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.”