Friday, 26 September 2014

BAE Systems fined £180,000 after workers leg was shattered during a test firing of a gun

BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited was fined £180,000 (inc. costs) after a worker’s leg bone was shattered while test firing a gun on a range in Northumberland.
The circumstances were:
  • During a test firing on 3 April 2008  an aiming device, known as a boresight, was left in the barrel of the gun when it should have been removed before firing.
  • BAE recognised the hazards of not removing a boresight before firing and had interlocked other guns to avoid this type of incident.  However, they had failed to implement the same standards on this weapon.
  • When the worker fired, a round smashed into the boresight, causing the round to collapse and jam at the end of the barrel. 
  • As a result, the gas which had propelled the round was trapped in the barrel and pressure began to build. 
  • As the employee turned the handle on the breech bolt holding the round, which weighed 7kg, it was expelled with great force into his leg by the trapped gas.
  • The employee was seriously injured, he spent six weeks in hospital and his injured leg is now 20mm shorter than his right.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This is a highly specialised global company whose safety standards should be industry-leading. There were recognised preventative measures that should have been employed to make sure this kind of serious incident could not happen. As a result of their safety failure, a worker suffered a terrible injury. BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited was fully aware of the dangers of not removing a boresight before firing and had fitted interlocks onto their other guns to prevent this type of incident from occurring.  However, the company neglected – for whatever reason – to make sure a similar guarding mechanism was in place with this weapon. This incident emphasises the need for management to ensure preventative measures are effectively implemented on all equipment used at work.”

Linde fined over £9,000 after forklift truck falls from ramp

Linde Creighton Ltd., a fork lift truck company was fined £9,144 (inc. costs) after a worker fractured a vertebra in his back when one of its vehicles fell from a lorry.
The circumstances were:
  • On 21 October 2013 Terence Jones was unloading the forklift at their West Bromwich factory by driving it down a ramp.
  • The ramp had not been securely attached to the trailer using both the chains it came with. Although one of the two chains had been attached, the other was left off as overhanging bushes made it difficult to get to the far side of the ramp.
  • The company failed to risk assess the activity and monitor and enforce the safe system of work to ensure staff used all the safety critical features when attaching the ramp.
  • The ramp dislodged from the trailer, causing it and the forklift to drop straight down. 
  • The truck fell around 1.2 metres, landing upright on all four wheels.

The HSE inspector said:
“Mr Jones had used the ramp at least twice a day to unload fork lift truck deliveries since the company bought it in 2008. The ramp manufacturer had provided instructions for its use, and safety warnings and precautions in the operating and maintenance manual clearly stated that unless restrained, the ramp could move away from the dock of the vehicle and that personnel could fall. The incident was therefore entirely foreseeable and preventable. Linde Creighton Ltd had a clear, easily achievable standard to meet but failed to achieve it, resulting in a painful injury to a member of staff.”

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Don't have absolute faith in your suppliers of specialist services or equipment

There have been two instances recently which should awaken you to work done by companies supplying specialist services or equipment.  One could assume that, because you have engaged companies who claim competence is certain areas, the you are absolved of the risk. Sorry, this isn't so and the employer is the one who is still held accountable.

In the case of Brinton Carpets (see Carpet Company fined £11,000), one would have thought that engaging Allianz, not exactly a back-street company, to carry out pressure tests, then you would be in the clear. But Brinton were fined over £11,000, alsmost as much as Allianz's fine.

In another recent situation, Company A bought a CE-marked machine from a reputable Italian manufacturer.  An identical machine had also been purchased by Company B.  A minor accident occurred on the Company A's machine which triggered them to look more deeply into the risks, during which they identified another area.  The machine at Company B had already had guards fitted by the manufacturer to their machine in both these areas, but the manufacturer had not seen fit to upgrade the design to include these or inform Company A.  Were there to be legal case over this, in my experience, action would be taken against Company A, rather than the manufacturer.

So, you must ALWAYS thoroughly risk assess new machinery and never rely on the CE mark.  And you must ALWAYS check that your outside contractors of services for pressure equipment, lifting equipment, fire equipment, etc., checking is actually picking up all the applicable equipment.  

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Carpet company fined £11,000 and pressure vessel inspection company fined £14,000 after vessel explodes.

Brinton Carpets Ltd., were fined £11,174 (inc. costs) and Allianz Engineering Inspection Services Ltd., fined £14,100 (inc. costs) after a large pressure vessel exploded.
The circumstances were:
  • Allianz Engineering Inspection Services were contracted to carry out periodic thorough examinations of the dye vessels at at Brinton Carpets' Telford site.
  • A Written Scheme of Examination was in place at Brintons Carpets Ltd, which included 4 stock dye vessels.
  • Although Allianz Engineering Services Ltd were carrying out periodic thorough examinations on the other pressure equipment on site, these 4 stock dye vats had been overlooked for a number of years. 
  • Allianz failed to carry out the required examinations on these vats which meant that the periodic statutory thorough examinations had not been completed for three years.
  • Brintons Carpets had not ensured that suitable and sufficient maintenance of the vessel’s safety devices was being carried out. 
  • During a production run on 4 June 2013, there was a  failure of the regulator and pressure relief valve on one of these vats.
  • This vat exploded. 
  • The lid, which weighed approximately 250kg, was torn off its locking mechanism and hinges and hit the roof of the factory six metres above. Such was the force of the collision that it left a dent in one of the factory roof girders.
  • No-one was injured but one worker was standing just a few feet from the where the lid came to rest.

The HSE inspector said:
“If a piece of pressure equipment fails and bursts violently apart, the results can be devastating to people in the vicinity. It was a matter of pure luck that no one was seriously injured in this incident. There are clear standards set out in the regulations and strict inspection regimes whereby the user has a duty to ensure that equipment, and its safety devices, are properly maintained. This is backed up by the periodic thorough examinations by competent persons to ensure this is happening and is appropriate and suitable. Sadly in this case the user of the pressure system and their competent person both failed in their duties.”

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Massive fine for operating faulty forklift truck and falsifying records

MIB United Meat Ltd., a North London meat wholesalers has been fined £20,314 for operating a fault-ridden forklift truck and trying to deceive safety inspectors by forging a positive examination report on the vehicle.
The circumstances were:
  • The HSE paid a routine health and safety inspection on 8 March 2013.
  • During the visit, an HSE inspector asked to see the vehicle examination records for the company’s 2.5-tonne counterbalance forklift truck
  • A document was later emailed to the inspector but appeared to be – and was later proven to be – a fraud.
  • HSE found the forklift truck had never been examined. 
  • A specialist mechanical inspector from HSE, who examined the forklift in April 2013, found more than 40 faults, including some that could have endangered its operator.

The HSE Inspector said:
“MIB United Meat Ltd was required by law to make sure its forklift truck was maintained regularly and properly examined to allow the identification of safety-critical defects. It failed to do this and the vehicle was allowed to deteriorate to the point of being riddled with faults. It compounded this failure with a blatant attempt to deceive HSE by forging documentation purporting to be an examination record. This is a serious offence and demonstrates that the company was willing to expose its employees to the risk of serious injury or even death.”

Monday, 1 September 2014

Directors jailed for safety and fraud offences

Paul O’Boyle, a Hampshire businessman, was today jailed on 29th August for a total of 26 months for fraud and safety offences. A second businessman, Russell Lee, was given a 12 month suspended prison sentence, ordered to pay £8000 and  given 150 hours’ community service for similar offences.
The safety offence related a death in September 2010 at Aztech(BA) Ltd., a foundry which is now insolvent.
The circumstances were:
  • The foundry was the subject of three Improvement Notices served by HSE following earlier visits in September 2009 and June 2010. 
  • A number of important safety improvements were required, but few had been satisfactorily implemented, largely, claimed the management team, because of financial constraints.
  • The crane at the centre of the incident had not been checked and tested. 
  • There were inadequate provisions in place covering competency, supervision and training.
  • On 30 September 2010, a worker was crushed and killed by a two-tonne metal sand-moulding box that fell from the lifting chains of a crane he was using to manoeuvre it.

During the investigation into the fatality, but not related to it, problems with lead exposure at the company were identified. Substances containing lead were used elsewhere at the site, but the control and health surveillance measures were insufficient.
Aztech BA Ltd was fined £100,000 after a guilty plea was submitted on behalf of the insolvent firm by its administrators. 
The fraud offences are outside the scope of this blog but can be read at .
The HSE Director of Operations, Southern Division, said:
“The safety standards at Aztech BA Ltd fell well short of those required, as Paul O’Boyle and Russell Lee were only too aware. They knew improvements were needed to protect workers like Ian Middlemiss and they had clear responsibilities as senior management to ensure the necessary changes were implemented. Sadly one of the many areas that was seemingly overlooked was the system of work surrounding the overhead crane. Had this been properly assessed then Ian’s tragic death could have been prevented.”