Thursday 15 August 2013

Suffolk textile company fined for CoSHH and noise breaches

A Suffolk textile company has been sentenced for serious safety failings after a worker suffered three years of ill-health and was left disabled following his exposure to chemicals.
The circumstances were:
  • The 57 year old worker was employed from 1993 to 2012 at Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company.
  • The company had failed to assess the health risks arising from working with hazardous reactive dyes, despite the risks of respiratory damage being well known in the industry. 
  • They also failed to provide their staff with adequate training or equipment to safeguard their health when working with the substances.
  • The company stopped a health surveillance programme, which could have helped to prevent his long period of ill health, in 2004. 
  • The worker had been suffering from chronic breathing difficulties since 2008, and had been hospitalised on a couple of occasions as a result. He was on a cocktail of drugs to suppress his symptoms. 
  • His symptoms improved markedly after he left the company and stopped working with chemicals.
  • In addition, the company failed to provide health surveillance for exposure to noise after 2007.

Gainsborough Silk Weaving Co Ltd was fined £30,000 (inc. costs). 
The HSE Inspector said:
"Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company Ltd fell well short of their responsibilities over a protracted time period. They neglected to assess the very real health risks involved and take the measures necessary to minimise those risks. The company should have installed suitable ventilation equipment for weighing and mixing the dyes. They should also have provided proper information, instruction, training and health surveillance for their employees. The lack of these left workers at a significant risk of contracting respiratory illnesses by their exposure to these chemicals. HSE has produced seven Textile Information Sheets on the safe handling of dyes and chemicals, all of which have been available since 2004.The risks of working with reactive dyes have been well known for many years. In addition, the company's failure to provide health surveillance as regards exposure to high noise levels at work has meant that some employees, previously identified as vulnerable, may have suffered further deterioration in their hearing due to continued exposure. Again the risk of employees suffering noise induced hearing loss from working in the weaving industry is well known and preventable."

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