Thursday 28 March 2013

Company ignored hand-arm vibration risk

A company ignored the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as a result of which 5 employees developed long term and debilitating health effects.

The employees of GKN Aerospace Services were engaged on the building of aerospace engine casings which required the prolonged use of vibrating hand tools.  This long-term use cause nerve and circulation problems which cause the effect know as "vibration white finger". The circulation problem caused their hands to become white in the cold and they are very painful as they start to warm up. The nerve damage affects their ability to carry out tasks requiring dexterity and they often drop objects.

They were carrying out these tasks between July 2005 and December 2011. Although the symptoms were observed during a health-surveillance problem, no action was taken to put into place controls to protect other employees.  However, GKN reported the instances to the HSE who:
  • Carried out an investigation
  • Issued an improvement notice
  • Prosecuted GKN for failing to properly identify and eliminate the risk of workers being exposed to vibration
As a result of the prosecution, GKN were fined over £35,000 (inc. costs).

The HSE specialist inspector stated, "Work-related health risks cannot be ignored, or pushed down the agenda. GKN had the resources to protect its employees from the well-known effects of exposure to hand-arm vibration, but failed to do so over an extended period. 

 As a result, five employees developed debilitating symptoms, which affect all aspects of their lives, and are unlikely to ever improve. Although most of them were redeployed, the company still failed to assess the risks and implement suitable measures to protect the remaining staff until HSE stepped in at the end of 2011.”

Source: SHP 28-3-13

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Smurfit Cappa fined £200,000

Smurfit Cappa were fined£200,000 on 21st March 2013 following an accident on a press used to stamp the metal lids that fit on either end of whisky bottle tubes. The press can apply a force of up to 35 tonnes.
After changing part of the machinery, the operator was testing it to make sure it produced the correct lid size. As he reached under the pressing tool to remove a lid, the tool stamped down on his hands.

He lost two fingers on his left hand, and two on his right hand. His little and index fingers on his right hand were also severed to the second knuckle.

The HSEfound that the operator had not been trained on how to operate the machine safely and the company had not carried out a risk assessment. In addition, the people supervising him had not received suitable training.

Inan earlier case, following an accident in 2009 at their Preston site, they were fined over £9000 (inc. costs) when an employee who was pushing waste onto a conveyor was forced onto it by a reversing van. Smurfit should have made sure pedestrians were kept away from moving vehicles by providing barriers or marked areas. 

Commenting after the verdict on the reversing van case, Imran Siddiqui, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: "One of Smurfit's employees suffered broken ribs as a result of the company's failings. But if he had been hit harder by the vehicle, or forced into the machine which baled the cardboard, then his injuries may have been a lot more severe. And, Mr Siddiqui pointed to the fact that, each year, an average of 61 deaths and 60,000 injuries are caused by vehicles in workplaces.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Apprentice breaks back in scaffold fall

A teenage apprentice broke his back in two places when he fell from a scaffold at a construction site.

Harris Scaffolding Ltd had erected a scaffold at the site in Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire. On 16 November 2011, the firm was called back to the site to make modifications to the scaffold, by creating working platforms at each corner so roofers could install rainwater downpipes.

The company sent an 18-year-old apprentice and a more experienced colleague to carry out the work. Although only having signed up to a scaffolding apprentice programme just five weeks earlier, the teenager was allowed to carry out the work unsupervised. His colleague hadn’t erected a scaffold for more than 15 years and received no refresher training.

There were no boards or guardrails in the areas where the apprentice was working, and he hadn’t been provided with a harness. He gained access to the areas via an unsuitable ladder and also by climbing on the outside of the scaffold. At times, he stood on a single-width scaffold board, or directly on tubing. He was standing on the platform when he fell more than three metres to the ground. He fractured two vertebrae and subsequently needed to wear a back brace for a number of weeks. He was unable to return to work for three months owing to his injuries.

The HSE visited the site on the same day and issued a Prohibition Notice to Harris Scaffolding for failing to implement a safe system of work.

HSE inspector Luke Messenger explained the work hadn’t been adequately planned, supervised, or carried out. He said: “In this case the company fell well below accepted standards and a trainee was badly injured as a result. It was lucky his career wasn't ended before it had properly begun. This case should serve as a reminder to all those involved in work at height of the need to ensure that work is properly planned and carried out safely. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff have the right equipment, that safe operating procedures are in place, and that persons carrying out work at height have the right training and supervision.”

Harris Scaffolding appeared at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on 22 March and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £6156 in costs.

Source: SHP 25-3-13

Network Rail fined £340,000 (inc costs) following fatality

Network Rail and a railway maintenance firm have been ordered to pay almost £500,000 in fines and costs between them in relation to a fatal incident.

On 30 September 2003, employees of GT Railway Maintenance Ltd (trading as Carillion Rail) were carrying out routine maintenance on a rail-engineering machine owned by Network Rail. An electrical fault caused part of the machine to move while one of the workers, Liam Robinson, was inside. He was trapped by the moving parts and subsequently died from crush injuries.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) investigated the incident and found there wasn’t an adequate risk assessment in place. The machinery had insufficient guardrails and workers were allowed to keep the engine running while maintenance was undertaken, which significantly increased the risk of injury.

ORR principal inspector of railways Darren Anderson said: “My thoughts today are with the family of Liam Robinson, and all those affected by this tragic incident. His entirely avoidable death was caused by Network Rail and GT Railway Maintenance’s lack of adequate safety precautions when accessing dangerous parts of this machinery. The sentence passed today by the court clearly demonstrates the seriousness of their offences.”

Network Rail appeared at Stafford Crown Court on 22 March and was found guilty of breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.11 of PUWER 1998 following a three-week trial. It was fined a total of £200,000 and ordered to pay £140,000 in costs.

GT Railway Maintenance Ltd appeared at an earlier hearing on 5 December 2012 and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.11 of PUWER 1998. It was fined £118,125 and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs.

Source: SHP 25-3-13

Monday 25 March 2013

Fall through fragile roof

A self-employed maintenance contractor has admitted safety failings after a friend, who was helping him on a job, fell through a roof at a disused factory.

Ashley Jones was hired to dismantle the roof of a disused rubber factory at Bullo Pill, Newnham in the Forest of Dean, on 4 September last year. He asked one of his friends to assist him with the job. The man climbed a ladder to access the roof and wasn’t warned it was fragile. There were no witnesses to the incident, and it’s thought the man was walking across the roof, which was made of fragile asbestos cement, when it gave way. He fell three metres to the ground and suffered a broken elbow. He was unable to work for three months owing to his injury.

The HSE investigated the incident and found Jones had failed to plan the work properly. The work should have been carried out from underneath the roof from either a cherry-picker or a scaffold tower. There were also no guardrails in place to prevent falls.

HSE inspector Sue Adsett said: “Ashley Jones is a general property maintenance worker and had neither the training nor experience working on industrial roofs. Falls from height are the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry but proper planning and simple precautions, such as working from platforms below when possible and using edge protection, can reduce the risks.”

Jones appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on 18 March and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was fined £1250 and ordered to pay £1000 in costs.

Conceding he accepted he didn’t have the required knowledge and experience to do the work, he said he usually worked on domestic properties but needed the extra work. He stressed there was no deliberate attempt to cut corners on safety and the failings were an oversight. He added that he fully cooperated with the investigation and has no previous convictions.

Source: SHP 20-3-13

Poor control of confined space work

Two workers were exposed to the risk of an explosion while carrying out unsafe welding on a fishing boat’s diesel tank.

The men, one of whom was only 17, were working for boat-repair company C & L Marine Ltd. They were asked to carry out cleaning and welding work to repair a fuel leak on the Margaret of Ladram, which was moored in Sutton Harbour, Plymouth.

The fuel tank was one deck down and accessed from a small manhole below the vessel’s net store. The workers were required to use buckets to empty the tank of more than 600 litres of residual seawater and diesel, and had been provided with rags to clean the inside in preparation for the welding.

Neither man was provided training for the job, nor were they supplied with any respiratory protection. They took turns to enter the tank to clean it, in order to have respite from the fumes. One of them started to find it difficult to breathe when he was inside the tank, and said he felt dizzy and faint.

The next day, one of the men used a grinder, causing sparks to fall on his workmate, who was holding a lamp to illuminate the work. Significant amounts of fumes were created and they evacuated the boat and contacted staff at the harbour for advice.

The harbourmaster visited the boat and halted further work after the company failed to provide documentation and permits to show the tank was safe in which to work. He then notified the HSE about the unsafe work.

The HSE visited the harbour and found that no gas monitor was used to measure available oxygen in the tank and no gas-free certificate was obtained before beginning the work. An electric fan was being used to blow the fumes out of the tank, and a second fan was also put outside in the net store. Neither fan had an extraction hose, which meant they just blew the fumes about.

Both men were unsupervised and unfamiliar with the tank work they were undertaking. C & L Marine also failed to considered the need to provide rescue equipment, such as harnesses and lifelines, or other appropriate emergency arrangements.

The firm was issued a Prohibition Notice, which ordered the repairs to stop until a safe system of working in a confined space was created.

HSE inspector David Cory said: “C & L Marine’s lack of preparation for this work showed very significant failings, which could have led to tragedy – they should have been well aware of the risks cleaning and then welding in the diesel fuel tank would have posed.The tank should have been thoroughly steam-cleaned or jet-washed, instead of being bucketed out and mopped with rags. There was no test for the presence of noxious or flammable gases, or whether there was sufficient oxygen in the tank before the men began work. If the diesel fuel residues had been sufficiently heated they would have created fumes which could have led to an explosion, or fire. Ventilation was either absent, or woefully inadequate.”

C & L Marine appeared at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on 18 March and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999, and reg.3(1)9(a), reg.4(2) and reg.5(1) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997. It was fined a total of £20,000 and ordered to pay £23,000 in costs.

After the hearing, inspector Cory added: “All employers involved in confined-space working must consider their activities properly, train and equip staff sufficiently, and reduce and control risks as much as possible. All confined-space work is high risk and, if not properly controlled, can go badly wrong, very quickly.”

Source: SHP 19-3-13

Monday 18 March 2013

Removal of signs cuts accidents

Reducing the number of roadsigns cuts accidents as drivers are less distracted.
One example is Kensington High Street where accidents were reduced by 47%.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is promoting this by having a competition that councils can enter and get recognition at a ceremony in June.
Can't help thinking that a government minister should be able to do better than have a competition.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Missing racking pins contributed to death

A paper manufacturer has admitted failing to adequately maintain a racking system, which collapsed, resulting in a worker sustaining fatal injuries from falling stock.
Northampton Crown Court heard the incident took place at Merley Paper Converters Ltd’s warehouse in Corby, on
16 March 2009.
Desanka Todorovic, 44, asked a forklift-truck operator to retrieve some flat-pack boxes from racking inside the warehouse. In order to access the boxes, the forklift operator used his vehicle to lift a pallet, which was positioned on top of the boxes. As he was lowering the pallet, the racking collapsed and several boxes of till rolls fell and landed on Mrs Todorovic, partially burying her underneath. She died shortly afterwards from crush injuries.

The HSE investigated the incident and found the racking was in a poor condition. The rack’s horizontal beams were not properly engaged in the uprights and hadn’t been secured with locking pins. The company was issued a Prohibition Notice, which ordered workers to stay out of the warehouse until the racking was made safe.
HSE inspector Roger Amery told SHP: “Had Merley Paper Converters properly erected and then properly maintained its racking, this incident would never have happened.  Quite a few companies attend to their machinery and health risks quite diligently, but then take their racking storage systems for granted. They fail to subject these to the inspections and maintenance that are essential. This neglect is sometimes accompanied by a general failure to grasp that quite small defects within a loaded racking system can have a massive effect on overall stability.”
Merley Paper Converters appeared in court on 13 February and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £30,974 in costs.
In mitigation, the company said it had engaged the services of a health and safety consultancy prior to the incident and feels it was let down by the advice it received. The firm also said it cooperated with the investigation and quickly complied with the enforcement notice.
 Source: SHP 19th Feb 2013

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Unsafe skip loader

A Kent businessman has been given a suspended prison sentence for supplying unsafe plant equipment, which was involved in a fatal incident. Guildford Crown Court heard landscape gardener Ken Pinkerton, 47, hired a one-tonne skip loader and a mini-digger from Brian Beavis, who traded as Heavy Plant Repairs.

Mr Pinkerton hired the equipment after being contracted to build a retaining wall at a house in Reigate, Surrey. On 28 September 2011, he was driving the mini-digger when it overturned on uneven ground in the garden of the house. He then used the skip loader to try to upright the digger, but while he was operating the vehicle it slipped backwards and reversed over some garden waste and overturned. He was thrown from the cab and the machine landed on top of him, causing fatal crush injuries.

The HSE investigated the incident and found a number of defects on the skip loader. There was no seat belt installed, the roll-over protection bar couldn’t be operated as a bolt was missing, and the engine cover, which was positioned under the driver’s seat, was not secured.

The investigation also learned that Beavis had supplied the machines without providing any user information. The HSE subsequently visited Heavy Plant Repairs’ depot in Canterbury and found defects on other pant equipment. In October 2011, a Prohibition Notice was issued to Beavis, which required him to ensure all plant equipment was in a safe condition.

HSE inspector Amanda Huff said: “Brian Beavis could have prevented the incident by making sure that the skip loader was properly maintained and safe. Skip loaders are at risk of rolling when they are used on uneven ground. Had the machine had a working seat belt and functioning roll-over protection, it is probable Mr Pinkerton would have survived the crash.”

Beavis appeared in court on 8 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s6(1)(a) of the HSWA 1974, for failing to ensure the equipment was supplied in a safe condition. He was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, and ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation to Mr Pinkerton’s partner.

Monday 11 March 2013

Evening Standard Article contrary to HSE statistics

In the London Evening Standard, an article states that the UK's safety record appears to be getting worse amid a "hostile" political climate to health and safety issues, according to the TUC.
The union organisation said fewer visits were being made to workplaces by health and safety inspectors to make sure staff were not being put at risk.  Local authority safety inspection teams are also working with "substantially reduced" funding, despite an increased in workplace deaths, said the TUC.
A report (not referenced in the article) said the upward trend in workplace fatalities will be not be reversed unless there is an increase in the enforcement of health and safety law in all workplaces.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The Government seems determined to water down health and safety laws despite recent increases in workplace fatalities. It seems incredible that ministers seem unconcerned by the cut in the number of workplace inspections at a time when more people are dying and getting injured at work."

Yet if we look at the HSE’s published statistics, then we see the following:

So, the non-fatal injury figures show a continuing downwards trend, whilst fatalities show a downwards trend which seems to have flattened.  OK, we’d like both to reduce at a faster rate, and self-employed statistics are depressing, but unless there has been a sharp upward trend in the past few months, then the article is certainly not aligned with HSE published data.  See article: