Friday 30 March 2012

Union slams government’s ‘jerrycan’ advice

The Fire Brigades Union and fire chiefs have united in criticising comments by cabinet secretary Francis Maude, in which he suggested that motorists could build up stores of petrol in jerrycans.

The union warned that people storing significant quantities of petrol in the event of a tanker drivers’ strike would ‘massively increase’ the risk of fire and explosion. “This is not sensible advice and people should be discouraged from doing so,” said Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary. The general public does not properly understand the fire and explosion risk of storing fuel even if it was done sensibly. Those without garages may be tempted to store fuel in the home. In the event of a fire in the house or a neighbouring property it would be disastrous.”

Mr Wrack went on to say that it was illegal to store more than 10 litres of petrol in two purpose-made plastic containers in the home. “There is a real danger the public will start storing fuel in inappropriate ways if the Government is encouraging panic buying and storage. This advice is wrong and must be withdrawn.”

In a statement, the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) said:

“As the professional voice of the fire and rescue service we would advise people not to store large amounts of fuel in garages, due to the increased risks to occupiers and firefighters.”

Dave Curry, CFOA prevention and protection director added: "We would like to ensure that members of the public who are considering storing petrol on their properties are adhering to the following legal requirements:

  • Do not fill a container more than the capacity printed on the label
  • Do not store petrol inside a domestic premises
  • Store petrol in a place that is not part of or attached to a building used as a dwelling
  • Petrol must be stored in approved plastic or metal containers of the sort that can typically be purchased from filling stations
  • You can store up to 30 litres of petrol in two, appropriate 10 litre metal containers and two, appropriate 5 litre plastic containers.

“Petrol is a dangerous substance which, when present can dramatically increase the risk of fire. CFOA recommends members of the public keep any storage of petrol to a minimum.”

According to the HSE website, the Petroleum Spirit (Motor Vehicles etc) Regulations 1929 and the Petroleum Spirit (Plastic Containers) Regulations 1982 limit the amount of petrol that can be kept in a domestic garage or within six metres of a building. The limit is a maximum of two suitable metal containers each of a maximum capacity of 10 litres and two plastic containers (which have to be of an approved design) each of a maximum capacity of five litres.

“Under no circumstances should the petrol containers be stored in the home itself,” adds the HSE.

Speaking last night on BBC2’s Newsnight, transport minister Mike Penning – a former firefighter – said Mr Maude had made a mistake in advising people to store petrol in jerrycans as he had misunderstood the size of jerrycans, which is 20 litres.

Woman suffers 40% bruns decanting petrol

On Friday, BBC News reported that a woman had suffered 40% burns decanting petrol in her kitchen for her daughter who had run out of fuel.

It is understood that the womans cooker was alight when she was decanting the fuel, and the fumes ignighted.

This underlines the importance of only handling petrol in a well ventilated area.

Source: Info4Fire

Tuesday 6 March 2012

DS Smith Packaging fined £50,000

DS Smith Packaging has been fined £50,000 after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into an accident at its Louth facility. The paper and packaging supplier was also ordered to pay costs of £8,244 by Skegness Magistrates Court.Click here to find out more!

DS Smith faced the charge after an employee suffered breaks to his arm and ribs following an incident on 9 June 2010.

The 27-year-old man, who does not wish to be named, was being trained by a second employee on the use of a re-winder when his fingers became trapped. The second man, unaware of what had happened, then started the machine which threw the employee over the top.

He broke his right arm in several places and fractured his ribs and as a result was off work for a year. He now has pins and plates in his arm, although he has since returned to work for the company.

HSE inspector Emma Madeley said: "There was nothing to prevent the machine being started before people were clear of the danger zone. Having a second operator created a serious risk, because the man operating the controls had no idea that his colleague was trapped. That working practice has now been changed. The company has also installed a guard so that the machine cannot begin rotating at speed if someone’s hands are in the danger area. Unfortunately these measures have come too late for this employee, who has been left with severe and permanent injuries."

Source: Print Week

Thursday 1 March 2012

Company admits its lifting procedure was “foolhardy”

A factory worker suffered life-changing leg injuries during a lifting operation, which a sheriff described as being “doomed to failure”. Craig Stewart, 22, was clearing equipment as part of the decommissioning of a workshop at AG Brown Ltd’s factory in Glenrothes, Scotland, when the incident took place on 26 May 2010.

Mr Stewart and a colleague decided to lift a lathe, which weighed 1.2 tonnes, using a lifting eye and a fabric sling hooked over the forks of a forklift truck. But the doorway of the workshop was not high enough to allow the vehicle to pass through when its forks were raised. To overcome this the men decided to lower the lathe on to three skates. Mr Stewart was crouching down to straighten one of the skates, when the unsecured lathe became unbalanced and fell on to his right leg. He suffered a broken right leg and was rushed to hospital for treatment and had surgery to insert a pin in his leg.

The HSE visited the workshop and issued a Prohibition Notice, which required the work to stop until a risk assessment has carried out and a safe system of work was created to remove the machinery. HSE inspector Jane Scott said: “It was entirely foreseeable that the lathe could topple when it was placed unsecured on three skates instead of four. As moving the lathe was not part of AG Brown’s usual business, it did not fall within the scope of the company’s existing safety procedures. In identifying that it needed to be moved, the company should have assessed the risks involved and ensured there was a safe system of work in place. Instead, Mr Stewart suffered a painful and lasting injury because his employer left him to work unsupervised and without clear instructions about how he was supposed to do the work he’d been asked to.”

AG Brown appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on 23 February and was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching s2 of the HSWA 1974.In delivering the sentence, Sheriff James Williamson said: “This piece of plant was moved without any thought being given to how it could be done safely. There was no risk assessment, and it was left to the men on the ground to make the best they could of a dangerous job. "What they came up with was, frankly, Heath Robinson. It was doomed to failure and a man suffered a serious injury.”

The company had no previous safety convictions. After the hearing, defence solicitor Lynne Macfarlane told the BBC: “The company wants to express its extreme regret for Mr Stewart's injuries. Trying to move the lathe on three skates was foolhardy”.

 The work was subsequently completed safely by attaching a jib to the forklift and moving the machine to the workshop doors. It was then was lowered to the floor, so the vehicle could pass through the doors safely, before the lathe was reattached to the forks.

Source: SHP

Company failed to act on near misses

A factory worker died from serious head injuries when a machine weighing two-thirds of a tonne fell on him after being dislodged from its mountings by a passing trailer. Hull Crown Court heard that Ronald Wood worked as a driver at Montracon Ltd’s factory in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire, where the company specialised in fitting refrigeration units inside lorries.

On 15 September, the 59-year-old was waiting for a trailer to be brought over to the tractor he was driving, so he could tow it to another part of the site to receive modifications. He was stood underneath a steel vacuum lifter, which was fixed to the wall by overhead brackets. When the trailer was brought over to him by a pedestrian-operated tug, it struck the brackets, causing the machine to become dislodged. It fell three and a half metres, landing on top of Mr Wood. He died in hospital later that day from serious head injuries.

The HSE visited the site the following day and issued a Prohibition Notice, which required trailer movement to cease until steps were taken to ensure vehicles were properly separated from pedestrians, and to eliminate the risk of machines being damaged by moving vehicles. HSE inspector Steven Kay told SHP that Montracon had failed to carry out a risk assessment for workplace transport. There had also been a number of near-miss incidents in the weeks leading up to the incident, involving trailers striking machines, but these had gone unreported. The inspector also explained that there was no need for the machine to have been stored at height. He said: “There were obvious failures in basic safety precautions, sadly leading to an unnecessary death and the tragic bereavement of a family.

“If Montracon had a suitable plan to control the movement of trailers in the workshop area, then they would have realised it was not safe to manoeuvre a trailer past a heavy piece of equipment that could be dislodged. But it failed to consider the risks, or take basic and inexpensive precautions relating to storing heavy equipment at height.
All employers need to have a system to record near misses and investigate them. The resulting information could prevent loss of life.”

Montracon appeared in court on 27 February and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg. 3(1) of the MHSWR 1999. It was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay £30,033 in costs. In mitigation, the firm said it complied with the enforcement notice by carrying out a full risk assessment. It now stores the machine at ground level and ensures that the routes along which the trailers travel are clear of obstructions and pedestrians. The company also said it had no previous convictions.

Source: SHP