Tuesday 28 August 2012

Worker’s leg crushed inside blocked brick machine

A migrant worker suffered crush injuries to his leg when he became trapped inside a poorly-guarded machine at a brick-making factory. Nikoloz Demetrashvili, 42, was working at Michelmersh Brick and Tile Company’s Ltd’s facility in Romsey, Hampshire, when the incident took place on 12 October last year.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Demetrashvili was clearing a blockage from a brick-making machine after two trays had dropped on a brick mould instead of one. He followed company instructions and disabled the pressure-sensitive mats, which were designed to prevent access to the machine, as he needed the machine to have power so he could free the tray. The machine was not in production mode but the sensors were still active.

He climbed inside the machine to reach the tray, which he had done on previous occasions to clear blockages. As he leant over the turntable and pulled the tray, a sensor activated and the turntable rotated, crushing his leg and trapping him inside the machine. He suffered multiple fractures to his right leg and spent three weeks in hospital.

The HSE investigated the incident and issued an Improvement Notice, which required the company to put measures in place to prevent access to the inside of the machine while the power is running.

HSE inspector Daniel Hilbourne said: “Had the pressure mat been configured properly, it would have prevented the machine from operating with anyone near it. Sadly, Mr Demetrashvili has been left with very serious and life-changing injuries because of safety failures that could easily have been avoided. This prosecution is a reminder to firms of the need to carefully consider the risks of machinery and to identify and implement adequate controls to protect their employees.”

Michelmersh Brick and Tile Company appeared in court on 22 August and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999, and reg.11(1) of PUWER 1998. It was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay £4945 in costs. In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and cooperated with the investigation. It complied with the Improvement Notice by removing a switch that allowed the pressure mat to be overridden.

Claims that HSE is in denial over occupational cancer

The HSE needs to change its “unrealistic” and “ignorant” approach to occupational cancer if thousands more cases and deaths are to be prevented, a pressure group has warned.

Released yesterday (22 August) as the Executive’s board was discussing its latest estimate of the current burden of occupational cancer in Great Britain, a statement by the Hazards Campaign accused the regulator of “showing little interest in finding unknown exposures, underestimating the numbers of workers exposed, and showing no sense of urgency to tackle this massive but preventable workplace epidemic”.

The HSE’s Long Latency Health Risks Division estimates that occupational cancer accounts for around 8000 of the estimated annual toll of 12,000 deaths from occupational ill health, and some 14,000 new cases a year. This is based on a study funded by the HSE and published in the British Journal of Cancer in June this year.

A paper presented to the board yesterday outlined how the Executive is addressing this via a range of interventions and by focusing on 10 priority agents/occupations to help it identify where its efforts will have the most impact.

The Hazards Campaign, however, contends that the true annual figures are nearer 18,000 deaths and 30,000 registrations, and blames the HSE’s reliance on epidemiology – looking primarily at the specific organs in the body affected by cancer, rather than the actual causes – for its skewed vision.

Warned occupational cancer researcher, Simon Pickvance: “The HSE has been in denial about work cancer for over three decades, depending far too heavily on epidemiology, which is only capable of seeing widespread, long-established problems among large numbers of workers, employed for long periods of time, in large workplaces, such as mines, mills and manufacturing. This is totally unsuitable for today’s smaller, and fast-evolving workplaces, with more complex and diverse exposures.”

Mr Pickvance cited the example to SHP of diesel-engine exhaust emissions – one of the 10 priority agents/occupations chosen by the HSE. He explained: “The HSE cites the figure of 10,000 people exposed, but there are some 600,000 professional drivers alone, while the overall number of people who drive as part of their work is nearer one million.”

He also criticised the focus on just 10 agents/occupations, saying: “It’s not a question of prioritising the most common causes because we don’t actually know what the most common causes are!”

The Hazards Campaign is calling for a broader-spectrum approach, which would involve asking workers to identify workplace exposure to carcinogens, talking to medical consultants, who deal with patients, and solicitors, who see a steady flow of claimants with occupational cancer. However, Mr Pickvance acknowledges that HSE resources are a problem. He said: “We are aware of the current economic climate and so are not expecting the HSE to do very much.”

The HSE’s overall funding for health-based research is around £7 million a year; projects related to occupational cancer cost £5 million during the 2009/10 and 2011/12 work years.

The paper presented to the board yesterday outlined work done so far and still in progress, including myriad campaigns, awareness-raising initiatives, ongoing research projects, liaison with industry organisations and other government departments, task-specific advice and guidance, and engagement in discussions at European level on classification of carcinogens and mutagens. The board has been invited to consider, among other things, how the HSE can engage constructively with more partners to deliver future beneficial interventions; whether more work should be done specifically in the cases of shift work, diesel-engine exhaust emissions, painters and welders; and if a workshop/conference should be held with partners to explore what more can be done on occupational disease.

Source: SHP

Thursday 2 August 2012

Beware the CE Mark

Some people facetiously say that CE stands for “Check Everything”.  Unfortunately, there is some truth in this.  Whilst the intention is to indicate that the equipment meets certain safety standards, there is no absolute assurance that this is so.
The intention of this blog is to draw people’s attention to the CE mark, it’s function and pitfalls.  It describes how the procedure is intended to work, where the obligations are and typical examples where it goes wrong.  It finishes with steps that a purchaser should include.

This article is available in more depth on http://t.co/IyrUcMvk .

To what does CE Marking apply?

This applies to all equipment supplied for first time use in the EU after 1st January 1995.   
Normally,  the manufacturer is accountable for the process, but agents or importers would be accountable for equipment which originates outside the EU.  Though we normally think of the process being applied to new machines, it applies to old machines if they were introduced into the EU after January 1995. Similarly, though it is intended to ease trading, it applies even if the equipment is for self-use.

Who polices CE Marking?

The short answer is nobody.  Apart from specific machinery, there is no organisation that either certifies the machine, or licences the supplier as being able to certify his machine. Be aware that the process is one of pure trust on the supplier.  

Where does the buck stop?

The company who puts the equipment into use (ie the employer) has obligations and it is he who has the final accountability for ensuring that the equipment is safe.  

What goes wrong?

In my experience, the key points to look for are:
  • Gross non-conformities (major faults with guards)
  • Minor non-conformities (compromises made to prevent features making safety worse)
  • Lack of awareness (not being aware of the requirements of safety-related control systems)

What should the purchaser do?

The two main actions a purchaser should take are:
Include clear specifications in your order, including statements that the safety related control system must be downstream of the PLC.  One company with whom I work has a set of specifications to which supplier must adhere.  You might consider a clause where you hold back final payment until it has been checked and any faults corrected.
Be aware that when equipment arrives, the presence of the CE mark does not necessarily mean it is safe.  You must carry out a thorough risk assessment. Where there are major faults, then you could take this up with the supplier; they are the ones who should supply equipment which is fit for purpose.