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.”