and the container.
  • Mr Powles suffered severe injuries to his abdomen and was airlifted to hospital in Bristol, where he died 10 days later.

The HSE inspector said:
“This terrible incident could have been avoided and Mr Powles would still be here today if Complete Utilities had provided proper training to staff in the operation of this telehandler. It is not acceptable to put drivers into vehicles that they have not previously operated, or without the necessary training by a qualified and competent instructor. Workplace transport is the second biggest cause of fatal and major incidents in the workplace. Employers must ensure that all drivers are properly trained by qualified, competent instructors for the vehicles they are operating. Site vehicle movements need to be controlled and arrangements put in place to segregate vehicles and pedestrians.”

Inadequate pressure testing area causes back injury

Aberdeenshire company Alfred Cheyne Engineering Ltd, trading as ACE Winches, was fined £10,000 after a young apprentice was injured when he was struck on the back by a pressurised hose.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 25 July 2012 in a pressure testing area.
  • The pressure testing area was segregated from the rest of the workshop by striped plastic tape.  
  • If the position of the tape was far enough away from the item under test, this would be an adequate control method. 
  • However, there was no system for calculating the safe distance and the size of the testing area was left up to the individual doing the testing.
  • The company failed to provide formal training to staff carrying out the testing.
  • The apprentice approached a pressure testing area to collect something from his toolbox when he heard a loud noise coming from the hoses, which were being tested. 
  • He saw a hose whip up in the air and as he turned it struck him on the back causing him to fall to the ground
  • There had been previous failures of this kind in the past, which the workshop management were aware of, but as they did not cause the hose to whip up in the air, workers continued to carry on testing in the same way.
  • At the time, the company was building a testing booth which is now complete and used for all pressure testing activities.

The HSE inspector said:
“This incident could have easily been avoided if Alfred Cheyne Engineering Ltd had carried out a risk assessment for the pressure testing of hose assemblies, which would have identified the safety measures required to reduce any risks. The need for pressure testing to be segregated from other work and for employees not to be allowed to approach any equipment while it is under pressure is well documented in guidance, which is readily available. In this case the young apprentice was lucky to receive only cuts and bruises, his injuries could have been a lot worse.”

Apprentice caught in unguarded milling machine

Magellan Aerospace of Bournemouth was fined £34,157 (inc. costs) after an apprentice worker suffered severe injuries to his arm when it became entangled in moving machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • On 11 March 2013 Adam Harris, an apprentice machinist, was machining a piece of nylon block on a vertical milling machine.
  • The machine was fitted with swing and slide guards but these were not interlocked to stop the machine when opened. 
  • It was routine practice at Magellan to remove guards when they wouldn’t close around a large vice, or when the workpiece was longer than the bed of the machine.
  • The company had a history of non-compliance in respect of milling machine guarding having received HSE enforcement notices in the past.
  • Magellan Aerospace failed to identify the risks when young, inexperienced apprentices worked on the machines with varying levels of supervision.
  • Mr Harris's right arm became caught around the spindle and cutter.
  • He sustained multiple breakages and injuries and spent five weeks in hospital undergoing numerous operations. His injuries may cause permanent impairment and disability.
  • Despite Mr Morris’ horrific incident, the company has since failed to put controls in place to stop the guards being removed until HSE issued enforcement notices requiring them to take action. 

The HSE Inspector said:
“Mr Harris has been traumatised at a very early stage of his working life and has suffered great pain in this incident. It could have been avoided had Magellan Aerospace fitted interlocks to stop the movement of dangerous parts and properly supervised the work, particularly in view of this young man’s level of experience. Vertical milling machines have the potential to be very versatile and there can be occasions where workpieces that could be completed on the machine might pose challenges to normal safeguarding arrangements. However, the solution is not to simply remove the machine’s guards and rely on the operator’s skill.”

Leisure Products fined £10,500 for failing to guard milling machine

Leisure Products Ltd., a Kent firm that makes safety surfaces for playgrounds was fined £10,500 (inc. costs) after it failed to heed warnings from safety experts to properly guard dangerous machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • Island Leisure were issued with a prohibition notice in June 2010 when an HSE inspector had found a milling machine being used without any guards to protect workers from dangerous moving parts. 
  • The notice prevented any further use of the machine until effective guarding was installed, and was originally complied with.
  • On a visit on 11 December 2013 visit, HSE found the same machine in use, but again with no safety guarding.
  • The HSE prosecuted the company for failing to ensure that effective guarding was in place to prevent operators from getting too close to the rotating parts of the machine.

The HSE inspector said:
“Fortunately, no one at the factory was injured but this was down to chance rather than any good management. Island Leisure once again neglected safety and seemed to have disregarded any lesson learned from HSE’s enforcement action on the exact same machine back in 2010. To return to the same premises and find the identical dangers still very much apparent is totally unacceptable. There was very real risk of entanglement of workers’ hands in the moving parts leading to lacerations at best, amputation of hands at worst.”

Recycling company fined over £218,000 after forklift truck overturned, killing driver

Recresco Ltd, a recycling company, was fined £218,693 (inc. costs) after a worker was killed when the forklift truck he was driving overturned.
The circumstances were:
  • Ian Aliski had been hired on a temporary four-day contract and was just a few hours into his first day when the incident happened on 26 April 2010.
  • Forklift truck drivers regularly had to work in an area that was often covered in waste materials. 
  • This prevented them from turning the vehicles safely.
  • The forklift trucks in use at the plant were not suitable for operation on uneven surfaces or over loose material such as that found on the site.
  • Alternative vehicles, such as four-wheel-drive, all terrain shovel loaders, could have been used and were already in use elsewhere on the site.
  • There was no company policy in place to ensure seatbelts were worn.
  • Mr Aliski was not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Mr Aliski was moving waste material from the recycling process.
  • The forklift truck became unstable on the uneven surface and overturned, fataly crushing Mr Aliski.
  • Since the incident, the company now uses alternative vehicles to move all the waste material on the site and it is now company policy for seatbelts to be worn at all times in all vehicles.

The HSE Inspector said:
“Ian was just a few hours into his first day at work for Recresco Ltd when this tragic incident occurred. Our investigation revealed a series of failures at the plant, with forklift trucks being used in an area that was completely unsuitable because of the uneven surface created by waste material scattered around the floor. There was also no policy in place for the use of seatbelts. Sadly it was entirely foreseeable that someone was at risk of being badly injured or killed. If the company had taken some simple measures to reduce the risks, such as using the all-terrain vehicles in use elsewhere on the site, then Ian’s tragic death could have been avoided.”

Monday, 8 December 2014

Reduce gap between roller and immediate guard to be as small as possible

I've always used the value of 6mm as a maximum value of the gap between a fixed nip guard and a cylinder or roller.  This is the figure given in HSE guides such as Printing Information Sheet 1 and makes sense as fingers are larger than this.

However, I've just been made aware of an accident where an operator on a laminating machine had his little finger drawn into the gap shown below. We don't know the precise gap as the nip guard was removed to release his finger, but the slack in the fixing holes allow the gap to be between 1mm and 5mm.  Although the roller is made of very stiff rubber, it deformed so that his finger became trapped. 

It may be that this is a freak accident as there are thousands of such immediate guards in place and I am not aware of any similar accidents.  

However, it makes sense for all those who have machinery with such guards to adjust them so that the gap is as small as possible. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Don't get caught out by having poor risk assessments, etc.

Just had another instance where a company had an accident and then decided it would be a good idea to do something about risk and other assessments which they admitted were "somewhat lacking".

And this is from a company who you would otherwise think of as being on the ball.

Don't get caught out like this.

The things to do are to:

  1. Carry out a simple and sensible set of risk assessments including those for fire, substances hazardous to health, etc.
  2. Define control measures including those to keep you in control (such as periodic interlock checks).
  3. Implement a method of getting these across to the people who are affected.

Common mistakes are:

  • Going completely over the top with assessments. You end up with a voluminous manual that nobody uses.
  • Only looking at control measures that need to be done, and ignoring maintenance controls.
  • Having a pristine set of risk assessments, but nobody on the shop floor knows anything about them.
At the bottom of this blog is an example of a CoSHH point-of-use summary from the SSS CoSHH assessment system. We normally laminate these and have them displayed on the wall.

Click here for more details of the support available from Strategic Safety Systems.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Warbutons employee caught in conveyor

Baking firm Warburtons Ltd was fined £6,162.50 (inc. costs) on 27 November after a maintenance worker seriously injured his hand when it was drawn into a conveyor. 
The circumstances were:
  • The maintenance worker was attempting to identify a fault on a hot tin slat conveyor belt on 22 October 2013. 
  • Only a crumb tray was used as a guard, and the tray was only easily removed from the conveyor by quick release catches.
  • There was no system for isolating machinery during such maintenance operations.
  • This was not the first time this machine had been worked on without being isolated.
  • Removal of guards for maintenance activities was commonplace at the bakery and not confined to this machine.
  • Fault tracking on other conveyors was undertaken while machines were running. 
  • Maintenance staff routinely removed fixed guards to access tracking points, which were close to the moving parts of machinery. 
  • The maintenance worker was lying on the floor holding a torch, which clipped the conveyor knocking it out of his hand. 
  • As he reached out to re-grab the torch, his hand was drawn into the roller on the underside of the machinery. 
  • He suffered an open fracture to his right hand and tissue damage, which required surgery. He was off work for more than two months and is still suffering from side-effects relating to the injury. 

Following the incident new guards were fitted to the machine involved, which meant they could only be removed using a specific tool. The company also produced specific systems of work for regular maintenance activities and ensured all relevant staff were trained in the new systems. 
The HSE Inspector said: 
“This worker’s injuries should not and need not have happened. This incident was easily preventable had Warburtons Ltd identified the risks from the maintenance activities and monitored the work undertaken by their employees. Guards and safety systems are there for a reason and companies have a legal duty to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times, especially during maintenance activities. Ideally, machines undergoing repair should be isolated from their power source. The measures Warburtons Ltd took following the incident, could have easily been implemented beforehand and prevented it from occurring.” 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Confusion about the words "health & safety policy" and "accreditation"

I've just finished some support for two companies who are tendering for work and some work repairing a 'health and safety policy' for another client.
The same erroneous questions come up, indicating that clients, and some health and safety consultants, sometimes don't have a clue:

Requirement 1: Are you accredited to ISO 9001?

The truthful answer which everyone should give is "No".  What the client really means is

"Are you certified to ISO 9001?"
UKAS accredit certification bodies for different standards. The certification body then audits a company and, if all is well, certifies the company for whatever standard is appropriate. Look at your certificates; nowhere does it say that you are accredited.

See more about this in my blog on using non-UKAS certification bodies.

Requirement 2: How do you update your health and safety policy and how do you train employees on your health and safety policy?

This reflects a lack of understanding about what is meant by "policy".  A health and safety policy is a short statement of intent and bullet points on what you will do. The HSE's template on this is a single page. Personally, I think that this is a bit short and policies I write are 2 to 4 pages long.

If you answer the question truthfully, you will say that you review your policy annually and update it if things change.  

What the client is really asking is "How do your ensure that your health and safety system is up to date and addresses the issues at your company?"

And for that, you will need to say that you keep your register of legislation up to date, say by using external services like those provided by SSS, and you have a system for change management, so that when new equipment, processes or substances are introduced, the introduction is properly planned, assessments carried out and control measures put in place.

Example 3: Massive health and safety policy

This is really an extension of what I've said above. Not for the first time, I've been asked to rework a "health and safety policy" provided by a consultant. In this case it was 80 pages of close type. The client, unsurprisingly, found it unworkable. 

Legally, there was nothing erroneous, but whoever wrote this had completely lost sight of how it was going to be implemented.  What's more, it covered topics which were nothing to do with the client's operations.  To me, that points to it being a standard document where word-search had been used to change the client name.

The new version covered the topics relevant to the client and was structured in a way that was focussed on implementation.  

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Worker was unaware that safety interlock had been overridden and lost fingers as a result

Heaps, Arnold and Heaps Ltd., a Rotherham manufacturing firm was fined £8687 (inc. costs) after an employee’s fingers were crushed and severed in a machine where the guard interlock had been deliberately overridden.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a 250 tonne press which included a guard, interlocked so that the press could not run whilst it was open.
  • Heaps, Arnold and Heaps had inadequate management systems and there was a lack of competence relating to the required machinery guarding standards.
  • This interlock was overridden whilst the injured person was on holiday.
  • He was unaware of this.
  • He put his hand into the machine during a routine cleaning operation but the press activated without warning and his fingers were crushed by the ram. 
  • He lost the index and middle fingers and suffered further crush injuries to his left hand. 
  • He is undertaking a phased return to work but still needs medical and physiotherapy treatment.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This serious injury was entirely preventable.  A safety device had been deliberately taken off with the full knowledge of management. There were no systems in place to check the safety of machines and this employee was certainly not told that the machine had been left in a dangerous condition. Safety devices, such as guards and interlocks, are installed on machines for very good reason – and that is to prevent workers from coming into contact inadvertently with dangerous moving parts. Regulations and safety standards have been in place for many years on this issue and are well-recognised by the majority of companies. Sadly, this was not the case here and an employee of long-standing now has to endure the consequences for the rest of his life.”

Friday, 21 November 2014

Lack of isolation procedure causes serious finger injuries

Lantmannen Unibake UK Ltd was fined £16,838 (inc.costs) after an employee suffered serious cuts to his fingers while cleaning a machine at its pastry manufacturing site.
The circumstances were:
  • No power isolation procedure was in place at the factory to allow machines to be cleaned in safety.
  • The employee was told to clean part of a machine including a metal hood housing an industrial extractor fan
  • Cleaning instructions were clear enough, leading him to think he had to clean an area of the machine where an inspection hatch, which restricted access to the fan blades, had recently been removed.
  • As he attempted to clean inside the hood, his left hand came into contact with the rotating fan blades, causing serious injuries to his little finger and ring finger.
  • He was unable to work for four months and then returned on light duties. He continues to have pain in his arm and shoulder and it is unclear whether full dexterity will return.    

The HSE said:
“The worker suffered a painful and needless injury that could easily have been avoided had there been proper safeguards and proper training in place. It is vital that staff working on production lines, whether to operate them, clean them or supervise their use, are properly trained, provided with accurate information and adequately supervised to ensure safe systems of work at all times. Lantmannen Unibake UK clearly failed in their duty of care to their staff.

Worker trapped in laundry machinery because of lack of interlock

Cleantex Ltd., a Telford laundry company, was fined £8,250 (inc. costs) after a worker got caught in machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • tunnel batch washing machine machine had inadequate interlocking.
  • The gate to the dangerous area was neither fixed in place nor interlocked. 
  • The other access door was fitted with an interlock.
  • Matthew Brown, an employee, tried to retrieve an item of clothing.
  • He thought that all movement of the machine had been stopped when he entered the vertical shuttle conveyor belt area.
  • While he was inside, a moveable conveyor belt unit above his head completed its cycle and began to return to ground level, trapping Mr Brown against the floor.
  • He suffered a broken ankle which required emergency surgery and fractures to four vertebrae. He spent nine days in hospital and was off work for seven months while recuperating and completing a course of physiotherapy. He has since returned to work on light duties.

The HSE inspector said:
“At the early stages of his working life,  Mr Brown’s future has been severely affected by the serious injuries he sustained as a result of Cleantex failing to effectively prevent access to dangerous moving machinery. If the gate used by Mr Brown to access the area had had an interlock fitted to it, like the access door to the front of the machine, this incident could easily have been avoided. Cleantex Ltd failed to take simple steps to prevent its workforce from accessing dangerous moving parts of machinery. Companies need to ensure that suitable and sufficient safe systems of work, information, instruction and training are in place to manage and control the risks posed to their employees.”

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Ends of 3 fingers lost in unguarded machine at chemical company

Omya UK Ltd., an East Yorkshire chemical company was fined £29,813 (inc. costs) after an employee lost the ends of three fingers in an unguarded part of a machine collecting calcium oxide dust.

The circumstances were:

  • Ductwork under the rotary valve on a collection unit had been dismantled so the fine oxide could be collected in bags underneath, which was an unusual method. 
  • The necks of the bags were placed under the valve but did not fit properly.
  • Omya UK Ltd., totally failed to assess the risks involved with running the machine without the ductwork in place.
  • Therefore, they had failed to make sure the dangerous parts were properly guarded.
  • On 14 Feb 2013, a worker noticed a build-up of powder on the outside of a bag, 
  • He tried to adjust the fit, his hand caught the valve and came into contact with a shear point created by a rotating valve.
  • The moving part severed the tips of his first, second and third fingers to the first joint. 
  • He has since recovered and been able to return to work.
The HSE inspector said:
“This case underlines the need for managers to consider risks before they get employees to carry out unusual or non-routine work. If that had happened, Omya could have prevented one of their employees being maimed for life. This is the essence of risk assessment – it is not pointless form-filling bureaucracy. Had Omya UK Ltd given some thought to this task, it would have been obvious that a guard was needed to stop accidental contact with a nasty shear trap inside the machine. Their poor planning meant workers getting near a dangerous part in order to try to make a bad plan work.”

Beware the CE mark, yet again

Two companies were fined after a worker suffered serious injuries to his left hand when it was caught in an unguarded stone cutting machine.
The circumstances were;
  • Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd., bought the stone cutting machine in 2012 from Waters Group Ltd, of Cornwall.
  • The machine had been imported, having initially been produced for an Australian company, and came with a CE marking indicating that it complied with European safety standards. 
  • However, it was not fitted with adequate safeguards to prevent employees putting their hands into the traps between dangerous moving and fixed parts underneath the machine.
  • Therefore Waters Group had failed to provide a machine that was safe.
  • Also, Windsmere had not checked to ensure the machine they had bought was in fact safe.
  • On 12 March 2013 Richard Hale was cleaning the machine.
  • The glove on his left hand was caught and dragged by the corner of a moving blade motor carriage into the narrow gap between that and a support frame. 
  • His hand was trapped for around an hour until emergency services were able to release him.
  • The skin, muscles and tendons were stripped from the back of his left hand and he was admitted to hospital to undergo surgery. 
  • This was only partially successful and Mr Hale still suffers stiffness in his hand, restricted finger movement and a bent middle finger, although he has returned to work.
Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd, was fined £5,337 (inc. costs). (PUWER)
Waters Group Ltd, was fined £7,020 (inc. costs). (Supply of Machinery [Safety] Regs.)
The HSE inspector added:
“This case highlights the need for employers to take reasonable steps to ensure that machines they buy and put into use are actually safe, whatever the manufacturers or suppliers may claim in documentation, or through CE marking. "Employers have a duty to assess the risks from machinery they use at work and should not assume that a machine will be safe as supplied or as installed – a risk assessment still needs to be carried out. “Otherwise, as happened here due to the combined failings of Mr Hale’s employer and the suppliers of the machine, workers are placed at unnecessary risk. Simple steps could and should have been taken to check and safeguard the stone cutter, instead he suffered a serious, debilitating injury.”

Monday, 17 November 2014

Greenwich waste firm’s ‘dismal’ safety record

Murphys (Waste) Ltd, a waste firm in Greenwich, was fined £7,287 (inc. costs) after repeatedly putting its employees at risk of injury or death, from use of heavy machinery that was in a dangerous condition.

The circumstances were:

  • The HSE served 10 enforcement notices on Murphys between 2009 and early 2014. 
  • The most serious breaches related to defects in machines which presented a ‘risk of death or serious personal injury to employees and people on site’.
  • During an annual inspection by an engineer in Oct 2013, several defects were found with the loading shovel. The worst was extensive damage to the bolts fixing the front bucket to the machine, which could have led to the bucket falling off and crushing anyone nearby.
  • Murphys was advised not to use it until repairs were carried out but ignored this.
  • When the HSE visited in January 2014, they found it in use and served a prohibition notice.
  • In a visit just days later, HSE identified a 360 degree excavator being used without either its left-side mirror or rear mirror in place, severely restricting visibility of the driver while moving about the site, again posing a risk to other workers. HSE served a further prohibition notice on the company.
The HSE inspector said:
“Murphys (Waste) has a dismal record of compliance with safety legislation and seemed to be content with repeatedly exposing its employees to unnecessary danger. This is a waste management company that takes bulk material from construction sites and uses heavy earth-moving plant. The risks associated with the waste industry are well-documented and widely recognised, but it is one of the most dangerous sectors. No company in the industry should be failing to address these risks and no worker should be regularly exposed to such uncontrolled dangers.  All work vehicles and equipment must be kept in an efficient condition and in good state of repair.”

Monday, 10 November 2014

Keep your health and safety policy simple

SSS have just finished the repair of a health and safety policy for one client.
This policy, done by another consultancy, ran to 40 pages of close type and our client, understandably, found it unworkable.

A policy should be a short list of intentions. The HSE policy template is only 1 page long; I think that this is a bit short and SSS-written policies are 2 or 3 pages long.  

A policy should have 3 sections:

  • A general statement of policy
  • The names of people who have specific responsibility, eg the Competent Person
  • Short statements of how the general statement will be achieved, eg fire extinguishers will be checked annually by XXX. 
Then, where appropriate, have separate procedures for each topic. For example, have a procedure for fire risk assessment and fire management.

If you follow this route, then you have a system that is understandable and workable.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Avoid tyre damage due to speed humps

In Daily Telegraph car section:

Q: Can speed bumps wear out the inside of tyres if you straddle them?

A: This is exactly how speed cushions destroy the inner shoulders of car tyres. Always drive with one wheel over the centre of the cushion and one on the flat. You feel the bump, of course, but you don't suffer hidden tyre damage that could cause a serious accident. 

SSS comment: When claims are made about safety devices, often the negative effects are ignored. We're missing data on how many have been killed by sudden tyre failure caused by speed humps.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Be wary of FFI fee reimbursement schemes

There are companies offering an FFI fee reimbursement scheme.

The HSE now charge a fee for intervention (FFI) of £114 per hour for any situation where they do work as a result of a material breach of health and safety regulations.  The idea is that those that are at fault should pay, rather than the taxpayer.

The FFI fee reimbursement scheme seems to be an insurance policy where you pay a premium and can then claim back the whole of the fee that the HSE has charged you.

Insurance is essential for many situations and, on the face of it, this might seem to be one of those.
I am not suggesting that those who are selling this scheme are dishonest, but I offer the following observations:

  • Unlike an injury or similar claim which could runs to 10's or even 100's of thousands, FFI is not a great amount; whilst nobody like to pay this fee, it is not crippling.
  • There is an excess of £150, so that is 80 minutes of FFI.
  • Advertised limits are £10,000 for each claim and £25,000 per year. Really, if you are anticipating getting charged this much, you've got serious problems. You need to put the effort into correcting the problem, rather than accepting that it will happen.
  • FFI is contestable.  SSS have contested an improvement notice and FFI for one client and the HSE withdrew the notice and the fee. 
Rather than sign up for an FFI fee reimbursement scheme, talk to a health and safety practitioner and make sure you are on top of your health and safety issues.

Safety bills passing through Parliament.

Two bills are passing through the House of Lords.

The Deregulation Bill has just passed through the House of Lords without any amendments to its first clause, the element of the Bill that concerns some safety organisations. 

Clause 1 makes some individuals totally exempt from the health and safety regime prescribed by the Health and Safety at Work, etc.,1974 Act, but the numbers that will be fully exempted are likely to be relatively low and the risk they pose to themselves or others in their work activities will equally be comparatively low.

There is an uninformed minority who are constantly reinforcing the view that health and safety is in some way excessive and a barrier to business.  This should be contrasted with the view (reported in the SSS second October newsletter) of Judith Hackitt, Chair of the HSE, who urged people not to confuse health and safety with liability limitation.
The general feeling is that Clause 1 is a symbolic totem to the idea of deregulation and will not have much material impact.

The next bill was intended to address the "compensation culture", in this case for situation where a person might not rescue a drowning person for fear of being sued.

The Social Action, Social Responsibility and Heroism Bill was described in the House of Lords on 4th November as "useless, trivial and pointless", and "stood out, not because it was important, but because it had no importance at all." 

So that looks like a no-hoper for addressing the prime problem we have with the compensation culture.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Companies fined nearly £63,000 after worker crushed by falling steelwork during dismantling operation

Two Derbyshire companies have been fined at total of £62,692 for safety failings after a worker was crushed whilst dismantling steelwork.
The circumstances were:
  • Instant Installations Ltd, had been contracted to supply labour for the dismantling of steelwork at MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd's site.
  • Both companies failed to plan the dismantling work and to record the arrangements for carrying out the work.
  • Employees of Instant Installations were using a scissor lift  to gain access to surplus steelwork.
  • However, the scissor lift was also used to lower steel beams at height by resting them on the guard rails of the platform. 
  • The scissor lift was not designed for such work and an appropriate lifting device or crane should have been used.
  • Having removed single section beams (each typically weighing 430kg) using the scissor lift, the injured person and a colleague worked from the scissor lift and attempted to remove a compound crane beam. 
  • This was longer and heavier, weighing over a tonne, which was more than twice the scissor lift’s safe working load.
  • After removing bolts keeping the beam in place using a cherry picker, the injured person raised the scissor lift underneath the compound beam without the stabiliser legs deployed.
  • When the guard rail rested up against the beam, the lift’s alarm sounded, informing the workers the lift was overloaded. 
  • Repeated attempts to place the handrail of the platform against the underside of the unfastened compound beam led to the beam becoming unstable and it toppled towards the factory floor.
  • The compound beam had been positioned centrally on the scissor lift, and the injured person was operating the platform controls from a position between the compound beam and the handrailing.
  • As the beam toppled towards the factory floor, the injured person was struck by the falling compound beam, causing him serious head and chest crush injuries. He remains off work.
  • The compound beam falling to the ground also caused the elevated platform to sway significantly, leaving the co-worker fearful of being thrown from the lift platform.

MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd was fined £ 34,679 (inc.costs) 
Instant Installations Ltd, of Station Lane, New Whittington, was fined £28,013 (inc. costs) 
The HSE inspector said:
“This incident, which saw completely inadequate equipment being used to remove heavy steel beams at height, could easily have resulted in a fatality. It is the duty of employers to ensure that the correct work equipment is provided to carry out the work they have been tasked with. The failure of MMD Ltd in not notifying this work as a construction project also precluded them the opportunity to seek competent advice for the construction work. The failure to make the statutory notification meant they then carried the statutory duties of the ‘client’, ‘CDM co-ordinator’ and ‘principal contractor’. This incident demonstrates they were not competent to undertake those roles. Had they sourced and properly made such appointments then it is unlikely this incident would have occurred. This work was not properly planned out by either company and that lack of planning has led to a worker suffering very serious injuries which he is still recovering from more than three years later.”

Vector Aerospace fined £52,514 after failing to assess operations resulting in hand-arm vibration syndrome

Vector Aerospace International Limited, of Gosport, was fined £52,514 (inc. costs) on 3 November 2014 after personnel developed hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) symptoms.
The circumstances were:
  • Vector Aerospace has a workforce of 1,100 at Gosport. 
  • They surveyed the tools being used by workers in 2007. 
  • At that stage they took the decision that no controls were needed.
  • As a result the recognised risks of vibration from the use of around 1,600 tools by 400-450 employees on the site was never controlled. 
  • Personnel using such tools had not been provided with any information or training about the risks posed from the work they were carrying out.
  • The absence of mitigating measures for the workers led to some being exposed to vibration levels likely to have exceeded the legal limits.
  • 13 cases were identified in 2013/14 after improved health surveillance was eventually introduced.
  • Two of them were diagnosed at Stage 3 – showing the most severe and painful symptoms.

The HSE inspector said:
“Vector Aerospace had the resources to protect its employees from the well-known effects of excessive exposure to vibration but failed to do so over a significant number of years. As a result, 13 employees developed symptoms of HAVS which can affect all aspects of their lives. HSE’s intervention in 2013 was as a result of the company bringing in health surveillance for the first time. Although this identified these cases, it came too late for these workers. The company failed to assess the risks and implement the necessary controls. Employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure the health of their staff is not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do.”

Friday, 31 October 2014

Plastics company fined after worker was struck by molten plastic

Ebac Ltd., of County Durham was fined £9,000 (inc. costs and surcharge)  after a worker suffered serious burns when he was struck by a jet of hot molten plastic.
The circumstances were:
  • John Calcutt was helping clear solidified plastic from a large plastic injection moulding machine on 9 September 2013.
  • A blockage was identified at the machine’s injection unit, where the raw material is fed into the machine, melted and mixed before being injected into the mould cavity.
  • Ebac had not carried out an assessment of the risks to employees while clearing blockages on the feed / injection system.
  • Ebac did not ensure workers were using personal protective equipment.
  • Mr Calcutt had not received any training on clearing blockages on the machine. 
  • Mr Calcutt and two colleagues attempted to clear the blockage. 
  • None of those involved in the task were wearing any form of eye or face protection.
  • Hot liquid plastic was ejected from the machine and struck Mr Calcutt across the left side of his face and his left hand and arm by the  causing serious burns.
  • He was airlifted to hospital and kept in for three days. He is still receiving treatment and physiotherapy but has returned to work at Ebac Ltd.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This incident could have been easily prevented if Ebac Ltd had a safe system of work in place for dealing with blockages. The potential for ejection of hot molten plastic is highlighted in the industry’s own guidance and this was a foreseeable risk that should have been part of the risk assessment process for clearing blockages. The company should have also had monitoring in place to ensure that its employees were using the appropriate personal protective equipment that had been provided. Instead, the firm’s failures mean a worker has suffered serious injuries.”

Thursday, 30 October 2014

How often should fire risk assessments be reviewed?

There was an interesting article in today's IFSEC Global's Fire Briefing on how often fire risk assessments need to be reviewed and what the review should comprise.

Strategic Safety Systems promote the policy, for all and not just fire risk assessments, that risk assessments should be reviewed at least every 2 years, unless there is reason to suspect that the assessment is no longer valid.

So, for example, one of our clients has just extended their factory, changing the area of course, but also changing the fire exits and adding a 2-storey work area in one corner of the extension.  As this is a significant change, SSS reviewed and updated the fire risk assessment, even though it was only 10 months since it was last reviewed.

A review does not necessarily mean a complete re-assessment, though SSS and other consultancies typically do that if another organisation has carried out the assessment and we find it deficient.

The key questions to ask in any review are:

  • Has anything changed which makes the assessment invalid?  This can include changes within the organisation, changes made by neighbours, incidents at similar facilities and so on.
  • Have actions raised from the assessment been completed?

You need to document the review and state the next review date.

See article