Thursday 28 February 2013

FFI charged in one third of HSE inspections

Between a quarter and a third of inspections carried out by the HSE since its cost-recovery scheme came into force in October last year found a material breach of health and safety law, resulting in a fee for intervention (FFI) on the duty-holders involved.
This was revealed by the regulator’s head of field operations, David Ashton, in his presentation on the new scheme to delegates at the IOSH Conference on 26 February. The first run of invoices, which was initiated last month, has so far seen 1400 bills sent out to errant duty-holders, meaning, said Ashton, “the money is really coming in”.
But he was keen to emphasise that FFI is not only – or even mainly – about the money. It has, he said, myriad other advantages for the improvement of health and safety management and compliance.
He explained: “The 35-per-cent cut to our budget announced in 2010 will take us up to the General Election in 2014, so resources are a significant element of the cost-recovery scheme.  If we ask, what is best for our customers, the answer is: an adequately resourced regulator. Thanks to FFI, we should be able to start recruiting new inspectors soon.”
Mr Ashton also highlighted what he called “the multiplying effect” of the scheme: “From the cases we take and the information we publish, companies realise that they really don’t want to experience ‘the knock’ from the HSE, followed by a bill. I don’t want to call it a deterrent – I see it as more of a spur to good behaviour, and this is a definite advantage of the scheme.”
Briefly explaining how the scheme works, Mr Ashton said that for companies that comply with the law in all significant respects, the HSE’s advice is free, while those who don’t will be charged for its time to put things right.
He reassured delegates: “We won’t go looking for breaches, easy targets, or deep pockets. And there are no financial targets for inspectors. We won’t change what we do, which is look at sites, see what’s wrong, assess the significance of that and act accordingly. If there is a material breach, it will trigger a bill for our time.”
The FFI procedure, once it has been trigged by determining a material breach – which, Mr Ashton emphasised several times, is clearly explained in the myriad guidance on FFI available on the HSE’s website – works as follows.
The company will get a formal notice of contravention, which will include details of what is wrong (i.e the contravention itself), what action is required, and information about FFI. This covers the entirety of the inspection process and the time necessary afterwards to report on that work – all of which is charged at £124 per hour.
Mr Ashton explained: “FFI may apply where an enforcement notice or prosecution is not appropriate, so they are not triggers for FFI. But FFI almost always applies where formal enforcement action is taken in relation to a material breach.”
Invoices are sent after two months, and the duty-holder has 30 days to pay. There is a formal disputes and queries mechanism, though Mr Ashton revealed that of the 1400 invoices sent so far, the number of appeals has been “in single figures”.
He also touched on the impact of the scheme on his staff – the HSE field inspectors who must implement it on the front line. “It has been difficult,” he said. “Some have said they didn’t join the HSE to be a revenue collector but I ask them to turn around and look at what is best for our customers, and that is an adequately-resourced regulator.”
He argued that FFI is actually a spur to consistency and efficiency and that the pressure it puts on HSE staff to do their job well is “good pressure”. He added: “I worry about privatising regulation but I also worry about leaving it totally at the mercy of government funding. So, this system could be a happy medium – we will find out!”
Consistency of approach by individual inspectors was raised as a question by a delegate, to which Mr Ashton responded: “We follow the Enforcement Management Model, and our thought processes and internal guidance are all available to everyone to view, so there is total transparency. We also have a peer-review process, which, professionally, is extremely valuable. And there are 100-per-cent quality checks on all invoices we issue.”
He concluded: “I think FFI is here to stay and, some years from now, we will be glad we did it.”
Source: SHP 28 Feb. 2013

Monday 11 February 2013

Company used unqualified consultant

A scientific instrument company and a safety consultant have appeared in court after workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals.  Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard that employees at Prior Scientific Instruments Ltd’s factory in Fulbourn were exposed to harmful substances between September 2002 and December 2009.
In November 2009, the partner of paint sprayer, Adam Coventon, contacted the HSE as she was concerned that he was becoming ill due to the nature of his work. Mr Coventon’s job involved him painting small components for scientific instruments. He was also required to clean the metal before painting it by using a trichloroethylene, which acts as a powerful de-greaser. The chemical is a known irritant as it contains isocyanates.
The 36-year-old suffered irritation to his eyes, breathing difficulties, headaches, and lost the ability to concentrate. He is now unable to work, owing to his conditions.
The HSE visited the site and identified that workers who were using a solder were being exposed to a rosin called colophony, which is a respiratory irritant. The investigation identified the company didn’t have suitable systems in place to remove the hazardous fumes from the workplace. It also failed to provide employees with health surveillance.
The company had contracted Keith Whiting, trading as KW Consultants, to act as its health and safety consultant. However, he didn’t provide suitable information and advice to enable the company to ensure the health and well-being of employees.
The HSE issued a Prohibition Notice to Prior Scientific Instruments, which required it to cease using the degreaser and the solder until a safe system of work was created. It also issued an Improvement Notice, requiring the company to review its health and safety management arrangements.
HSE inspector Robert Meardon said: “Prior Scientific Instruments failed to ensure the health of its employees because it employed the wrong person to give it health and safety advice. Mr Whiting's background was in quality control and he did not have adequate knowledge of health and safety for the work going on in this company. He failed to make them aware of the dangers regarding the use of hazardous chemicals.”
Prior Scientific Instruments appeared in court on 10 January and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £9000 and ordered to pay full costs of £2852.

Keith Whiting also appeared at the hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(2) of the same Act. He was fined £1500 and ordered to pay £1500 in costs. Whiting said he only worked one day a month for Prior Scientific Instruments and claimed the company didn’t listen to his advice. He has no previous safety convictions and cooperated with the investigation.
After the hearing, inspector Meardon added: “In 2010, the Government commissioned Lord Young to review health and safety laws and, among the findings, the inquiry recognised that there were a lot of people claiming to be health and safety experts, who were, in fact, not.  The national register of health and safety consultants (OSHCR) has been set up as a result. All the consultants who are registered are members of a recognised professional body, and it is important that firms seeking to use a consultant choose one from the register.” The inspector confirmed that Whiting is not a member of the register
Source: SHP 17 January 2013

Appalling state of electrics

A Suffolk plastics manufacturer has been fined after electrical fittings at its production site were found to be dangerous.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered serious issues with the construction and maintenance of the electrical systems at Techplas in Sudbury on 9 and 10 October 2011 after investigating a separate unrelated issue.
Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court heard on 3 January 2013 that HSE inspectors found:
  • live 400 volt cabling hanging off the wall (shown in photo)
  • a broken socket with live 400 volt cabling coiled on the floor
  • fused spurs and electric switches hanging off single-core cabling, leaving the live 230 volt wiring inside exposed
Guards had also been removed from a plastic forming machine, exposing heating elements that could become dangerous as soon as the machine was switched on.The HSE served three Prohibition Notices on the company ordering urgent improvements to be made. Magistrates were told the electrical systems posed a significant and immediate danger to workers.
Techplas Limited, of Unit 1A Milner Road, Chilton Industrial Estate, Sudbury, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,930 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
After the hearing HSE inspector Saffron Turnell, said: "The state of the electrical systems at Techplas was simply appalling and it is only a matter of luck that nobody had been injured or electrocuted.”
Source: HSE release HSE-E-001/13

Sunday 10 February 2013

Lovely testimonial from Deburring Services

Finding SSS was like finding the golden nugget. 
They have eased the burden of health and safety, the whole process was professional, cost effective and on-time.  We will certainly recommend them. 
When we go forwards to ISO 14001, we will use SSS.
John Wood
Deburring Services Ltd.