Friday, 29 August 2014

Edinburgh pharmaceutical company fined £12,000 after lorry crushes employee

Macfarlan Smith Limited, an Edinburgh based pharmaceutical company was fined £12,000 after a reversing lorry crushed an employee's head and chest resulting in severe injury.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 30 September 2011 to Alexander Mackenzie, an employee at Macfarlan Smith Limited, when working in the loading bay.
  • There was no suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the task.
  • There was no safe system of work.
  • The loading bay area not kept clear and free from obstructions.
  • Mr Mackenzie attempted to signal a reversing lorry into a loading bay.
  • The driver did not see him as he was focussed on another individual who was signalling the lorry in.
  • As a result Mr MacKenzie was crushed between the lorry and the loading bay wall. 
  • He suffered crush injuries to his head, face, and chest from which he has now fully recovered.

The Head of the COPFS Health & Safety Division said:
"Macfarlan Smith Limited accepted liability and the Crown accepted their guilty plea to the contraventions of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Since this incident the company has introduced new risk assessments and has put into practice safe systems of work. This was an entirely avoidable accident which resulted in the severe injury of an employee that has thankfully had no long lasting effect."

Hampshire company fined for 5 health and safety breaches

Brooks Crownhill Patternmakers Ltd, a Hampshire manufacturer was fined £8,379 (inc. costs) after 5 breaches of health and safety regulations.
The company had not adequately managed or controlled the risks from the exposure to vibration, noise and dust.
As a result, workers experienced a range of symptoms which required further investigation and monitoring.
The HSE Inspector said:
“The company failed to fully control the numerous risks arising from its business activities. This has meant several employees developing symptoms relating to exposure to vibration, noise and dust, which could have been picked up sooner as part of a health surveillance programme. “Brooks Crownhill Patternmakers did not respond to changing workloads and processes, and failed to act on advice provided by its occupational health provider or by contractors servicing equipment. The company has since reviewed and made significant changes to its risk management and occupational health monitoring.”

Friday, 22 August 2014

Hartwell Manufacturing fined nearly £18,000 after flashover during the removal of tanks

Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd., was fined  £17,885 (inc. costs) after a worker was severely burned in a flashover during hot-cutting work at the Fox’s Biscuits factory.
The circumstances were:
  • Hartwell Manufacturing had been hired to remove three disused oil tanks at the Fox’s site in February 2012.
  • The task of removing the huge tanks, in particular the means of access into the oil tanks and working in a confined space, had not been properly planned by Hartwells. 
  • In addition its emergency arrangements to evacuate any casualties on site were fundamentally flawed.
  • Hartwell's managing director failed to liaise with Fox’s Biscuits when problems with access to the tanks emerged or when the company wanted to diverge from the agreed plan.
  • Hartwell deviated from a safe system of work it had earlier agreed with Fox’s Biscuits and their site managing firm.  Instead of using cold-cutting equipment, the company had used a high-speed angle grinder, which produces heat and sparks.
  • A Hartwell employee was using an angle grinder to cut a hole in one of the tanks, which had only recently been drained of fuel, when sparks ignited flammable vapours causing flames to erupt.
  • In a panic, he inserted a high pressure water lance into a pipe opening to try to put out the fire but instead caused a blow-back of flames to be ejected from the opening, engulfing his lower body in flames.
  • Another worker at the scene rushed to the injured man’s aid, putting out his burning clothes with a fire extinguisher. 
  • He suffered extensive burns and needed prolonged treatment and rehabilitation.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This worker suffered exceedingly painful burn injuries that could have been avoided if Hartwell Manufacturing had followed a safe system of work and not used the angle grinder.  The company used a dangerous working practice on the site unbeknown to Fox’s Biscuits. Work with flammable vapours must always be effectively controlled. If problems are encountered, you need to stop and reassess – not press on and use unsafe equipment which introduces an unacceptable risk of fire and explosion. The job should have been better planned and supervised. At several key points Hartwells failed to take the opportunity to stop the job, take stock and liaise with the occupier to ensure work could go ahead safely.”

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Fall from height during unloading of milk vehicle

Lanchester Dairies Ltd., a Co.Durham dairy, was fined £11,690 (inc. costs) after a worker suffered life-changing injuries following a fall. 
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred in the storage area of the dairy on 6 September 2013.
  • The storage area was 1.6m below yard level and 2.6m below vehicle level.
  • A risk assessment identified that the risk of fall as "likely", but there were no measures in place to prevent one. 
  • The assessment, carried out nine months before the incident, had stated that a safe system of work and training was needed for the unloading task, but this was not carried out until after Mr Atkinson’s fall
  • A barrier had previously been in place across the doorway to the storage area to prevent falls, but this had been removed two years earlier and never replaced.
  • Simon Atkinson was unloading empty milk bottles from a vehicle.
  • He fell from either the vehicle or the yard into the storage area; he cannot remember which.
  • He fractured an eye socket, sustained bleeding in his skull, multiple collar bone fractures and a broken rib and had to be put into an induced coma until surgery was carried out to remove a blood clot from inside his skull. 
  • Mr Atkinson was in hospital for nine days, has been unable to return to work since his fall and is awaiting further surgery to repair damage to his spine. 

The HSE Inspector said: 
“Lanchester Dairies was aware that the work being done by Mr Atkinson and others involved a fall risk, yet they failed to implement simple, inexpensive measures to prevent it. As a result Mr Atkinson suffered major, life-changing injuries and there was a real possibility that the fall could have proved fatal. Falls from height are one of the main causes of major injury and death in the workplace. This case reinforces the need to properly assess the risks and to put in place measures to prevent falls occurring.” 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Food company fined after worker loses tips of 2 fingers in unguarded pump

Solway Foods Ltd, a Wakefield food company, was fined £6,773 (inc. costs) on 15 August 2014 after an agency worker lost the tips of two fingers in unguarded machinery. 
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 19 September 2013 at a bakery in Newport.
  • Although the company had put bars over the inlet and outlet parts on most of the other pumps in the factory, they had failed to do this on the pump involved in the incident.
  • A worker was cleaning cake mixture from a pipe by hand.
  • A co-worker was cleaning out the pump and connected inlet and outlet pipes using a hose. The pump was still running to enable the residual mixture from the last product to be pumped out. 
  • The injured worker had been cleaning up the water using a squeegee but when she noticed some cake mixture inside the inlet pipe, she put her hand in to remove it when her fingers touched the moving machinery. 
  • Her fingers got caught in part of the pump mechanism, severing the tips of her index and middle fingers of her right hand. 

The HSE Inspector said: 
“Blockages of moving machinery are common occurrences in the food industry and employees will often try to remove them or try to clean them while a machine is moving. If access to dangerous parts is not prevented, they could be badly injured. Solway Foods clearly failed to ensure the safety of its workers, with very painful consequences for this agency worker. It is particularly disappointing that the company in this case had recognised the risk but had failed to guard all the pumps to the same standard. In the case of machinery, moving parts that could cause injury should be guarded or other safety mechanisms installed to cut the power to the machine so that people cannot come into contact with them. Non-routine operations such as cleaning or maintenance are not exempt from this requirement.” 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Primopost fined nearly £33,000 after employee was hit by a forklift truck

Primopost Ltd., a Buxton food packaging company, was fined £32,979 (inc. costs) after an employee suffered severe injuries to his leg when he was struck by a forklift truck.
The circumstances were:
  • Primopost Ltd did not have a safe system of work for forklift truck operations.
  • There was no separate walkway to keep pedestrians away from vehicles, nor was there another way of moving goods around the factory.
  • On 20 November 2012, Michael Booth had just given some cleaning materials to a colleague, who was working on a machine.
  • As he stepped backwards to turn around, he was hit by a forklift truck carrying a large reel of printed film. 
  • He broke his right leg in three places and was in hospital for six days, where he had metal bars and pins inserted.

Following the incident, the firm began using pallet trucks which are much safer than forklifts as they are operated by someone walking behind them and run at a slower speed.
The HSE Inspector said:
“Michael suffered injuries which have had a significant impact on his life because the factory where he was working wasn’t safe. Forklift trucks are responsible for around a quarter of all injuries involving workplace transport and so it’s vital companies have systems in place to keep them away from pedestrians. This can be as simple as painting a white line on the floor. Alternatively, they should find other ways of moving goods around factory floors. If pallet trucks had been in use at the time of the incident – as they are now – then Michael’s injuries could have been avoided.”

Viners Grain fined £240,000 after lorry driver killed by load falling from forklift truck

Viners Grain, a Stonehaven animal feed company, was fined £240,000 on 15 August 2014 after a lorry driver was crushed to death when a 2 tonne, fully-loaded grain bin fell onto him from a forklift truck.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred during grain loading operations where a bin containing grain is lifted by forklift truck.
  • Viners Grain LLP did not have in place a safe system of work for the task and operators were left to carry it out in any way they saw fit. 
  • The company had assumed the forklift training they had received from an external provider would cover safe working.
  • Despite previous incidents of grain bins slipping from the forks of the trucks, no mechanism or device to secure them had been installed. 
  • There was also poor visibility in the loading area where the forklifts were operating; failures in work systems and in training for employees.
  • Although the company’s site rules required visiting drivers to keep away from the loading operation until advised by the forklift driver, this was not communicated to employees or drivers.
  •  As a result employees regularly allowed visiting drivers to help loading by pulling the grain bin lever to release the feed. Supervisors were on site and aware that this was happening.
  • There was also poor visibility in the loading area where the forklifts were operating; failures in work systems and in training for employees.
  • Lorry driver David Leslie was standing near the base of the grain elevator during a loading operation on 18 March 2013.
  • He was in this position so that he could pull the lever in the grain bin to release the feed once it was in position.
  • The forklift driver picked up the grain bin, which weighed over 2 tonnes, and raised the forks to just under 2m to allow better visibility.
  • However, the bin started to move on the forks and he shouted a warning, but Mr Leslie was in front of the forklift when the bin fell off the forks and struck him.
  • Mr Leslie died after suffering crush injuries to his head, neck and chest.

Since the incident the company has stopped using metal grain bins and now only uses cloth bags. It has updated its risk assessments and work procedures and now prevents visiting drivers from assisting in lifting operations. Visiting drivers are also asked to sign that they have read the site rules.
The HSE Principal Inspector said:
“East Coast Viners Grain LLP’s failure to act to make sure its employees and visiting drivers were adequately protected during loading operations, has led to the tragic death of Mr Leslie, which could have been so easily prevented. The issues with unsecured loads on forklift trucks and the dangers of inadequate segregation of vehicles and people are well-known in all relevant industries. Around a quarter of all workplace transport incidents involve forklift  trucks, with 50 per cent of these happening because someone is hit either by the vehicle or a falling load. It was entirely foreseeable that there was a risk of death or serious injury if the grain bin fell from the forklift truck, particularly as the company was aware of previous incidents of loads falling.”

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Timber company fined after forklift truck accident

Jon Walker Timber Product Ltd, a timber company, has been fined £24,850 (inc.costs) after an employee was run over by a forklift truck.

The circumstances were:

  • Pallets were transported on forklift trucks through the yard.
  • There was no safe system of work for this. 
  • A risk assessment was not carried out.
  • Employees had not been provided with adequate training, information or instruction. 
  • Pedestrians and vehicles should not have been working in such close proximity.
  • The forklift driver’s licence had expired four months prior to the incident 
  • Forklifts were operated by other unlicensed drivers.
  • On 30 July 2012 James Abrahams was walking alongside a forklift to steady a pallet of fencing. 
  • He was hit by the truck and suffered leg fractures, broken and dislocated toes and deep grazing.
  • Mr Abrahams was hospitalised for 12 days and unable to work for a number of months. He has not returned to the company.
  • The firm had been issued with an Improvement Notice in 2001 for a lack of risk assessments. 
  • Written advice had previously been given by HSE on workplace transport issues, including forklift driver training.
The HSE inspector said:
“This incident could so easily have resulted in a fatality and was entirely preventable. It had become the usual procedure, when pallets were leaning or unstable, for employees to walk alongside forklift trucks to hold the loads steady. It was this unsafe practice that led to serious injury. Vehicles at work are a major cause of fatal and severe injuries with more than 5,000 incidents involving workplace transport every year. Providing a safe system of work based upon the findings of a suitable risk assessment and adequately training, informing and instructing of staff makes incidents such as this significantly less likely.”

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Essex company fined £64,000 after chemical spill

Industrial Chemicals Limited, (ICL) of  Grays, Essex, was fined £64,230 (inc.costs) after 4 of its chemical storage tanks failed and spilled 150 tonnes of hazardous material.
The circumstances were:
  • ICL failed to manage, inspect and maintain the tanks they had on their site.
  • They were unable to demonstrate that the tanks were being operated within their design lives.
  • On 11 July 2013 a glass reinforced plastic (GRP) tank catastrophically failed, releasing its contents of 66 tonnes of aluminium chloride.
  • This caused chemical spills from a further 3 tanks, releasing a further 32 tonnes of aluminium chloride and 52 tonnes of hydrochloric acid.
  • An industrial estate was evacuated and access roads closed although nobody was harmed.
  • 5 Prohibition Notices were served preventing the use of the remaining GRP tanks on site.
  • Following further inspection on 16 July 2013 by the HSE, 10 more Prohibition Notices were served for the same reasons.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This was a major spill of highly hazardous material that caused the evacuation of an industrial estate and the closure of roads in the surrounding area. Fortunately in this case no employees or members of the public were injured. Industrial Chemical Ltd’s failure to manage, inspect and maintain their GRP tanks contributed to this spillage. The measures needed to prevent this kind of incident are straightforward and guidance is freely available from HSE. There is no excuse for companies storing hazardous materials not to follow this guidance.”

Friday, 1 August 2014

Enforcement of the wearing of PPE

The issue of PPE enforcement has come up twice this week.
The standard question comes up: "If people don't want to wear PPE, can they sign a waiver?"
The short answer to this is "No".

  • The employer has an obligation under Section 2 of HSAW to take care for the safety of his employees and others who may be affected by his operations. 
  • The employee has an obligation under Section 7 of HSAW to co-operate with the employer in the measures that the employer has put in place to meet his Section 2 duty.

If the control measure means the wearing of PPE, then the employee has no choice.

However, the real point is that you must be able to "sell" the control measures to the employees. If there is no real risk that needs controlling by PPE, then people believe PPE to be unnecessary and you'll have trouble enforcing it. Really, you're not improving safety, you're afraid of litigation.

Let's just have a look at the 2 cases this week:

Case 1: Engineering company.
This company uses a variety of machinery.  Some can throw off particles, others inherently do not or operations are within an enclosure.  Applicable machines have eye-protection pictograms. A previous MD brought in the policy of wearing eye-protection throughout the entire factory area.  The new MD stated that this was difficult to enforce. (I couldn't personally sell the need to wear it whilst walking along a walkway several metres from a machine.) 
We reverted to the original policy; the employer is still meeting his Section 2 duty and the employees are no longer in breach of their section 7 duty.

Case 2: Printing company.
This company carries out fairly lightweight sheet-fed litho and digital printing and associated finishing operations.  It stated that safety footwear must be worn and provided this. Some people found it uncomfortable.
For the majority of operations, the risk of foot injury from dropped material is very low, and therefore you could quite easily justify not requiring safety footwear to be worn, only sensible footwear, ie no open-toed shoes.  If this were an engineering company where heavy or sharp objects could be dropped, then safety footwear is essential, the employer would have to provide this under Section 2 and the employees would have to wear it under Section 7.  In this case, it may be that the employer could justify that the risk is very low and therefore there would be no breaches of Sections 2 or 7.

Personally, I wear safety footwear at all times when on client premises for the following reasons:

  • Some clients insist on it,
  • Some operations have risks where I judge it necessary, even if the client does not,
  • It is smart and comfortable,
  • I have to wear shoes and why not use shoes where the cost is tax-deductable?

Of course, you must remember that PPE is the last-ditch control measure. You should be using other measures so far as is reasonably practiucal.