Tuesday 29 May 2012

Forklift driver crushed underneath unstable storage stack

A haulage company has been fined £25,000 after a worker was crushed to death when a row of steel coils collapsed like dominos and trapping him underneath.

Alan Burr, 52, worked as a forklift driver at ABC (Grimsby) Ltd’s warehouse at Henderson Quay, Immingham Docks, in Grimsby. On 27 January 2010, he was stacking narrow-banded coils on rolls in batches of four or five, with a gap between each coil. Each coil measured five feet in diameter and weighed approximately one tonne. Mr Burr was standing between two of the rolls to repair damaged wrapping when one of them toppled, causing a domino effect in the stack. He was trapped underneath the fallen stack and died at the scene from crush injuries.
The HSE’s investigation learned that Mr Burr had worked for the company for more than 20 years, and the method for stacking the coils was commonly used by both Mr Burr and his colleagues.

HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham explained that the stacking method was completely unsuitable, as the stacks were unstable because there was nothing holding them in place. She went on to say that the company had failed to identify the risks presented by this method of work, and should have installed coil racks so the items could be stored safely. “Mr Burr was simply trying to do a good job and repair a tear in the polythene wrapping but it had these dreadful consequences,” said inspector Fotheringham. “Narrow-banded coils can be unstable when stored on roll end, as they can collapse in a domino effect and that, very sadly, is exactly what happened.  ABC had been storing this type of steel coil since April 2009, but had given no training to employees about how to handle and store them safely. This loss of life could have been avoided if sufficient instruction, training and the provision of inexpensive coil racks - which work on the same simple principle as a toast rack - had been provided by the company.”

ABC (Grimsby) Ltd appeared at Grimsby Crown Court on 17 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.
In delivering his sentence, Judge Simon Jack accepted the firm had a good safety record prior to the incident. He examined the firm’s financial means and decided against imposing a larger fine, which would have risked the company going into liquidation, as it had recently lost a large contract with ConocoPhillips. He said: “I don't believe it should be forced into liquidation and I suspect Mr Burr would not have wanted that.”

Mr Burr's widow Mandy said it was hard to explain the loss she and her family have suffered. She said: “Losing Alan was one of the worst days I can ever remember. Alan and I had planned to grow old together and always be there for each other, but that was taken away in a split second.

Source: SHP

Machine’s safety interlock was deliberately disabled

A component engineering company in Cheltenham has admitted safety failings after a worker was injured inside a machine, which had had its safety mechanism deliberately disabled.

Grzegorz Chylenski, 33, was working as a machine operator at PG Components Ltd’s factory when the incident took place, on 22 August last year. He was operating a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine, which drills holes in components made for resale inside electrical goods.

The CNC machine was fitted with a safety mechanism, which stopped it running when its doors were opened. But the company had disabled its safety interlock by placing a male part into the female part of the lock. This allowed the doors to remain open while the machine was in operation, so workers could monitor the internal cycle.

On the day of the incident, Mr Chylenski accidentally dropped a component into the machine, through the open doors. He believed the machine had come to the end of a cycle, and he leaned inside to retrieve the part. As he did so, the moving parts of the machine reactivated and struck him on the head. He suffered a broken jaw and cuts to his face and ear. He was unable to return to work for five weeks owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector Dominic Goacher explained the company had put workers at risk by disabling the interlock. He said: “The law clearly states that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees, which includes ensuring machinery and systems of work are safe. In this instance, PG Components Ltd clearly failed to ensure the safety of Mr Chylenski, with unfortunate consequences. This incident could have been avoided had the manufacturer's safety device not been bypassed. Allowing the CNC machine to be used in this state puts operators at serious risk of injury, or even death.”

PG Components appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on 21 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.11(1) of PUWER 1998. It was fined £11,200 and ordered to pay £2778 in costs. It must also pay £2500 in compensation to Mr Chylenski. In mitigation, the firm said it reset the interlock immediately following the incident. It has subsequently installed a laser probe inside the machine, which feeds information to a control panel so workers can monitor each cycle. The company has no previous convictions.

Source: SHP

Friday 25 May 2012

Fashion store owner convicted after ‘catalogue of failings’

The owner of a fashion store has been fined for seven breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Joel Lever pleaded guilty to the offences at Bury and Rochdale magistrates court on 17 May, following an inspection of Mon Amie Studios in Bury Old Road, Prestwich, in April 2011.

When officers arrived at the two-storey shop, they discovered a metal roller shutter covering a front door. Two doors at the back were also blocked by shutters, meaning that had a fire occurred, none of these doors could have been used to escape. The doors were not only blocked by the shutters but were also locked and the access routes were obstructed by furniture, an old till and various boxes.

Although there was a fire alarm in the building it had not been serviced or maintained and did not extend to an office on the first floor. The office had windows which were barred on the outside, meaning that there was no way of detecting or giving warning if a fire occurred in the room. Fire extinguishers had not been serviced on an annual basis, with one last serviced in 1996, many of the escape routes were blocked by clothing rails, boxes and furniture, and a fire exit door was locked.

Staff told the officers inspecting that they had not had training and one staff member did not know where the fire exits were.

Officers were so concerned about the lack of escape routes and risk to staff and customers that a prohibition notice was served on the same day, restricting the use of the shop to within 20 metres of a an open door.
The court heard that when officers returned the following day there was nothing to stop customers wandering round the shop and some of the fire exits remained blocked.

Mr Lever was fined a total of £5,200 for two of the offences (failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment and failure to comply with a prohibition notice) with no separate penalties for the others. He was also ordered to pay costs of £3,178.

Peter O'Reilly, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's director of prevention and protection, said: "This shop presented a catalogue of failings which together could've proved fatal. Mr Lever was responsible for undertaking a fire risk assessment for his shop and failed to do so, putting staff and customers at great risk. The locking of fire doors is totally unacceptable and common sense dictates that routes to and through fire exits should be kept clear. The fact that he'd installed fire extinguishers but failed to have them regularly tested indicates a complete disregard for fire safety."

Source: Info4Fire

Thursday 24 May 2012

Worker’s arm ripped off inside unguarded machine

A waste management company has admitted safety failings after a worker lost most of his arm when it was pulled into an unguarded conveyor.

Agency worker Vladislavs Golovacs was attempting to clear a blockage on a conveyor, when the incident took place at Pinden Ltd’s quarry in Longfield, near Dartford. The conveyor, which was used to transfer waste into a sorting shed, had a tear on a conveyor belt that was positioned above the machine’s roller. This allowed stones to fall into the roller, which caused it to judder and on some occasions created blockages.

On 20 December 2012, Mr Golovacs was part of a team who were operating the machine. A stone became caught in between the roller and its metal housing. During previous blockages, workers stopped the machine to remove the debris. But bosses as the site became frustrated, as this caused production to slow down, and created a backlog of waste at the start of the line. Mr Golovacs attempted to remove the blockage while the machine was still in operation, and his glove got snagged on the roller and his arm was pulled into the machine. He feared that his head would be pulled into the machine, so he pulled against the force, and his arm was ripped from his body between his shoulder and elbow – leaving just a quarter of the limb intact. He was airlifted to hospital, where surgeons were unable to reattach his arm. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

The HSE found the machine did not have any guards to prevent access to the roller. The company had not carried out an adequate risk assessment and Mr Golovacs had not been trained in how to remove blockages.

HSE inspector Andrew McGill said: “This was a horrific incident that was entirely preventable had appropriate guarding been fitted, and had Mr Golovacs been properly trained in how to clear a blockage. He knows to his cost that dangerous moving parts should be properly restricted when in operation, and isolated if access is required. However, it was the responsibility of Pinden Ltd to ensure that happened - which it clearly didn't on this occasion. Safe systems of work must be of paramount importance at all times.”

Pinden Ltd appeared at Dartford Magistrates’ Court on 17 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £11,506 in costs. In mitigation, the firm said it installed a guard to the machine hours after the incident. It also claimed that the risks posed by the machine weren’t identified by a health and safety consultancy who had been contracted to carry out monthly inspections at the site.

Source: SHP

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Wind farms linked to climate change

Wind farms can cause climate change, according to new research, that shows for the first time the new technology is already pushing up temperatures.
Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools. But on wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the warmer air higher in the atmosphere with the ground-level air, pushing up the overall temperature.
Satellite data over a large area in Texas, covered by four of the world's largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1°C as more turbines were built. This could have long-term effects on wildlife living in the vicinity of larger wind farms. It could also affect regional weather patterns as warmer areas affect the formation of cloud and even wind speeds. And, as even bigger wind farms are built around the world, there are calls for further research into whether it is likely to affect climate change on a larger scale.

Texas is the largest producer of wind power in the US. It is reported that China is erecting 36 wind turbines every day. Liming Zhou, Research Associate Professor at the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New York, who led the study, said further research was now needed into the effect of the new technology on the wider environment. "Wind energy is among the world's fastest growing sources of energy. The US wind industry has experienced a remarkably rapid expansion of capacity in recent years," While converting wind's kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines modify surface atmosphere exchanges and transfer, of energy, momentum, mass and moisture within the atmosphere. These changes, if spatially large enough, might have-noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate."

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, found a warming trend of up to 0.72°C per decade as more turbines were built. The team studied satellite data showing land surface temperature in west-central Texas: The study said: "Despite debates regarding the possible impacts of wind farms on regional to global scale weather and climate, modelling studies agree that they can significantly affect local scale meteorology."
"Our results show a significant warming trend of up to 0.72°C per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind farm regions. We attribute this warming primarily to wind farms as its spatial pattern and magnitude couples very well with the geographic distribution of wind farms. The spatial pattern of the warming resembles the geographic distribution of wind turbines and the year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time," said Prof Zhou. However he pointed out that the most extreme changes were at night and the overall, changes may be smaller. In addition, they were much smaller than the estimated change caused by other factors such as man made global warming. "Overall, the warming effect reported in this study is local and is small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes," he added.
Prof Steven Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia, the research was "pretty solid". "This makes sense, since at night the ground becomes, much cooler than the air just a few hundred meters above the surface,, and the wind farms generate gentle turbulence near the ground that causes these to mix together, thus the ground doesn't get quite as cool."
Source: Daily Telegraph, 30th April