Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Maintenace worker's hand crushed

ThyssenKrupp (Materials) UK Ltd, a global materials company was fined nearly £11,000 (inc.costs) on 20 March 2015 after a maintenance engineer’s hand was crushed.
The circumstances were:
  • Maintenance work was being carried out at their site in Tyseley on 9 July 2014.
  • Chocks had been used to prop a pressure beam of a plate saw while maintenance work was carried out.
  • There were no written risk assessments or safe systems of work in place.
  • As soon as the chocks were removed, the beam fell on to the employee’s hand. 
  • He was off work for more than three months but has since returned to the company.

The HSE inspector said:
“ThyssenKrupp Materials should have spent time working out a safe working methods for all maintenance tasks, especially those which were routine. There were no written risk assessments or safe systems of work in place. The company should also have made sure that the engineers were given the necessary training on the machines and the information they needed to operate them. Instead, they were given nothing and expected to learn as they went along. Since the incident the firm has brought in service engineers to do the most intricate maintenance work and arranged for those engineers to give the employees training on the machines. Had they done this before, a worker could have been spared a painful injury.”

Rotherham metals company a serial safety offender

Meadowbank Vac Alloys, a Rotherham-based metals business, was fined £72,000 (inc. costs) on 19 March 2015 after notching up a shocking 31 enforcement notices identifying 57 safety breaches in just 3 months.
The circumstances were:
  • Following a complaint voicing concern about the condition of the firm’s vehicles, the HSE visited the site in May 2012.
  • They served 20 enforcement notices.
  • The notices covered a multitude of safety and health risks ranging from improvements needed to a variety of plant and lifting machines to the provision of basic welfare facilities for staff.
  • There were a further 4 visits by HSE between then and early August when additional enforcement notices were issued. 
  • These included 7 which banned use of 3 forklift trucks, 3 mechanical grabs and a loading shovel that had no brakes. All had category A defects, the highest possible level meaning ’immediately dangerous’, identified by an independent engineer.
  • The company continued to keep the machines in use even after being specifically prohibited from doing so by the HSE.
  • Although numerous extensions of time were granted by the HSE to Meadowbank Vac Alloys to comply with the enforcement notices, the company continually failed to take adequate action and workers had to operate the defective machines.
  • HSE identified that on 2 occasions in July and August, prohibited machines were still being used. None of the defects had been rectified and again the company director was informed specifically what was needed for the notices to be complied with.
  • During the last inspection, in October 2012, HSE found the dangerous loading shovel still in use and with some 80 hours’ working time clocked up when it should have been idle.

The HSE inspector said:
“Meadowbank Vac Alloys displayed a reckless disregard for the safety of its employees and a persistent contempt for the legal notices issued requiring the firm to bring equipment to an acceptable standard. HSE exercised protracted patience with the company and was in regular contact with the director to ensure what was needed to comply was clear, unambiguous and fully understood. Despite being given ample opportunity, Meadowbank chose to ignore their responsibilities; put workers in danger on a daily basis; defy the law and turn a deaf ear to information, advice and guidance conveyed by inspectors and an independent engineer.”

Glasgow company fined after worker's hand was drawn into unguarded in-running nip

Manufacturing firm Promat Glasgow Ltd was fined £4000 for serious safety failings after a worker was injured when his arm was caught between a conveyor belt and roller in a Glasgow factory.
The circumstances were:

  • Gordon Blackwood was working with a colleague cleaning a conveyor in the press area at the company’s premises on 30 August 2012.
  • While Promat Glasgow Ltd had assessed the risks of various tasks within the factory, it had failed to identify the hazard from the in-running nip point on this belt conveyor.
  • As a result, there were no control measures in place to prevent workers gaining access to the danger zone represented by the in–running nip point.
  • The cleaning cycle required the operators to start a cleaning programme on the computer in the press cabin, after which the machine would be stopped and the operator would go into the press area to hose down the press and clean off any spilled mix.
  • The operator would then return to the cabin to run a ‘felt’ wash programme, while at the same time keeping an eye on the felt to ensure it was tracking correctly.
  • Mr Blackwood and his colleague had reached the felt wash part of the process when it was noticed the belt was not running centrally. Mr Blackwood remained in the press area while his colleague went into the cabin to start the conveyor to realign it.
  • They signalled each other before the machine was switched on, but when the belt was moving Mr Blackwood then spotted the spilled mix and attempted to clear it manually before the machine was switched off.
  • He attempted to scrape it off using his gloved right hand, but as his hand touched the conveyor it was pulled into an in-running nip between the roller and underside of the belt conveyor.
  • He suffered a compound fracture to his wrist and tendon damage to two fingers. He had to have surgery to insert a metal plate in his wrist, which has left him weakened as a result. He still suffers pain in his wrist and fingers.
  • Following the incident a fixed guard was installed around the in-running nip point.
The HSE Inspector said:
“This was an entirely avoidable incident. The dangers of nip points, or the gaps between a moving belt and a stationary part of a machine, are well-known. Promat Glasgow Limited should have carried out a full assessment of the risks to workers for all the tasks involved in the production of the insulation boards. That would have identified the hazards in the press area and the right action, such as introducing guards, could have been added as necessary. As a result of the company’s failings, Mr Blackwood suffered injuries to his right arm which still cause him problems.”

Leicestershire waste recycling firm fined £15,577 after a worker suffered severe crush injuries

Bakers Waste Services, a Leicestershire waste recycling firm was fined £15,577 (inc. costs) after a  worker suffered severe crush injuries in an unsafe machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred at the Enderby site on 27 January 2014.
  • The company failed to maintain guards and other protective devices on a baler. 
  • Although guards were present they did not close properly meaning interlocking devices and the electrical control circuit of the machine were not properly activated.
  • There was no safe system of work for safely isolating the power supply.
  • The worker was clearing a blockage from the cardboard baler 
  • He inadvertently activated the baler and his left leg became trapped between the static framework and moving bed.
  • It took firefighters three hours to free him. 
  • He was in hospital for four weeks and underwent three operations to insert metal rods and screws between his knee and ankle. He also required skin and muscle grafts, and in some places the bones in his leg were so severely damaged they are now missing.

The HSE inspector said:
“The incident was entirely preventable. Bakers Waste Services fell below the standards expected of a competent employer, standards which are well publicised and accepted within the industry. The safety devices on the baler had been defective for a period of time yet it took an horrific incident before they took action to remedy the problem. Incidents arising from dangerous parts of machinery are unfortunately commonplace despite freely available guidance. Around 12 people a year are killed and a further 40,000 injured due to incidents involving machinery.”

Friday, 13 March 2015

Worker suffers serious leg injuries after heavy load slips from forklift truck

Forfar Galvanisers Ltd, was fined £7,000 after an agency worker suffered serious leg injuries when a half-tonne A-frame slipped and fell onto him from a forklift truck.
The circumstances were:
  • Forfar Galvanisers did not have in place a safe system of work for moving A-frames. 
  • Following a similar incident in 2007, HSE had  offered advice to the company in 2007 which recommended that when lifting and moving unstable loads, additional securing arrangements should be used when moving items on forklift trucks. 
  • It was also recommended that if operators were required to steady loads in transit, tag lines should be used rather than direct contact, to keep operators well out of harm’s way
  • The company had developed a procedure for moving ungainly loads but this had not been implemented.
  • On 20 November 2013 Robert Ramsey was helping colleagues move an A-frame, which measured 3.82 metres by 1.6 metres and weighed almost half a tonne.
  • The A-frame was lifted and moved outside, where it was raining, on the forks of a forklift truck. 
  • It was then turned and was being moved into the correct position with Mr Ramsey and another colleague on opposite sides of the A-frame to steady it.
  • However, the A-frame was not secured to the forks and it began to slip. 
  • The forklift driver shouted repeated warnings, and although his colleague heeded them moving out of the way, Mr Ramsey took hold of the A-frame to steady it, but it continued to slip and fell onto him.
  • Mr Ramsey suffered serious injuries to his legs including bruised bones, trapped nerves, muscle and tissue damage as well as severe swelling and external bruising. 
  • He was off work for several months and could only walk short distances. He has now made a full recovery
  • Since the incident the company has issued instructions that loads should preferably be carried flat rather than suspended and has commissioned a specialist company to investigate whether a clamping attachment could be used to enable loads to be secured to the forks of the forklift.

The HSE Principal Inspector said:
“Forfar Galvanisers Ltd’s failure to act to make sure its employees and agency workers were adequately protected during such movement operations, has led to serious injuries for Mr Ramsey, which could have been so easily prevented. The issues with unsecured loads on forklift trucks are well-known in all relevant industries.  It was entirely foreseeable that loads which are unsecured will become unstable when they are moved and that metal will become slippery if wet, especially when placed on another wet metal object. 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 clear there was a risk of death or serious injury if the A-frame fell from the forklift truck, particularly as the company was aware of previous incidents of loads falling. Had the company acted on this and the advice of HSE, Mr Ramsey would not have been injured.”

Monday, 2 March 2015

Unsafe delivery and unloading operation causes loss of leg.

Vincent Sutton, a Tameside factory worker had to have part of his left leg amputated after he was struck by an 850kg metal frame being delivered to a plant in Glossop. 
Russell Fabrications was fined £36.651 (inc.costs) and Delpro fined £20,735 (inc.costs).
The circumstances were:

  • Russell Fabrications (UK) Ltd., had manufactured a 5m long fabrication called a skid for Delpro Ltd.
  • Neither company had adequately planned how they were going to deliver and unload this.
  • The skid was loaded onto a pickup truck at an angle using an overhead crane and chains, with the top end resting on a supporting bar above the driver’s cab.
  • When the skid arrived at the Delpro plant, workers lifted it off the truck using the same chains, this time attached to a forklift truck. 
  • The chains consisted of two separate sets, one of which was significantly shorter than the other to allow for the angle of the lift.
  • As they lifted the frame, the shorter chains – attached to the higher side – forced their way out from the hook on the forklift truck. 
  • The frame fell around two metres to the ground and landed on Mr Sutton’s left foot.
  • The damage was so severe that his leg eventually had to be amputated to above the knee for medical reasons.
The HSE Inspector said:
“The failings of both companies contributed to this incident, which could so easily have been avoided had more thought gone into the planning of the loading, unloading and transport of the metal frame. The methods adopted for both the loading at Russell Fabrications (UK) Ltd and the unloading at Delpro Ltd were inherently unsafe and the vehicle used to transport the frame was unsuitable as the loading area was too small to safely accommodate it. Unfortunately the failings of the two companies have led to a worker suffering life changing and permanently disabling injuries.”

Health and safety offences sentencing guidelines

There is a wide disparity in sentences passed, with many appearing derisory, eg £46,000 for a lost arm where the company had allowed the practice for 30 years.

To address these, sentencing guidelines have been proposed.
These guidelines show sentences appropriate for offences based on

  • The seriousness of the harm
  • The culpability of the company, and
  • The size of the company (ie large fines are appropriate for large companies).

Essentially, the courts would determine the harm category and culpability, and then choose a fine range based on the size of the company 

Seriousness of harm risked

Level A
Physical or mental impairment resulting in lifelong dependency on third party care for basic needs  
Health condition resulting in significantly reduced life expectancy
Level B  
Physical or mental impairment, not amounting to Level A, which has a substantial and long-term effect on the sufferer’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities or on their ability to return to work
A progressive, permanent or irreversible condition
Level C  
All other cases not falling within Level A or Level B
Harm category 1
Harm category 2
Harm category 3
Harm category 2
Harm category 3
Harm category 4
Harm category 3
Harm category 4
Harm category 4 (start towards bottom of range)
Very high
Deliberate breach of or flagrant disregard for the law
Offender fell far short of the appropriate standard, eg
  • failing to put in place measures that are recognised standards in the industry
  • ignoring concerns raised by employees or others
  • failing to make appropriate changes following prior incident(s) exposing risks to health and safety  
  • allowing breaches to subsist over a long period of time

Evidence of serious, systemic failings within the organisation to address risks to health and safety
Offender fell short of the appropriate standard in a manner that falls between descriptions in ‘high’ and ‘low’ culpability categories Level of offender’s systemic failure falls between descriptions in ‘high’ and ‘low’ culpability categories
Offender did not fall far short of appropriate standard; eg, because  
  • significant efforts were made to address the risk although they were inadequate on this occasion  
  • there was no prior event or warning indicating a risk to health and safety

Evidence that failings were minor and not systemic
Fines for a small company (turnover £2 million to £10 million) would be:

Harm category
Starting point
Very high
£300,000 – £1,600,000
£100,000 – £800,000
£50,000 – £400,000
£20,000 – £190,000
£170,000 – £1,000,000
£50,000 – £450,000
£25,000 – £210,000
£12,000 – £100,000
£100,000 – £600,000
£25,000 – £230,000
£12,000 – £100,000
£4,000 – £50,000
£25,000 – £130,000
£3,000 – £40,000
£700 – £14,000
£100 – £5,000
More information can be found on: