Friday 27 December 2013

Lack of guarding claims another victim

A teenager with a temporary job at a major glass recycling firm in West Yorkshire had his arm crushed when it was drawn into the unguarded danger zone of a machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 15th June 2012 on  a machine used to separate glass from waste material at Refuse Collections Ltd.
  • The machine was totally unguarded
  • Reuse Collections Ltd had no work system to make sure the machine was isolated and safely locked off before cleaning was undertaken.
  • The company relied on employees to carry out cleaning carefully to avoid contact with the moving parts.
  • An 18-year-old worker had been asked by a supervisor to clean the machine.
  • The machine was running and his left hand and arm was drawn in between a rotating metal drum and a moving conveyor belt.

Reuse Collections Ltd, trading as Berryman was fined  £8,638 (inc. costs) 
The HSE Inspector said:
“There is no excuse for companies to operate machinery without protecting employees and other workers from the dangerous parts. The requirement for guarding is well known and recognised across industry not least because the risks are obvious. Had the machine had adequate guarding and a safe system of work implemented to isolate the machine, the serious and painful injury to this young and inexperienced worker could have been avoided.”

Lack of a confined space system results in death and massive fine

Sheffield Forgemasters was fined £245,000 (inc. costs) on 19 December 2013  for safety failings that led to an employee dying of carbon dioxide asphyxiation after the cellar in which he was working filled with the gas.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred during work in an underground drawpit and cellar on 30th May 2008.
  • There was no risk assessment by Sheffield Forgemasters for this task.
  • There was no safe system of work for this task.
  • The firm had failed to provide any rescue equipment for either the cellar or the drawpit.
  • In addition, there was no secure way to isolate the carbon dioxide fire system while work was going on in the cellar.
  • Labourer Brian Wilkins, was using a petrol-driven saw to cut through redundant cable in the underground electrical drawpit.
  • He then went to carry out the rest of the job in the switchroom cellar, which was only accessible by lifting a manhole cover and dropping down a ladder.
  • The smoke sensor was tripped, which then prompted the release of carbon dioxide from the fire extinguishing system, flooding the area.
  • The petrol-driven saw in the switchroom cellar  was the most likely cause of the activation of the smoke sensor 
  • Colleagues heard the carbon dioxide warning alarms sounding from the cellar. 
  • A supervisor and other workmates rushed to help, with several of them unsuccessfully trying to get down the ladder from the manhole to rescue Mr Wilkins.
  • They were themselves almost overcome by the fast-acting gas.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This was a very upsetting incident that resulted in the needless death of Mr Wilkins. It could have been an even worse tragedy as it was pure chance that another four workers who entered the cellar in a desperate bid to save their colleague did not also perish. Exposure to between 10-15 per cent of carbon dioxide in air for more than a minute causes drowsiness and unconsciousness. Exposure to 17-30 per cent in air is fatal is less than one minute. Carbon dioxide is poisonous even if there is an otherwise sufficient supply of oxygen. The risks associated with confined spaces are well known in industry and there is an entire set of regulations dealing with controlling the risks associated with them. Multiple fatalities do occur when one person gets into difficulty in such a space and then the rescuers are similarly overcome. Sheffield Forgemasters had given no thought to the risks associated with the task being undertaken by Mr Wilkins, nor had they provided emergency rescue equipment. This case shows how important it is for companies to effectively risk assess work activities, looking at how the work will be carried out and in what circumstances.”

Monday 16 December 2013

Unguarded machine for seat belt webbing causes serious injuries

Marling Leek Limited, a Leek company that weaves and dyes webbing for seatbelts and harnesses was fined  £40,257 (inc. costs) on 11 Dec.'13 after an employee seriously injured his arm in an unguarded machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 13 August 2012 on a warping machine.
  • This runs at between 150 and 220 rpm to take single ends of yarn from dozens of bobbins to warp them onto a single bobbin called a beam. This happens under tension through a series of rollers.
  • The warping machine was installed in 1988, but the company has not since that date recognised the need to guard it. 
  • A risk assessment had been carried out it was not suitable or sufficient as it failed to identify the risk from the tension rollers.
  • The risk assessment also failed to identify a risk of strangulation, as employees often crouched under up to 400 ends of strong yarn to get from one side of the machine to the other.  
  • Marling Leek Ltd was prosecuted on 20 June 2012 for a similar incident in its dye house in August 2011. The company resolved the issues in the dye house after being served with an Improvement Notice, but did not review other areas of the business where near identical failings existed.
  • Andrew Thomas was operating the warping machine.
  • He was trying to retrieve a piece of loose yarn to stop it being wound on to the beam when his arm was dragged and crushed between two pre-tension rollers.
  • He was trapped for approximately 30 minutes before the fire brigade dismantled the rollers to free him. 

On 11th December 2013, 

The HSE Inspector said:
“It is very disappointing that this company had not learned the lessons following a prosecution for a very similar incident and allowed the same failings to continue to exist in a neighbouring department. The process of risk assessment is a vital process to allow a company to identify significant risk and ensure it is complying with the relevant statutory provisions. In this case the process of risk assessment was not suitable or sufficient and this, together with the company’s failure to heed warnings, has meant that a very obvious risk has been left to exist for many years. Preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery is long established and there are ample guidance and industry standards to allow dutyholders to achieve compliance with the law. This incident was entirely avoidable and Mr Thomas should have been better protected by his employer.”

Friday 13 December 2013

Failure to isolate machine causes massive head injury

The Artisan Press has been fined £25,900 (inc.costs) on 12th December 2013 following a accident in a stacker.
The circumstances were
  • On 6 March 2012, David Howkins was asked to replace a bearing in the automated stacker on a web-fed press.
  • The gate to the area in which Howkins was injured was neither fixed in place nor interlocked, allowing free access to the moving parts of the stacker.
  • He went around the back of the machine without isolating the power supply.
  • His head became trapped between moving parts. 

The HSE inspector said: 
“Mr Howkins’ life has been devastated by the horrific injuries he sustained as a result of The Artisan Press failing to effectively prevent access to dangerous moving machinery. Incidents where workers are injured, or even killed, by moving machinery are easily avoided if employers provide suitable guarding. Effective measures were not taken by The Artisan Press to prevent their workforce from accessing dangerous moving parts, in this case the stacker and sword drive mechanism. In addition, safe systems of work, information, instruction and training are required to control the risks during both production and maintenance activities.”

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Death occurred due to reversing lorry in yard

Mapei UK Limited, one of the world’s largest producers of adhesives for the construction industry, has been fined £173,332. + costs after a worker died when he was pinned against a forklift truck by a reversing lorry in Halesowen.
The circumstances were:
  • In the yard where the accident occurred,  Mapei had failed to segregate pedestrians and vehicles adequately in order to organise, supervise, manage and run their transport yard.
  • The yard did not have defined traffic routes or walkways, there were no ground markings and the yard was open with no physical restrictions on movement.
  • A system was in place to restrict vehicle movement whereby all drivers handed in their vehicle keys on arrival, but this didn’t apply to all vehicles. 
  • Mapei UK Ltd considered the transport area a low priority in terms of risk, despite previous independent safety reports telling them the opposite.
  • Andrew Davies had been asked to empty a machine, using a forklift truck to move a skip and then empty the contents of the skip into a bag that was held within a cage.
  • A lorry driver was asked to move his vehicle by another driver so they could access the loading area.  The system did not require him to hand his keys in, meaning he did not have to seek Mapei UK Ltd’s authority or assistance when moving his vehicle.
  • Around the same time, Mr Davies had left the cab of his forklift truck and moved to the front of the forklift truck.
  • The lorry driver reversed the 18-tonne rigid-back truck, unknowingly pinning Mr Davies between the back of the lorry and the cage which was resting on the forks of his forklift truck. His head was impaled against the forks, killing him instantly.

The HSE inspector said:
“Numerous health and safety failings by Mapei UK Ltd led to this tragic incident in which Mr Davies needlessly lost his life. The dangers associated with vehicle movements are obvious and have been highlighted by HSE for many years. There were long-term, systematic failings by the company to adequately assess the risks and take sufficient control measures to ensure the transport yard was operated without posing a risk to the safety of those working there. Since Mr Davies’ death, Mapei UK Ltd has implemented more effective controls of vehicle movements, limiting movements to one vehicle at a time and installing a traffic marshal to supervise vehicle manoeuvres. The operation which Mr Davies was carrying out is also now done away from other vehicles.”

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Can employees sign away mandatory obligations?

This question arose today:
If we have a mandatory hearing protection zone, can employees who do not wish to wear hearing protection sign some declaration that they accept the risk to their hearing and will make no claim on the company should they suffer hearing loss?

The answer is NO.

Where a noise assessment has identified that the noise exposure (combination of noise level and exposure time) is above the second action point (85 dBA) of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, then the employee must wear the protection provided.

What the employer must do is to take reasonably practical steps to prevent the noise exposure in the first place, either by choice and maintenance of machinery or by the control of transmission methods by devices such as acoustic enclosures.  SSS also strongly recommend that employees be given a choice of hearing protection; some prefer insert-type protectors and other prefer ear muffs.

Although Reg.7 of the Control of Noise at Works Regs., states that the employer "shall ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that no employee enters that area unless that employee is wearing personal hearing protectors", in some cases it may be a lower risk to allow certain people not to wear hearing protection. For example, forklift truck drivers who pass through a mandatory hearing protection area are not at risk because their exposure time is low, but the wearing of hearing protection would increase other risks, such as the potential for collision with a pedestrian.  Where a company has made this decision, then it must clearly publish the rules,

Supporting Regs:
Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 Reg 8(2)(a) Every employee shall make full and proper use of personal hearing protectors provided to him by his employer in compliance with regulation 7(2) and of any other control measures provided by his employer in compliance with his duties under these Regulations.

Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 Reg 7(b). 
It shall be the duty of every employee while at work, as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions, to co-operate with him so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement 
to be performed or complied with.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Unguarded conveyor drive chain causes loss of 3 fingers.

A Lincolnshire timber company has been fined after an employee severed three fingers in an unguarded chain drive on a conveyor.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a conveyor at Sewstern Timber Services Ltd., on 9 March 2012.
  • A roller conveyor had been supplied to Sewstern Timber Services by Armistead Engineering Ltd., a few months before the incident, but that it was inadequately guarded.
  • Sewstern Timber Services failed to carry out a risk assessment for the machine so failed to identify the potential for harm.
  • Shaun Newcomb was attempting to clear some blocked wood from the conveyor. 
  • As he did so his right hand came into contact with the sprockets and chains that drove the rollers and he severed parts of his middle, ring and little finger.

Sewstern Timber Services Ltd, was fined a total of £28,000 (inc. costs).
The HSE inspector  said:
“This incident could easily have been prevented had adequate guarding been in place. Sewstern Timber Services Ltd should have picked up this mistake on their risk assessment and tackled the problem to ensure workers did not have access to the dangerous moving parts of the conveyor. Sadly, because they didn’t do this Mr Newcomb suffered painful, life-changing injuries.”

Lack of guarding causes loss of 2 fingers in plastics silo

A worker had two fingers pulled from their sockets as he cleaned a silo because inadequate guarding.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 21 December 2012 at a plastic recycling firm, Regain Polymers Ltd.
  • The machine involved was a silo that uses a large stirrer with rotating angled blades to blend plastic flake.
  • Below the silo was a chute with a metal slide valve.
  • A switch on the valve was broken and a piece of metal had been attached over one of the contacts of the switch. This meant the stirrer could rotate whilst the slide valve was open.
  • Regain Polymers had failed to make sure there was effective protection on the machine to prevent access by workers to dangerous moving parts.
  • A worker, Kevin Sharp,  opened the valve to empty the silo, but the chute was blocked with compacted flake.
  • As he put his arm up into the chute to clear the blockage, his right hand made contact with the moving stirrer.
  • His middle and ring fingers were pulled out, complete with tendons; the skin was torn from his index finger and the little finger was severely damaged. Surgeons were unable to reattach the fingers.

On 29th November 2013, Regain Polymers Ltd was fined £8634 (inc. costs).
The HSE Inspector :
“Mr Sharp is still struggling to come to terms with this life-changing injury. He is right handed so basic tasks such as writing, cutting up food – many things you take for granted – now cause him considerable difficulty. Although some effort had been made by Regain Polymers to address access to the silo stirrer, it was not adequate and was easily defeated. Companies should ensure that the measures they take to guard dangerous parts of machines are effective and maintained in working condition. Visual and functional checks of machinery and guarding arrangements need to be carried out and documented on a regular basis. Had these measures been in place, Mr Sharp may not have suffered the injury that will now affect him for the rest of his life.”

Friday 29 November 2013

Lack of guarding causes loss of two fingers

Sofidel UK Ltd, one of Europe’s largest tissue and paper towel manufacturers based in Leicester, has been fined after a worker had to have the tips of two fingers amputated after trapping them in badly-guarded machinery while trying to clear a blockage.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a paper converting machine on 26 September 2012.
  • There was no fixed guarding for the belt and pulley drive of the conveyor to prevent access to moving parts of the machine.
  • The injured  worker placed his hand inside the converting machine to try and remove the tissue blockage on the belt and pulley drive of the conveyor.
  • His hand was trapped and the tips of two fingers on his left hand were so badly injured they had to be amputated.

Sofidel UK Ltd  was fined £2,712 (inc. costs.)
The HSE inspector said:
“This incident highlights the dangers posed by machinery and the need to fully re-assess risks from machinery when it is moved from one site to another. Sofidel UK Ltd failed to provide suitable guarding and did not take effective measures to prevent access by their workers to the dangerous moving parts. Workers should not be injured trying to fix a problem. Having an effective guard on this part of the machine would have prevented this employee from suffering nasty injuries to his hand.”

Director fined for ignoring improvement notices

London-based Sunbeam Wood Works Ltd and a director, Stephen Morrison, were fined on 27th November 2013 as a result of an inspection on 10 February 2013 and follow-up in April identified a number of serious issues.
  • Two Improvement Notices were served in February requiring action to be taken to stop health and safety from being compromised, and to protect workers undertaking hazardous activities. 
  • The follow up inspection in April revealed both were ignored. 
  • Little had changed and that there were still serious faults.
As a result, Sunbeam Wood Works Ltd, was fined a total of £21,460 (inc. costs) and Stephen Morrison fined £8,000.
Relevant sections of 
the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 were 2(1), 21 and 37.
The faults found in February were that the company had:
  • failed to test ventilation systems for extracting potentially harmful wood dust
  • failed to provide suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE), controls or any health surveillance for employees working with hazardous spray paints
  •  failed to control noise exposure
  •  failed to provide adequate information, training and  supervision to protect workers from hazards, including inhaling chemicals such as isocyanate during spraying processes.
The HSE Inspector said:
“Employers have a duty to protect their workers, but this company carried out high risk activities, such as paint spraying and work that exposed employees to prolonged, high levels of noise, with disregard for their health and safety. The seriousness of these breaches was reflected in the Improvement Notices issued, which both the company and Stephen Morrison ignored. They failed to address the fact that workers were placed at unnecessary risk because of the inadequate RPE provisions, and the complete lack of health surveillance. They were being exposed to potentially harmful sprays and noise, and yet the company had no means of monitoring whether it was causing harm. Sunbeam Wood Works, under the lead of Mr Morrison, displayed poor performance over the period of our investigation. HSE will not hesitate to take action against duty holders who shirk their responsibilities in this way.”

Thursday 28 November 2013

Lack of isolation/lock-out system results in death

The lack of a system for non-standard work requiring isolation of equipment resulted in the death of an electrician who was crushed by an overhead crane at a Preston factory.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a platform next to a crane at Assystem UK Ltd on 12 March 2011.
  • The platform, which was around four metres above the ground, had been installed for a specific project in September 2000.
  • The platform had remained at the factory but there was no barrier at the bottom of the access ladder to prevent workers climbing up it while the crane was in use.
  • The crane cleared the top of the guard rails around the ladder and platform by just 8.5cm. 
  • Despite this, the company had not identified the risk of workers being crushed by the crane if they used the platform so no action had been taken to stop this from happening.
  • End stops had previously been fitted to the rails used by the overhead crane that stopped the crane reaching the platform, but these had later been removed.
  • On the day of the incident, Liam O’Neill had been trying to replace a cable, which hangs down from the crane to a handheld control, after it had developed an intermittent fault.
  • The crane had been moved over the platform so Mr O’Neill could reach the top of the cable where it connects to a junction box on the crane. 
  • There was no system of work requiring isolation and Mr O’Neill had been able to work on a platform in the path of the overhead crane without the power to the crane first being switched off.
  • As he climbed onto the platform, the crane moved and he was crushed between the guard rails around the top of the ladder and the crane itself.

Assystem UK Ltd., £212,500 (ind. costs). 
TheHSE Inspector said:
“Liam tragically lost his life because his employer didn’t think about the potential consequences of having a working platform in the path of an overhead crane. Assystem should never have allowed the end stops to be removed from the crane’s rails when it was still possible for workers to climb up the ladder onto the platform. It would have been simple to put a system in place to make sure power to the crane was switched off before anyone climbed onto the platform, or to put up a barrier to prevent access to the platform.”

Lack of system to isolate machine causes near-death injuries

Hunter Wilson Ltd, a Dumfries wood machining company , was fined £44,000 after a worker was caught in moving machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The equipment on which the accident occurred was a log haul.
  • In 2007 the company installed an automated scraper system to scrape fallen debris.
  • This consisted of two horizontal cross sections of steel, or scraper bars, that moved slowly on a continuous loop along the concrete platforms under each of the log hauls, scraping debris and pushing it off the end of the platforms where it could be safely collected.
  •  However, the system was not able to clear all of the debris, resulting in employees still having to go under the log haul platforms to manually clear out the remaining debris at the end of each day.
  • The company failed to provide fixed guarding enclosing the machine’s dangerous parts and interlocking guarding to stop dangerous parts moving before a worker entered the danger zones.
  • The company also failed to provide effective supervision in order to prevent its employees from entering danger zones while dangerous parts were moving,
  • At the end of each working day one of Steven Cairns’ duties was to clean the areas below two log hauls, where debris such as bark and branches had fallen.
  • On the day of the incident Mr. Cairns was clearing debris from under the log haul when one of the moving scraper bars came from behind him and crushed his pelvis against the base of a step feeder machine. It then continued on, dragging him through a shear point where the bar passed under the base of the machine.
  • He managed to drag himself free and was discovered shortly after by colleagues who responded to his screams.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This incident was entirely preventable. Hunter Wilson Ltd had identified the scraper system as a risk to employees, however, the company failed to apply the hierarchy of control measures provided by Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which requires employers to provide fixed guarding enclosing dangerous moving parts of machinery, to the extent that it is practicable to do so, before moving on to consider a safe system of work. Had fixed guards been in place to physically prevent access, then employees would not have been exposed to the risk from the dangerous moving bars of the scraper system. As a consequence of this breach, Mr Cairns suffered horrific injuries from which he will never fully recover.”

Wednesday 20 November 2013

HSE updates ACOP on Workplace

The HSE has provided an updated version of the Workplace Regulations Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) (L24) to make it easier for employers, building owners, landlords and managing agents to understand and meet their legal obligations and so reduce the risks of over compliance.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to which this refers are not changed and the ACOP is really just a clarification.

Download a free copy of the ACOP

Monday 18 November 2013

Unguarded sawblade causes major injuries

A 20 year old man suffered major arm injuries on a poorly guarded saw.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred at  Brumley Brae sawmill. owned by  Tennants (Elgin) Limited on 26 September 2011.
  • It occurred on a bandsaw, used to cut large pieces of timber, with a continuous blade revolving at high speed. 
  • The drive wheels and chain drive were unguarded and the saw-blade guard was not positioned correctly.
  • This was despite the risks being widely known in the woodworking industry.
  • Training in the use of the machine was informal and generally carried out by the person who had previously used it, whether or not they had ever been formally trained themselves.
  • Employees had not been made aware of the risks and dangers which could occur during woodcutting operations. 
  • They had not been given a push-stick which would have allowed them to move wood through the machinery whilst remaining at a distance from cutting blades.
  • The injured person, Damian Gawlowski, had not received any formal training on the machine.
  • He was left unsupervised even though he was untrained and inexperienced.
  • Whilst trying to feed some wood through, his arm was drawn into the machine and cut in half lengthways up to the elbow.
  • He sustained significant injuries and needed 16 operations to try and repair ligament, muscle and nerve damage. He has lost one finger entirely and part of another finger, and now struggles to use his right hand.

Tennants  was fined £30,000 15 November 2013.
The HSE Principal Inspector  said:
“This incident was wholly avoidable. Damian Gawlowski was let down by the company’s lack of proper training, inadequate assessment of risks, and ineffective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment. From Mr Gawlowski’s point of view, his life has been destroyed. He is unable to go back to work, unable to use his hand and he relies on others for many of the tasks of daily living. The risks of bandsaws – where there are fast moving cutting parts – are well known in the sawmill industry and Tennants (Elgin) Limited should have put in place suitable measures to prevent this type of injury from occurring. Instead Mr Gawlowski has been left with a serious injury from which it’s likely he will never completely recover.”

Failure to control site vehicle operations results in death

An employee of UK Wood Recycling Ltd., was killed after being struck by a loading vehicle.
The circumstances were:
  • No segregation measures had been put in place by UK Wood Recycling Ltd to separate vehicles and pedestrians working on the site. 
  • Workers were unprotected from the dangers of constantly moving vehicles, despite previous incidents where vehicles had collided, and workers reporting other near misses.
  • On 19 December 2008 Raymond Burns had been working around a large wood pile being used to feed a hammer mill where the wood was smashed to chips. 
  • The shovel vehicle was moving material from one part of the site to another. 
  • As he crossed to a skip, Mr Burns was struck and run over by the load shovel and died of his injuries at the scene.

UK Wood Recycling Ltd  was fined £234,000 (inc. costs) on 12th November 2013. 
The HSE Inspector said: 
“A conscientious and hard-working man has lost his life in this senseless way.  There was simply an acceptance by UK Wood Recycling Ltd of the established working pattern.  Solely relying on drivers or workers noticing each other is not adequate control. This was an entirely preventable death caused by the company failing to have a system to allow vehicles and pedestrians to move safely around each other. Ideally, this segregation is achieved by the vehicles and pedestrians having separate traffic routes.  If they share a route or area then physical barriers should be used to keep them apart, or other means of preventing moving vehicles and people being in the same place at the same time. The waste industry has a very high injury rate, and most of the fatal and major injuries relate to transport issues. The risks of serious injury and, all too frequently, death, resulting from the failure to control the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians are widely recognised.”

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Use of the combined UKAS and certification body logos.

UKAS have some restrictions on how the combined mark can and cannot be used.

The following rules apply:

The combined Mark can be used on:

  • Stationery – Letterheads, compliment slips, labels, invoices. The combined Mark may be used on business cards but must always be legible.
  • Advertising material – Posters, TV advertisements, promotional videos, newsletters, brochures. The combined mark can be used on a client company web-site but should not appear on web-pages which directly promote the client company’s products or services, so as to avoid the suggestion of ‘product certification’.
  • Internal walls and doors.
  • Exhibition stands.

The combined Mark cannot be used on:

  • Products.
  • Publicity information on products – This includes notices, labels, documents or written announcements, affixed to or otherwise appearing on goods or products. This restriction also applies to primary (e.g. blister packs) packaging and promotional products (see below).
  • Vehicles - Except if you have a poster or advert for your organisation in which you include the combined Mark, then you can put that poster (including the combined Mark) on a vehicle.
  • Buildings and flags.
  • Promotional gifts – Mugs, calendars, Christmas cards, paperweights.
  • Test and calibration reports and certificates
There are rules on size and colour of logos, but consult your certification body about this.

Monday 11 November 2013

Consultation on dichloromethane in hard ink removers and paint strippers

Under the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008, there is a European ban on dichloromethane. 

The HSE has proposed an amendment which will allow it still to be used.
The planned amendment will introduce necessary training requirements and a mandatory certificate of competence for professional users who wish to purchase and use DCM-based paint strippers.

SSS's stance has always been that ink strippers containing dichloromethane should be phased out of printing companies that still use it.

See the HSE's consultative document.

Monday 4 November 2013

Lancaster firm fined £10,000 after guillotine severs hand

Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd., a Lancaster timber firm has been fined £10,000 (inc. costs) after a guillotine severed the hand of one of its employees.
The circumstances were:
  • A worker was feeding pieces of wood into a diesel-powered guillotine, known as a logger.
  • The guarding on the machine was poor and it was possible to reach under the blade while operating the guillotine.
  • The system was to push wood in using his right hand and to operate the control lever with his left hand.
  • He accidentally pulled down the lever before he had removed his right hand from under the blade.
  • The blade passed through the top of his hand, just below his knuckles, breaking all the bones in its path and severing all the tendons.
  • Surgeons managed to sew his hand back together during a six-hour operation but he had to have part of his little finger amputated and now has very limited movement in his hand.

The HSE Inspector said:
“A long-serving employee at the firm suffered life-changing injuries because the company’s safety precautions on this machine weren’t anywhere near good enough. The guillotine had been at the timber yard for over a decade but it wasn’t in daily use and didn’t meet the standards of other equipment owned by the company. This case should act as a warning to firms to make sure all their equipment meets minimum safety requirements, no matter how frequently or infrequently it is used.”

Monday 28 October 2013

Cardboard manufacturer fined after accident due to poor guarding

Prowell Ltd., a corrugated cardboard manufacturer has been fined over £10,000 (inc. costs) after an employee’s arm was dragged into unguarded machinery at a factory in Ellesmere Port.
The circumstances were:
  • The company had installed the second-hand baler at the factory early in 2009 
  • They had relocated the control panel and hydraulic power pack to the outside of an enclosure around the machine to reduce the risk of fire.
  • This created an unguarded gap on the machine itself.
  • The firm failed to carry out a risk assessment on the use of the baler, despite employees being asked to clear out waste cardboard and dust inside the enclosure on a daily basis while the machine was still running.
  • A worker was cleaning the baling machine when his right hand became caught, causing crush injuries to his hand and breaking his arm

The HSE Inspector said:
“Prowell allowed the baler to operate for over three years without being properly guarded, which ultimately led to a worker being badly injured. It should have carefully considered the consequences of removing the control panel and power pack when the machine was first installed at the factory, and assessed the risks to workers. The company fitted a temporary mesh guard following the incident and has since installed a permanent fixed and interlocked guard. If these measures had been in place at the time of the incident then the employee’s injuries could have been avoided.”

Missing guards and interlocks cause loss of part of 2 fingers

Rose Tissues, an Oldham-based tissue manufacturer has been fined  £18,000 (inc.costs) after an employee lost the tops of two fingers in machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • Rose Tissues Ltd, processes and prints kitchen roll and toilet paper.
  • 2 of the guards on the machine on which the accident occurred had been removed at least a year before the incident. 
  • Interlock switches had been deliberately bypassed to allow the machine to carry on running.
  • There were no checks carried out on the machine to make sure the guards were in place.
  • On 17 May 2012, an employee trying to stop paper sticking to a seven-metre-wide print roller by attempting to clean it with a cloth while the machine was operating.
  • As he did this, the cloth became trapped between two rotating rollers, dragging in his right hand with it. 
  • He spent four days in hospital undergoing surgery to his hand, but lost the tops of two fingers.
  • Following the injury, the guards were found in a storage container in the factory and reinstated.

The HSE Inspector said:
“The guards were fitted to the machine for a reason and there’s simply no excuse for two of them to be missing for over a year. Rose Tissues Ltd had deliberately over-ridden essential electrical locks and cut out switches to allow the machines to run without the guards. The risk of workers’ hands being dragged in between two rollers is well known in the printing industry, but the company failed to carry out checks on its machines to make sure guards were in place. As a result, an employee has suffered an injury to his hand that will affect him for the rest of his life.”

Tuesday 22 October 2013

HVAC company fined following fall from height

HLA Services Ltd., a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company, has been fined £10,710 (inc, costs) after an employee suffered serious injuries in a fall whilst repairing an extraction unit in Newcastle.
The circumstances were:
  • HLA Services Ltd., sent 2 men a site in Newcastle to carry out repairs. 
  • The workers had not been provided with the correct equipment for work at height.
  • In addition, the workers had not been provided with a risk assessment or method statement for the work. 
  • The company failed to ensure the work at height was properly planned.
  • One of the men, Neil Pearson, climbed up a ladder to unfasten the clips which attached a rain cover to the top of the extraction unit.
  • Mr Pearson stepped off the ladder and stood on the small lip at the front of the unit to reach the back clips. 
  • He remained standing on the lip while a colleague moved the ladder to the other side of the unit, but fell when the rain cover became unstable
  • He suffered fractures to his left hand and wrist, and strained his right arm after falling nearly three metres.

The HSE inspector  said:
“This was a wholly avoidable incident resulting in serious injury. Work at height is inherently fraught with risk. It is therefore essential that it is properly planned, managed and monitored to ensure it is carried out safely, and that all necessary precautions are taken to prevent falls and protect workers. If the company had properly planned the work activity and provided suitable equipment, such as a tower scaffold, then it could have been carried out safely. Instead Mr Pearson suffered painful injuries which have had a massive impact on both his work and personal life.

Another accident due to inadequate guarding

Howie Forest Products Ltd, a Dumfries sawmill, has been fined £20,000 after a worker suffered severe injuries to his arm when it became trapped in poorly guarded machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The incident happened on a wood-stacking machine on12 January 2010 at the Kenmuir Sawmills site, in Dalbeattie.
  • A practice had developed for that particular machine whereby pre-cut banding strips were hung through the safety fence making them easily accessible but putting workers at risk of getting too close to machinery.
  • The company had failed to properly assess the risks to employees arising from inadequate guarding of the machine and by a fence that was too close to and too short to protect people close to the machine.
  • The company had failed to provide and maintain a safe machine and system of work for employees engaged in stacking and banding planks.
  • The company had failed to provide adequate safeguarding measures to stop the machine’s operation in the event a person got too close to the machine’s moving parts.
  • The company had failed to prevent the storage of banding strips on the boundary fence where they could fall through and lead to injury to anyone attempting to retrieve them.
  • An employee, Scott Cambell, was working on this machine.
  • He reached over a safety fence to pick up banding strips to tie the planks together. 
  • As he did, one of the machine’s arms, which lowers the planks into position, came forward and pinned his right arm against the inside of the fence trapping it.
  • His arm was then hit by the base block of the machine arm, breaking his elbow and leaving a bone protruding through the skin.
  • Mr Campbell needed surgery to repair the fracture and did not return to work full-time until four months later. His arm is not expected to recover the full range of movement.

Newer stacking machines were safeguarded with light beam grids which would cut out if an operator broke the light beam and could only be restarted by the use of a pull-cord. 
Angled safety fencing also reduced the size of the recesses around the machines to make it difficult for an operator to stand behind the area covered by the light beams and close to any dangerous moving parts.
The HSE Inspector said:
“This incident was entirely preventable. If the company had adopted a consistent approach to assessing the risks of all the machines at the site, the higher standard of protection that existed on the newer machines would have prevented this incident from occurring. Higher standards of protection on recent machines had been installed since October 2007 and at that point Howie Forest Products should have been aware that the safety measures on this stacking unit were inadequate.”

Friday 18 October 2013

Untrained forklift truck drivers results in (suspended) prison sentence for director

BB Recycling, a Corby recycling firm have been fined £640 (inc. costs) and its director given a suspended jail sentence for endangering workers after allowing them to operate fork lift trucks without proper training and then ignoring a notice requiring urgent action to address the safety failing.
The circumstances were:
  • The HSE had served an Improvement Notice against BB Recycling on 29 November 2011.
  • This required them to ensure that people who used forklift trucks were trained.
  • This was continually overlooked even after a deadline to comply was extended until 28 February 2012.
  • The company and director Russell Wayne Armer were also found to have no employer’s liability insurance.
The company was fined and Mr Armer given a fourth month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
The court have also applied to disqualify Mr Armer from acting as a company director, managing or in any way controlling a company for at least five years.
The HSE Inspector said:
“Employees were placed in unnecessary danger, but thankfully the situation was resolved before any one was injured. The requirement to train fork lift operators is long established across all industries so there is no excuse for this company and its director to blatantly ignore what was required as well as a notice that explicitly called for remedial action. Possessing valid employers’ liability insurance, meanwhile, is mandatory for all businesses. So I doubt that many employers will have much sympathy for a firm that was operating without this.”

Company fined over £25,000 because of unloading accient

Thompsons (UK) Ltd., of Croydon, that builds truck bodies has been fined over £25,000 (inc. costs) after a worker’s leg was crushed as a load slid and fell during unloading.
The circumstances were:
  • Lorry driver Andrew Trotter had delivered sheet metal packs in his  flatbed lorry.
  • The packs were six-metre steel sheets weighing almost 4 tonnes.
  • Thompson workers were transferring them to another lorry using a tandem lift by two counter-balanced forklift trucks.
  • There was a lack of planning which led to Mr Trotter being able to work in close proximity to the chassis lorry as the hazardous re-loading was taking place. 
  • The tandem lift was a complicated procedure that had been neither properly planned nor supervised. Had it been controlled and directed competently, the risk of any incident would have been significantly reduced.
  • The re-loading was unbalanced and as a second pack was being placed on the first, a loose wooden baton became dislodged and the whole sheet steel pack started to slide. 
  • Mr Trotter, who was picking up straps between the two lorries, was struck by the corner of the pack before it hit the concrete floor.
  • He suffered a fractured leg and muscle damage and has limited knee and ankle movement. 

The HSE Inspector said:
“This incident could easily have resulted in death and was completely preventable. The injuries Mr Trotter sustained have been painful and life-changing and, although he can drive his lorry, it is not certain how long he will be able to do so. Thompsons (UK) Ltd failed to make sure that the lifting operation of the sheet metal was properly planned and supervised and then, of course, carried out safely. In addition they had not provided adequate training in the use of the forklift trucks to one of their employees involved in the lifting operation. Employers must ensure that work equipment is used in the correct way and that only trained people are allowed to operate such equipment.”

Monday 14 October 2013

Company fails to act on saw guarding and employee severs tendons.

Kierbeck Thames Ltd., of Barking fined £14,000 (inc. costs) after an employee severed the tendons in his hand on an unguarded saw blade.

The circumstances were:
  • The company was served with a Prohibition Notice in May 2011 after another horizontal band saw was found to be inadequately guarded.
  • The standard of machinery guarding across the site was flagged as being a cause for concern, and the company was urged to make wholesale improvements and carry out regular checks in addition to making the offending saw safe.
  • The company had failed to make significant improvements.
  • 23 February 2012, a worker was using a horizontal band saw to cut down metal bars. 
  • The system of work for cutting down the bars was unsafe because it required employees to work close to dangerous moving parts. 
  • The cutting blade could have been better guarded or other measures imposed to keep workers at a safe distance.
  • He had climbed onto a bench at the back of the saw to undo clips and chains that held a bundle of bars together, but as he moved away he slipped and his right hand went into the machine.
  • The cutting blade was unguarded at this point and it sliced into his hand.
  • He needed a five-hour operation to repair the damage.

The HSE Inspector said:
“It is extremely disappointing that it took a worker to sustain a serious hand injury for Kierbeck Thames Ltd to finally acknowledge its guarding failings. The company was well aware that an incident was inevitable unless improvements were made, and yet our enforcement action and safety advice were seemingly ignored. Adequate safeguards must be in place to protect employees from dangerous moving parts, and the onus is on employers to instigate improvements on a proactive basis.”

Untrained forklift driver and poor system of work cause truck to overturn

Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies Limited of Bexley  has been fined £28,500 (inc. costs) after a forklift truck overturned during a risky and poorly planned operation to move and empty a skip.
The circumstances were:
  • The firm supplies reinforced steel bars (rebar) to the construction industry.
  • On 13 September 2011 the operator of the forklift was told to empty bins at the site, an instruction he understood to include small skips containing offcuts of rebar.
  • The operator of the forklift was untrained and unsupervised.
  • The system and method of work was unsuitable and posed clear risk.
  • A safer method than that used was available to empty the waste steel rebars in the form of tipper skips, which were in use elsewhere at the site.
  • He used a forklift truck to lift and move one of the skips to a larger waste container and balanced it on the edge. 
  • He then retracted the forks of the forklift and used them to tip the skip and empty the contents.
  • He then jumped from the cab and into the waste container in order to attach a sling to the empty skip and the forks of the forklift so that he could pull and lift it back out.
  • He climbed back into the cab and attempted to do so but the forklift overturned, with the lifting column coming to rest on the edge of the container.
  • The fact it didn’t hit the ground created a small gap between the cab and the floor that the operator was able to crawl through.
  • He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when the forklift overturned – making it all the more remarkable that he avoided harm.

The HSE Inspector  commented:
“The forklift truck should have never have been used to lift and manoeuvre the skip in this way. It was a system and method of work that posed clear risk, and the worker is extremely fortunate to avoid being seriously injured – possibly even killed had the forklift struck and crushed him as it overturned. The onus is on employers like Midland Steel Reinforcement Supplies to ensure operations are properly planned, managed and supervised, and that adequate training, instruction and equipment is provided to at all times to protect workers.”

Monday 7 October 2013

PHS fined £150,000 following aerosol explosion at waste site

An explosion occurred at a waste management site due to aerosols being allowed into a shredder. This caused three workers to sustain serious burns.

The circumstances were:

  • PHS did not have a procedure for checking the contents of boxes of waste materials delivered to the site. 
  • The company also failed to ensure that a chemical specialist monitored the waste being put into the shredder to check for flammable substances.
  • A risk assessment carried out in April 2010 identified the risk of aerosols being added to the shredder as being 'very unlikely', and the consequences of this happening as 'moderate' 
  • This assessment was inadequate and meant than no action was taken. 
  • 12 October 2010, 150 aerosol cans containing extremely flammable substances were put into an industrial shredder.
  • Three employees working near the shredder were caught in a fireball, and surrounding buildings had to be evacuated while firefighters dealt with the resulting blaze.
  • There was also extensive damage to the large warehouse that housed the shredder.

PHS were fined on 3 October 2013.

The HSE Principal Inspector said:
"The chemical waste industry has the potential to be extremely hazardous, and PHS could and should have done more to protect the lives of its employees and the public. The explosion and fire led to three workers being seriously injured and caused considerable disruption in the local area. The issue of waste materials being wrongly labelled is well known in the industry, so PHS shouldn't just have assumed it could add cardboard boxes to the industrial shredder without first checking what was in them. It could easily have made sure boxes were opened before they were put in the shredder. If it had, then the explosion and fire could have been avoided."

Friday 4 October 2013

Kebab manufacturer fined after hand was drawn into machinery

Kismet Kebabs Ltd, an Essex kebab manufacturer, has been fined £25,000 (inc costs) for serious safety failings after a worker suffered horrific injuries to his hand when it became trapped in unguarded machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a derinding machine on 9 February 2012.
  • Despite the known risks of machine operators having their fingers or other body parts drawn into machinery, particularly in running trap points, there was no interlock or tunnel guard on the machine preventing employees reaching the stripper comb or stopping the machine operating when it was in its open position for cleaning.
  • Training in the use of the machine was inconsistent. Employees had not been made aware of the risks and dangers which could occur during cleaning operations and the methods they should use to ensure they were not exposed to those risks.
  • A worker, Ethem Torunoglu,  was cleaning a derinding machine when he noticed a piece of meat or sinew caught in the stripper comb. 
  • While the machine was running he tried to dislodge it with a pressure washer.
  • When that failed he reached in. His hand was drawn into the machine between the stripper comb and the serrated roller above it.
  • He couldn't reach the stop button from where he was so the serrated roller continued to rotate over the back of his hand, grinding it away until a colleague came and turned off the machine.
  • He sustained significant injuries including losing the knuckles on his right hand, substantial damage to the tendons and veins and loss of flesh from his hand.
  • He has had substantial surgery since the accident.

The HSE Inspector said:
"This incident was wholly avoidable. Ethem Torunoglu was failed by the company's lack of proper training, inadequate assessment of risks, and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment. From Mr Torunoglu's point of view his life has been destroyed. He is unable to go back to work. He is unable to use his hand and only has about 10 per cent range of movement in it. His whole life has been affected and he relies on his wife for many of the tasks of daily living. The risks of in-running trap points - where there is a gap sufficient for something such as fingers or other body parts to be drawn in - are well known in the food manufacturing industry and Kismet Kebabs Ltd should have put in place suitable measures to prevent this type of injury from occurring. Instead Mr Torunoglu has been left with a serious injury from which he will likely never completely recover."

Man next to lorry crushed by paper reel

A man in his forties suffered life-threatening injuries when he was crushed under a paper reel on an industrial estate in Essex last week.

According to a BBC report, the accident took place at the Childerditch Industrial Park in Brentwood, Essex, at 11am on 25 September.
A spokesman for the Essex Fire & Rescue Service said that firefighters had assisted in moving the man from the rear of a lorry parked at Unit 51 on the estate to an air ambulance.
There is no information on what exactly happens but given the position of the man, it looks like he was near the reel handling truck and the reel slipped, crushing him. Should this be the case, then it is yet another avoidable tragic accident of a person who does not need to be next to a forklift or reel truck when it is lifting or lowering items on a vehicle or racking.
The man, who was said by the BBC to have suffered "multiple injuries", was then airlifted to Victoria Park and transferred to the major trauma centre at Royal London Hospital.

Conveyor manufacturer fined following loss of three fingers

Armistead Engineering Ltd, a conveyor supplier, has been fined £12,380 (inc. costs) after a worker severed three fingers in an unguarded machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a conveyor on 9 March 2012.
  • The conveyor had inadequate guarding over the drive mechanism.
  • A worker was attempting to clear some blocked wood from the conveyor 
  • As he did so his right hand came into contact with the sprockets and chains that drove the belt and he severed parts of his middle, ring and little finger.

The HSE inspector said:
"This incident could have been so easily prevented had the company not failed in their duties to ensure the machinery was safe. Armistead Engineering should have supplied adequate guarding with the machine and ensured workers did not have access to the dangerous moving parts of the conveyor. Sadly, because they didn't do this a man suffered painful, life-changing injuries."

Saturday 28 September 2013

Missing safety guard causes major hand injury

Howard Hunts (City) Ltd., were fined £15,400 (inc. costs) after a hand injury due to an unguarded printing press.
The circumstances were:
  • Adequate risk assessments had not been carried out, which would have established a safe method of operating the press.
  • Training provision was inadequate, and the injured worker had received no training or instruction on the safety features of the press.
  • Guards should have been in place to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the roller system on the printing press while it was running, but these had been removed four days earlier for cleaning and had not been replaced.
  • In addition to the injured worker, seven other people had also operated the machine with the protective safety guards removed. All were therefore placed at unnecessary risk.
  • The injured worker was using a printer's knife when filling an ink reservoir that fed rollers transporting ink to printing plates.
  • The knife stuck as he was filling the ink reservoir and his right hand was pulled between two rotating rollers and 'de-gloved', with the skin ripped away from the back of his hand. 
  • He managed to stop the machine using an emergency stop button before pulling himself free and alerting colleagues.

The HSE Inspector  said:
"The painful injury the worker sustained could have been avoided had the guards been in place when the press was running. A proper risk assessment would have identified the requirement of a safe system of work, and the necessity of proper training on how to safely use the machine.  Incidents of this kind occur all too often in the printing industry, and the onus is on companies like Howard Hunt to take adequate steps to control risks and protect their workforce."

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Aesica Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a North East pharmaceutical company, has been fined £107,803 (inc. costs) for a serious safety breach which left a worker fighting for his life in hospital.
The circumstances were:
  • In 2007 a bromine bulk storage tank failed its insurance inspection and
  • Its planned replacement was postponed until 2012.
  • The tank had been taken out of service which included removing short sections of connecting pipework. 
  • The removal left the rest of the pipework, including some valves, suspended from a set of flexible bellows which allowed movement in the pipework, but were not designed to be weight-bearing.
  • The bolts on the bellows were badly corroded increasing the likelihood that they would rupture under any stress.
  • Over the next five years while pipework at one end was disconnected, the other end was still connected to pipework for filling an adjacent tank with bromine, which left it contaminated.
  • A further section of bromine pipework, which could also have become contaminated with bromine, was also inadequately supported.
  • When a worker subsequently removed cables from a valve, the bellows failed releasing 7L of bromine over him. 
  • Bromine is classified as potentially fatal if inhaled and can cause severe skin burns. The employee spent 48 hours in a life-threatening condition after inhaling the corrosive substance and also suffered severe skin burns and damage to one eye.
  • He was in hospital for four weeks and continues to receive treatment for his injuries. He has not yet returned to work.

The HSE Inspector said:
"This was a serious incident with potentially fatal consequences which was readily preventable. All employers and particularly those handling dangerous chemicals must not assume a lack of previous incidents means risks are adequately controlled. Measures must be in place to ensure, through robust audit and review that this is due to effective management and not just good fortune. Maintaining the mechanical integrity of process plant and pipework is essential to preventing the loss of hazardous chemicals. Any changes to plant must be carefully assessed to ensure it does not increase the risk of failure. Measures must be in place through an on-going programme of maintenance and inspection to ensure the continued integrity of the plant according to risk.