Monday, 28 April 2014

Regard all workplace vehicles as high risk

Workplace vehicles must be regarded as being a major risk.

We have had 2 recent incidents:

One, at Con Mech Engineers, resulted in a leg amputation, incurred a fine of £28,000
The other, at Tangerine Confectionery, almost resulted in the loss of a person's foot, but has meant that he has little use in it, resulted in a fine of £130,000.

Both were easy to spot as:

  • The Con Mech accident occurred with a vehicle similar to a forklift truck, but which ran along a fixed track. ie it's dead easy to spot where the danger points may be.
  • A previous accident, with exactly the same problem of poor-visibility curtains at a doorway, had occurred at Tangerine Confectionery just before the accident, but nothing had been done.

However, the fines are inconsistent.  In my opinion, the Con Mech fine is too low, and employers can expect much larger fines.

The key point is to regard vehicle movement as a very high risk, and to tackle all the risks so far as is reasonably practical. 

See Con Mech accident details
See Tangerine accident details.

Sweet manufacturer fined nearly £130,000 for forklift truck accident.

Tangerine Confectionery Ltd., of Blackpool were fined £129,538 (inc.costs) on 28 April 2014 after a forklift truck pierced a worker's foot.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred in a warehouse.
  • The area was overcrowded with pallets from two other warehouses while maintenance work was being carried out.
  • This restricted the space drivers had to operate vehicles and increased the flow of traffic.
  • There was a doorway with plastic curtains, designed to keep out insects and birds, but these obscured the view.
  • The injured person, Kevin Lowe, had been involved in an earlier collision in this entrance, suffering minor bruising, 
  • On 19 September 2012, Mr Lowe was driving a ride-on pallet truck.
  • Because of a lack of space inside, he was manoeuvring the vehicle very close to the entrance.
  • Another worker drove through the plastic strip curtains that hung down over the entrance. 
  • The two vehicles collided.
  • The fork on the truck pierced his foot, entering the instep and exiting the bridge, breaking every bone in its path.
  • There was a third collision a couple of days after the September incident. 
  • On all of these occasions, restricted vision through the curtains was given as a cause by the drivers involved.
  • The company has since removed the plastic curtains and changed its systems so vehicles and pedestrians can move safely around the site

The HSE Inspector said:
“Mr Lowe has suffered a horrific injury that will affect him for life because Tangerine Confectionery failed to implement effective traffic management at its Vicarage Lane warehouse. “The company introduced physical hazards onto route ways without assessing their effects, and the result can best be described as chaotic. The fact that there were three collisions in just three months in the same spot shows this wasn’t just a one off incident but something that was almost inevitable. “Employees had raised concerns about restricted vision when driving through the plastic curtains and the overcrowding in the area, but the management team ignored these concerns. “The company has since made changes to the layout of the warehouse and systems of work including the installation of proximity alarms, clearly marked traffic routes, better supervision and a new dispatch system. If these had been in place at the time of the incident then the injuries suffered by Mr Lowe could have been avoided.”

Company fined for inadequate guarding on several machines

Smithers-Oasis UK Ltd., of Tyne and Wear, was fined £14,630 (inc.costs) for inadequate guarding on several machines.
The circumstances were:
  • An incident occurred on 9 May 2012 on a milling machine
  • The operator suffered a partial amputation of her left middle finger and a broken left index finger.
  • The HSE stated that there were no measures on the machine to stop the operator getting close to moving parts.
  • The guarding fitted by Smithers-Oasis following the accident was considered to be not fully effective by the HSE.
  • The HSE also reached the same conclusion about other machines.
  • The HSE served an improvement notice and this was complied with.

The HSE inspector said:
“For a number of months employees at two sites had been put at risk of serious injuries due to Smithers-Oasis UK Ltd failing to prevent access to dangerous parts on a substantial number of machines. This was despite a worker’s injury and visits by HSE. These failings could have led to further injuries to workers including cuts, amputations and crush injuries. The company was simply lucky that a more serious incident to the one in May 2012 did not occur. Employers must take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible – such as with the blade of a circular saw – it must be guarded as far as is reasonably practicable and a safe system of work used.”

Friday, 25 April 2014

Part of finger lost in unguarded rolling mill

P&D Group Services Limited of Brierly Hill who make roller shutters has been fined on 23 April 2014 after an employee severed part of his finger in an unguarded machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The employee was operating a rolling mill on 25 September 2013.
  • Unsafe parts of the machine had been unguarded for some time.
  • A problem occurred on the product and the employee felt the product as it approached the rollers.
  • His glove was caught and his finger was pulled into the roller. 
  • He suffered severe crush injuries and the top of his finger had to be amputated to below the first knuckle. 

The HSE Inspector said:
“This was not an isolated incident on a single day. Lack of guarding had persisted over a period of time meaning there was an inevitability of someone being injured at some point. This employee suffered a shocking and painful injury that was entirely preventable. It was P&D Group’s responsibility to ensure work equipment was safe and that dangerous moving parts were guarded. For some time the company required staff to approach the danger area around the rollers to set up and adjust the machine during production runs yet continuously failed to identify and address the matter of the missing guards. Preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery is a legal requirement and there is ample guidance and industry standards to allow dutyholders to achieve compliance with the law.”

Overturning forklift truck crushes driver

Murfitts Industries Ltd, a rubber granual manufacturer of Lakenheath were fined nearly £28,000 (inc.costs) on 24th April after a forklift truck overturned.
The circumstances were:
  • Murfitts had previously received HSE enforcement about workplace transport.
  • In response to this, they provided training to their own staff but this had not extended to agency workers
  • On 27 September 2012 a forklift truck was being operated by an agency worker.
  • He had not received any formal training to drive the vehicle
  • He was not wearing a seatbelt.
  • He was manoeuvring the vehicle with a clamp attachment in a raised position when it overturned and crushed him.
  • He suffered severe injuries and subsequently had to have his spleen removed.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This injury could easily have been avoided had Murfitts Industries provided sufficient training and adequate supervision to make sure safety measures were in place, such as drivers wearing seatbelts. Forklift trucks can overturn if manoeuvres are not carried out correctly and such risks are well known in the industry.  That is why any driver using these vehicles must be provided with appropriate training. Murfitts knew the standard for training because they had provided it for their own staff, but failed to ensure that their agency workers were similarly trained when using the same equipment.”

First not guilty verdict in Corporate Manslaughter case

PS & JE Ward Limited has become the first company to be cleared of a charge of Corporate Manslaughter brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

This act was brought in because of accidents such as the Zeebrugge ferry disaster where there was difficulty in establishing who was the "controlling mind" in large organisations.
However, to date it has been applied to very small organisations.  The first was Cotswold Geotechnical who had less than 10 employees and PS & JE Ward is a farm.  One can argue that it has been misapplied so far and the PS & JE Ward verdict reinforces this.

Note that PS & JE Ward were convicted under the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974, and the  Sentencing Council Guidelines state that the fine for a death should be in the £100,000's.  The sentence will be determined in June.

This verdict does not mean that companies should be complacent.  In addition, directors and managers face a  likelihood of personal charges.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Now is the time for business continuity

Many companies are concerned about their supply chain.  In particular, they are concerned about how suppliers will cope with setbacks such as loss of power and they want a plan in place.

Moreover, some companies will not accept that you have a viable plan unless you have tested it.

One client was forewarned that power would be disconnected for several hours, so they arranged to hire generators. Come the day that power was lost, they found that their phone lines did not work; and they were in an area where mobile phone coverage was non-existant.

So, identify what could go wrong, have a plan in place and make sure it will work.

There's guidance on the SSS website on this, and we also show how we can help. See

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Avoid the hassle by using an action management system

Overwhelmed by keeping on top of your and others' actions?

Think about what normally happens with, say, a meeting. 

You have minutes which are compiled as a Word document and these have actions against them, assigned to different people. People get a hard or soft copy. Either way, you hit problem No.1; you've got multiple copies.

A person may have just a couple of actions, but they are mixed with the actions of others. 
Then people complete their actions, or maybe not. If they do, they may note on their copy of the minutes what they've done, and they hopefully send it back to the organiser of the meeting. So this poor person has several copies with actions which need to be transposed into the master document.  This is wishful thinking.

What tends to happen is that valuable time is wasted at the next meeting finding out what has, and what hasn't been actioned. That is problem No.2.

And that is just one meeting.
Now extrapolate that across your whole business (not just meetings) and you find that:

  • Time is being wasted by people copying data.
  • There is confusion with multiple copies; which one is right?
  • The lack of notification that an action has been completed doesn't mean that it is actually incomplete; it is difficult to track uncompleted actions.
  • Time is wasted in meetings just finding out what has happened.
  • You have an absence of management data

With an action management system, like the SSS INTACT Integrated Action Management System, you have:

  • One set of data which everyone can access (with appropriate security features).
  • One TO DO list for a person with their actions from all the activities of the business
  • The person to whom the action is assigned completes and signs off their action using their own action form (which excludes everyone else's actions).
  • The minutes get automatically updated with the actions taken.  
  • Therefore there is no need to go through all the actions at the next meeting, just those where people have a concern.
  • And a proper action management system like INTACT will give you automatic reports on actions outstanding, actions overdue and counts of reactive and proactive actions if you are into KPIs.

Now, think about how this can apply not just to meetings, but to:

  • Customer feedback (both good and bad)
  • Internal problem reporting (scrap rates, etc.)
  • Internal audits
  • Objectives and targets
  • H,S and E incidents, hazards and accidents
and so on.

And you get rid of all those forms and paper reports.

People who have embraced the action management approach find great benefits, not just in time saving and better managerial reports, but in reduction in costs due to internal problems and customer complaints.

Find out more about INTACT:

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Beware of all moving vehicles, assess and control the risks

Unfortunately, I seem to report too frequently on accidents with forklift trucks, normally with a person being hit by the truck. However, forklift trucks can go anywhere and this makes segregation more difficult.

Which is why the accident reported in my earlier blog makes me want to shout. This was a vehicle which is apparently similar to a forklift truck, but ran along a fixed track. ie it's dead easy to spot where the danger points may be. The company had failed to carry out any assessment of the risks posed and put into place appropriate control measures. As a result, an agency worker was crushed between the vehicle and a fixed water tank. He had to have a leg amputated.

3 points to make:

  • All moving vehicles pose a substantial risk
  • Agency workers may not be aware of these risks as full-time employees
  • The fine of £28,000 (inc. costs) was far too low for such a life-changing injury 

Company fined £28,000 for leg amputation

Con Mech Engineers Ltd were fined £28,000 (inc.costs) on 14th April 2014 because of an accident which resulted in an agency worker losing his leg.
The circumstances were:
  • The employee was working in the heat treatment area on 26th January 2012.
  • A vehicle carrying heavy components moves along a fixed track in this area.
  • The company had failed to assess the risks that this posed and therefore to put into place any control measures.
  • The employee was crushed between the vehicle and a water tank.
  • He was trapped for an hour and later had his right leg amputated above the knee. His left leg was also fractured and suffered crush injuries

The HSE inspector said:
“This incident could have been easily prevented if Con Mech Engineers Ltd had identified the risks and then provided suitable measures to make sure workers did not come into contact with the moving machinery. By failing to introduce simple precautions, a worker has suffered serious, life-changing injuries.”

Monday, 14 April 2014

Denbigh tile company fined over excessive lead levels in 9 employees

Craig Bragdy Design Ltd., of Denbigh, was fined £58,271 (inc. costs) after 9 employees were found to have excessive levels of lead in their blood.
The circumstances were:
  • Lead was used in a colour glaze in the tiles made by the company.
  • The company had not carried out a risk assessment on the use of lead
  • The company failed to carry out measurements of the concentration of lead in the air
  • The company failed to provide medical surveillance
  • The company failed to provide employees with sufficient information and training

Following a routine visit by the HSE in February 2012:
  • 3 female workers were found to have a blood lead level above the suspension limit, meaning that they needed to have other duties until the level subsided
  • 5 female and 1 male workers were found to have a blood lead level above the action level which indicates that a person is approaching the suspension level, which should trigger an investigation as to why this should be so.

The HSE Inspector said:
“The effects of high levels of lead in the blood can be very damaging, especially for pregnant women or those planning to have babies. Craig Bragdy Design could easily have avoided exposing its workforce to this chronic toxin by following the regulations, having a proper risk assessment and making sure staff were monitored for lead in their blood on a regular basis. Workers should not have to sacrifice their health for their jobs and this is why it’s vital that employers act on the regulations.”
Strategic Safety Systems Ltd., provides services that include:
  • Risk assessments of substances hazardous to health
  • Recommendations on control measures
  • Air sampling
  • The organisation of health monitoring

More details can be found on

Crazy no win/no fee case about a finger injured by a door

We often hear of silly 'elf'n safety actions, but the crazy situation with no win/no fee legal companies drives this.  Just look at an example about which we have recently been asked.

The company had a small safe, about the size of the fridge in your kitchen, which was used as a fire safe.  It was placed on a concrete floor and the building was only about 5 years old.
An employee partially opened to door and was apparently distracted when the door, under its own weight about a vertical hinge, closed on her thumb.

The legal company are claiming that the employer:

  • Had allowed the safe to be placed on uneven ground
  • Had permitted the client to use the safe when it was unsafe to do so.
  • Had exposed the employee to a trap which was a foreseeable risk of injury
  • Had failed to ensure that the safe had been correctly installed and was stable as required by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 6 and 20
  • Had failed to provide suitable training and a system of work for opening the door

OK, all of these can be disputed. For example, the floor was level to within 1mm/m and surely the suggestion that the employer needs to provide training on how to open a door would be laughable.

But, all of these need time and cost a lot to refute.

So, beware of  no win/no fee legal situations and make sure that you have risk assessments, method statements and training records for those situations which aren't as silly as this one.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Safety and reliability

Safety professionals are normally aware of what is safe and unsafe, but we also need to consider the reliability of the safety measure.  For example, a moveable guard over a hazardous area is unsafe if there is no interlock with the control system.  If there is such an interlock, it is safe, but what about the reliability of the interlock?

Let’s just look at safety and reliability. When I started to drive, cars had a single circuit braking system.  Leakage from anywhere in the circuit would cause loss of braking on all four wheels and the only recourse was use of the cable-operated handbrake.  Nowadays, cars have dual circuit brakes with cross-checking and a dashboard light that shows if there is a problem, long before you lose the ability to brake.  A properly maintained single circuit system was not unsafe, but the modern systems give a high level of reliability to that safety.

The requirements for reliability of safety systems is covered in EN 13849-1.  This is not particularly readable, so for my own use and the benefit of others, I provide a summary of this in .

Using the steps in this standard, you can take into account the severity of the outcome (S), the frequency of exposure (F) and possibility of avoiding the hazard (P) to arrive at a performance level for the interlock.  This standard is required for new machines, but this analysis is invaluable when deciding what to do about existing risk controls.

One error I often see is employers failing to check that interlocks continue to work and the EN13849 approach can help you decide a checking regime for these.  Note that, in my opinion, it is better to carry out such checks thoroughly less frequently, rather than have people carry out perfunctory checks every day.  However, it does depend on the S+F+P outcome.

One word of caution when assessing reliability. If the interlock is wired as an input to the PLC, then you have to take into account the reliability of the PLC and its software.  Interlocking independent of the PLC is normally far better.

Therefore, the actions you need to take are:
  • Carry out the S+F+P analysis.
  • Decide if existing safety provisions are reliable enough
  • Put into place suitable checking systems or upgrade the interlock system if necessary.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Testimonial on Health & Safety support from Warwick Fabrics

The health and safety support provided by Strategic Safety Systems was simple and clear. 

 This has considerably reduced the worry we had about being legally compliant.

Carol Porter, Warwick Fabrics

Testimonial from Prinovis on 14001 and 18001

Strategic Safety Systems have been instrumental in assisting Prinovis Liverpool in gaining certification to ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. 

Phil Chambers made the experience an enjoyable one.

John Morris, Health, Safety, Environmental and Security Manager, Prinovis, Liverpool

Friday, 4 April 2014

Failure to act on consultant's recommendations costs almost £50,000

Environmental Waste Recycling was fined £49,670 (inc.costs) after a worker almost lost his arm in machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a heavy-duty conveyor belt.
  • A health and safety consultant hired by the company had reported the missing guards following inspections in November 2008 and June 2010.
  • The company had failed to act on his recommendations.
  • After returning from his lunch break on 7 August 2013, the worker switched the power to the machine back on. 
  • He then walked through an 800 mm-wide gap by the side of the machine.
  • His arm was caught by the roller under the conveyor belt and dragged in. 
  • He called for help and one of his colleagues turned off the electrical supply but it took the emergency services 90 minutes to free him.
  • His arm was broken in several places and he lost a considerable amount of muscle tissue.

The HSE Inspector  said:
“The injuries suffered by this young worker have had a massive impact on his life, and he still requires hospital treatment. He has been unable to return to work and relies on his parents and family for support. It’s shocking that Environmental Waste Recycling was first made aware of the missing guards by its own health and safety consultant nearly five years before the incident but it failed to act on this, even when the issue was highlighted again in 2010. The firm should have carried out a proper assessment of the risks facing workers, and fitted guards to prevent access to the rollers on the conveyor belt. Instead, it waited for an employee to be seriously injured before taking any action.”

Lorry driver hit by forklift truck

LP Foreman & Sons or Chelmsford was fined £7621 (inc. costs) on 1st April after a worker was hit be a forklift truck.
The circumstances were:
  • It was common practice for van drivers to instruct forklift truck operators where to place loads within their vehicles for ease of delivery. 
  • There were no procedures for keeping pedestrians and forklift trucks apart.
  • On 19th August 2013 a  driver stepped from the rear of his vehicle and was struck by a reversing forklift truck
  • He suffered a fractured ankle and other

The HSE Inspector  said:
“This was an entirely preventable injury caused by LP Foreman & Sons’ failure to recognise the hazards arising from loading operations at their premises. Our investigation found that there was an absence of effective systems of control which were sufficiently robust to allow workplace transport and pedestrians to circulate the site in safety. It had become regular practice for delivery drivers to take up positions where forklift trucks were loading or unloading and this unsafe practice has led to a serious injury.”

Unguarded chain drive claims 2 finger tips

Biffa Waste Services Ltd was fined £21,542 (inc. costs) on 3rd April 2014 after an employee lost the tips of fingers in an unguarded chain drive.
The circumstances were:
  • The machine had been fitted with an external chain drive which was unguarded.
  • Workers had also received no training or instruction on isolation of the machine when clearing blockages.
  • On 2th February 2013, a worker was clearing a blockage when his glove became entangled in the moving drive.
  • This severed the tips of 2 fingers

The HSE inspector said:
“The company was fully aware of the requirement for the chains to be guarded and had made arrangements for guards to be added later that week, yet still allowed the machine to be used before that happened. As a result, a man suffered a painful injury that could have been prevented.”