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risk assessments should be reviewed at least every 2 years, unless there is reason to suspect that the assessment is no longer valid.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

HSE statistics show fall in injuries but no change in work-related ill health

The latest data for workplace-related injuries, ill health and death has just been published by the HSE.

Non-fatal injury shows a consistent decline with the present level being 300 per 100,000 workers. This compares with 600 per 100,000 workers 10 years ago.
The change under RIDDOR 2013 from 3 day to 7 day absence reporting will skew these figures, but there is still a consistent decline.

There were 133 deaths at a rate of 0.45 deaths per 100,000 workers.  This compares with 240 deaths at 0.8 per 100,000 workers 10 years ago.

The same kind of improvement has not taken place with respect to workplace-related health.  This is a consistent level of around 550,000, comprising 244,000 due to stress, 184,000 due to musculoskeletal disorders.

Prosecutions, improvement notices and prohibition notices remain constant as follows:

  • 517 prosecutions with at least one conviction
  • 9067 improvement notices
  • 4665 prohibition notices

Days lost per worker remain consistent at 1.15.

There were 78,000 other RIDDOR reported injuries, etc.

Though it shouldn't really make any difference, it is interesting to note that our health and safety performance is better than all peer countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain & Poland) with the exception of self-reported work-related injuries resulting in sick leave, where the UK performance is the same as the peer countries.

Conspicuous in its absence is any data on Fees for Intervention and how the targets set for these is increasing.

See HSE statistics

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Advance Display fined £17,677 after worker's ankle was crushed in a woodworking machine

Advance Display Ltd, of Loughborough was fined £17,677 (Inc. costs) after a worker's ankle was crushed.
The circumstances were:
  • For certain tasks on the machine, the operators used to have a mobile remote-controlled pendant in their hand to control the machine. 
  • However, the pendant had been broken for more than three and a half years and Advance Display Ltd had never replaced nor repaired it.
  • On 28 January 2013, a worker was trying to flush lubricant through the grease unit on the machine.
  • He had one foot on the floor and the other on a base plate of the computer-controlled machine.
  • Because the pendant did not work he asked a colleague to turn the machine on.
  • The colleague could not see whether or not the worker was clear of the machine.
  • As it had already been programmed, it immediately moved forward, crushing his foot between the base plate and the moving bed.

The HSE inspector said:
“The incident was entirely preventable and stemmed from a failure to keep the remote control pendant – a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment – in good repair and efficient working order. This, coupled with the lack of a safe system of work, led to a man needlessly suffering an extremely severe injury. The company was grossly negligent and failed to consider the risk to employees engaged in certain tasks on the machine.”

Diageo fined after 2 separate falls

Drinks company Diageo Scotland Ltd was fined £18,000 two workers were injured in falls at separate plants in Moray.
The circumstance were:

  • The falls occurred while clearing blockages
  • There was neither a risk assessment nor any written instructions for the cleaning of the machine as it was assumed by Diageo that this would be done solely from the ground.
  • Diageo Scotland Ltd provided platform ladders for access but these were difficult to manoeuvre across the pipes and conveyors covering areas of the silo floor and to get them past the lights and ducting on the ceiling.
  • Diageo had failed to take sufficient steps to prevent the use of ladders in unsafe circumstances when clearing blockages.
  • Instructions on how to wash the shovel were passed down from one employee to the next during initial training to be a loader shovel operator.
  • In the first incident, Robert Edward fell nearly four metres from a portable ladder while clearing a blockage inside a chute in a grain silo at Burghead Maltings on 1 January 2012.
  • He was found unconscious on the floor by another worker and taken to hospital with concussion, a cut to his head and a dislocated finger. He had restricted movement in his hand but has returned to work.
  • In the second incident on 16 March, Peter Douglas was standing on the engine bonnet of a loader shovel to wash the roof at Glenlossie when he slipped and fell more than two metres to the ground.
  • Mr Douglas was taken to hospital suffering from a bleed to the brain and a shattered bone in his left leg. His short term memory has been affected, however he has returned to full-time employment.
The HSE Principal Inspector said:
“Both of these incidents, which could have proved fatal for the workers involved, could have been avoided had Diageo Scotland Ltd ensured its employees were adequately protected from the risks associated with their jobs. At Burghead Maltings, Diageo’s management was aware of the blockage issue; however they failed to identify that a safe method of working was not in place and that unsafe practices for clearing blockages had developed. At Glenlossie, a discussion with a loader shovel operator on how it was washed would have identified the dangers to employees. The risk assessment on the use of the loader shovel should also have considered the risks associated with its cleaning. In both cases Diageo had provided work at height training, which included risk assessment training, and believed their employees should be competent to plan and carry out work at height. However, it is not sufficient for health and safety instructions merely to be given to workers; employers must also ensure those instructions are carried out.”

Colombier fined £34,000 after pallets of paper fall

Colombier (UK) Ltd., the UK division of a pan-European paper company in Sittingbourne, was fined £34,496( inc. costs)  after a worker broke her leg in three places when poorly stacked pallets of paper collapsed.
The circumstances were:

  • Although risks arising from falling stacks were identified by the company as a concern, the risk assessment did not address recovering paper from a collapsed stack, so the actual process for controlling this risk was virtually non-existent. 
  • The system for stacking pallets in open areas of the warehouse did not follow HSE or industry guidance.
  • Colombier had failed to implement effective control measures for the stacking of heavy items.
  • There were two recorded incidents of stacks falling prior to this incident
  • On a further three occasions the issue had been raised at management level. However, this information did not result in any practical change.
  • On 27 May 2009, a worker had helped to recover two pallet loads of paper that had collapsed and spilled from a stack.
  • As she walked away further pallets slipped from the stack and struck her leg, causing the triple break.
The HSE inspector commented:
“Risk assessments are not a paperwork exercise, and should be used as a management tool to identify risks and trigger the need for robust systems and procedures to eliminate them from the work process – so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so. If there is a change in process, a revised risk assessment should be implemented to follow suit.This case should serve to remind managers of the need to be aware of what is happening in their workplace, and to react immediately if any issues are identified. Concerns about the stacking process were well known at Colombier, and yet there was no management response to protect workers until it was too late, with an experienced employee sustaining a horrific leg injury that was entirely preventable.”

Monday, 13 October 2014

Worker loses arm in waste recycling conveyor

Lowmac Alloys Ltd., an Ayrshire waste recycling firm was fined £118,000 on 6th October 2014 after an agency worker severed his left arm at the shoulder while clearing a CONVEYOR belt blockage.
The circumstances were:
  • Lowmac failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks when employees were exposed to dangerous parts of CONVEYOR belt machinery. 
  • As a result, they failed to provide interlocking guarding to stop dangerous parts moving before a worker entered the danger zones.
  • They failed to provide effective supervision in order to prevent its employees from entering danger zones while dangerous parts were moving.
  • They failed to provide a safe system of work to clear blockages, ensuring mains isolators were locked off to prevent electrical power being supplied to the machinery.
  • They were aware of the problems having been served with a Deferred Prohibition Notice in 2003 relating to conveyors.
  • Steven Dawson was working as a line supervisor when the incident happened on 8 February 2011.
  • He was alerted to a problem with the CONVEYOR belt and noticed a metal container had caught on the edge of the conveyor belt’s pulley.
  • The guards over the pulley were not interlocked to stop the conveyor when one was opened.
  • He opened a hinged guard to access the blockage. 
  • When he attempted to remove the container his left hand and arm came into contact with the moving belt and the bottom of the pulley resulting in his arm being severed at the shoulder.
  • One of his colleagues pulled the “stop cord” that was fitted along the conveyor to switch off the machinery.
  • Mr Dawson was taken to hospital but doctors were unable to reattach his arm. Over the following weeks he underwent two operations and has been told he needs further surgery to repair the nerves in his shoulder
  • Mr Dawson still suffers from considerable pain and has been unable to return to work.
The HSE Inspector said:
“This incident was entirely preventable. Lowmac Alloys Ltd had identified there was a high risk of crushing and trapping in the machinery, however, the company failed to provide interlocking guarding to the gate over the CONVEYOR which would have cut power to the machinery when it was opened. Had this been in place, then employees would not have been exposed to the risk from the dangerous parts of the machine. As a consequence of this breach, Mr Dawson suffered a horrific, life changing injury."

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Keighley-based firm fined for noise exposure

Fibreline Ltd, a  Keighley firm specialising in foam and feather furnishings was fined £19,457 (inc. costs) on 7 Oct 2014 after failing to protect its workforce from excessive noise made by production machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The company had not made a suitable assessment of  noise levels and exposure in the factory between 2006 and 2013.
  • Noise levels had become excessive from 2008 when a third machine was added to production process.
  • In addition 2 glue-spraying booths, located side by side, were added in 2011.
  • However, wearing hearing protection was not introduced until 2013.
  • A health surveillance programme for noise exposure was not brought in until 2013, when 40 employees had to be given a hearing test. 

The HSE Inspector said:
“Prolonged exposure to excessive and often constant levels of noise where people work day after day is a recognised threat to health and can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, a condition that can be severely debilitating. It is very important for employers to do what is required to prevent employees from being exposed to potentially harmful exposure.  If such exposure cannot be prevented, then they must ensure that workers are wearing the right kind of personal hearing protection and receive regular health checks.”

Friday, 3 October 2014

Company ignored advice from safety expert and accident occurred

Stormguard Ltd, a Macclesfield manufacturer which produces a range of drainage products, was fined £6,377 (inc. costs) after a worker’s hand became entangled around a factory drill.
The circumstances were:

  • The guard on the drill was inadequate
  • It had become common practice for workers to wear gloves while using the drill, despite the risk of gloves becoming entangled being well known in the manufacturing industry.
  • Stormguard’s own health and safety officer had identified inadequate guarding on the drill in a written report over a year before the incident. 
  • He also raised the issue of workers wearing gloves while using drills. 
  • However, no action was taken to tackle these issues.
  • On 16 October 2012, a worker was using the drill to produce metal sills.
  • The glove on his right hand became caught, pulling his hand around the rotating drill bit.
  • The third finger on his right hand was dislocated and fractured, and his little finger was also fractured.

The HSE Inspector said:
“There was simply no need for this incident to have happened, especially as Stormguard’s own health and safety officer had raised the issue with the company. “The employee was lucky to escape with relatively minor injuries, but they could easily have been much worse. Workers at the factory were regularly using the drill without an adequate guard and while wearing gloves so there was a high risk that someone would be injured. “There’s absolutely no point in manufacturers hiring health and safety officers if they’re not going to listen to their advice. Risk assessments should be acted on – not put on a shelf to gather dust.”

Lack of isolation causes potential loss of leg

Roydon Polythene (Exports) Ltd., a recycling firm was fined £11,221 (inc. costs) on 26 September 2014 after an employee almost lost his right leg when it became trapped in a machine. 
The circumstances were:
  • It had become routine for workers to climb from the lifting basket onto the conveyor belt to clear blockages from an unguarded part of the machine. 
  • The machine was not isolated for this task
  • There were also no guard rails around the edge of the conveyor to prevent employees from falling to the ground below. 
  • On 16 October 2013 a jam occurred in a glass sorting machine.
  • The employee was lifted in a mobile elevating work platform, before climbing out of the basket and onto a conveyor belt, more than four metres above the ground. 
  • As he tried to clear the blockage, his right leg was drawn into the machinery.
  • His leg remained trapped for more than two hours while emergency services tried to cut him free. 
  • He sustained significant crush injuries, requiring multiple operations to try and save his leg. 
  • Nearly a year after the incident, doctors still do not know whether he will ever regain the full use of his leg. 
The HSE Inspector said: 
“A worker has suffered severe injuries that will affect him for the rest of his life because his employer failed in its duty to ensure he stayed safe at work. “This wasn’t a one-off incident. Instead, workers were routinely expected to climb onto the conveyor belt to clear blockages from an unguarded part of the machine, putting their lives at risk. It was therefore almost inevitable that someone would be injured, either by becoming trapped in the machine or falling to the ground below. “Roydon Polythene should have carried out a proper assessment of the risks facing its employees, and taken action to put safety measures in place. If it had then the worker’s injuries could have been avoided.”