Tuesday 25 February 2014

2 things you should know if you have air conditioning systems

If you have air conditioning systems, then you need to be aware of the following:

  • If the refrigerant in the system is an HCFC (see below), then it needs to be replaced by the end if this year.
  • If the total power of your air conditioning systems is 12 kW or more, then they must be inspected at least every 5 years.  The regulations that specify this are the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) Regulations where this is buried in the middle as regulation 21. 
How do I know the refrigerant is an HCFC?
Simply check the label on the air conditioning unit (the section outside, not the bits in the rooms).  This will state the code of the refrigerant, say R22 or R410A.  Check this against the list in Technical paper 10 available from 
http://www.strategicsafety.co.uk/Information.html .

Friday 21 February 2014

Pressure test using air instead of water causes horrific injury

Filtration Service Engineering Ltd, a Worcestershire engineering firm has been fined £45,325 (inc. costs) on 20 February 2014 after a worker lost both his legs in a factory blast.
The circumstances were:
  • On 8 December 2011 the company was testing a 335-litre vessel as there were concerns about the quality of the welding. 
  • However, instead of simply filling it with water (which has low stored energy) , the firm decided to use compressed air (which has high stored energy).
  • The factory’s compressed air supply was directly connected to one of the vessel’s openings. 
  • A valve, which could be manually opened and closed, and a pressure gauge were installed, and the vessel filled with compressed air. 
  • The pressure built up to such an extent that eventually the vessel exploded.
  • Clive Dainty was hit by part of the vessel, forcing him into a cabinet against a wall.
  • He was hospitalised for several months and had to have both legs amputated. He also suffered head injuries and has severely restricted movement in his arms, which have been repaired with metal plates.
  • The force of the blast also threw a fire extinguisher through a nearby wooden staircase.

The HSE inspector said:
“The injuries sustained in this incident were more akin to those sustained on a battlefield. The vessel exploded like a bomb during the course of a normal working day, and everyone in the factory was at risk from the operation because no measures were put in place to protect them. Pneumatic testing is a dangerous activity and significant planning is required to ensure the risks are managed. The management of health and safety in this factory was woefully inadequate and simple measures could have been implemented to prevent the incident from happening. An assessment of the risks involved in pneumatic pressure testing should have identified that air was not a suitable testing medium. The test could have been carried out by simply filling the vessel with water. It is a miracle that more people were not injured and that nobody lost their life.”

Removed guarding causes broken arm

One of the country’s largest plastic recycling plants, MBA Polymers UK Ltd, in north Nottinghamshire, has been fined £10,851 (inc. costs) on 14 February 2014 after a worker suffered a broken arm when it became caught in machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The worker was working alone on a night shift on 2 May 2012 in an area at the top of the factory when the incident happened.
  • He was checking on an auger, a spiral which pushes materials through a metal tube.
  • There was a lack of guarding on this part of the equipment. Guards had been removed and not replaced, leaving the rotating parts unguarded.
  • His sleeve got caught on a bolt protruding from the electric motor driving the auger spiral. 
  • This twisted his sleeve so severely it acted like a tourniquet and broke his arm. 
  • At the same time, the twisted clothing broke the motor driveshaft and the worker was able to cut himself free and call for help.

The HSE inspector said:
“This man suffered very serious injuries to his arm but had he not been fortunate enough to be able to free himself, it could easily have resulted in amputation. Incidents involving entanglement on rotating machinery can be easily avoided if suitable guarding is maintained. The guarding defects had been raised by employees and MBA Polymers was aware of the situation, so there is no excuse for failing to take action.”

Poor lifting practices causes loss of 2 toes

Alumasc Precision Ltd, a Northamptonshire engineering firm has been fined over £16,000 (inc. costs) after a worker sustained a serious foot injury when lifting equipment failed.
The circumstances were:
  • A 400kg die that was being transported across a tool room on 18 May 2012.
  • Although the top half of the die was secured to the crane by eye bolts, the bottom half was secured only by a G-clamp. 
  • As it was being moved, the bottom half fell away and struck the worker on the left foot.
  • Two of his toes, including his big toe, were so severely injured they had to be amputated. 
  • The incident could have been prevented with the use of a robust strap fitted across both halves of the die to prevent the two halves from becoming detached.

The HSE Inspector  said:
“This employee has suffered a severe and needless injury that could have been avoided if the right accessories had been used. Companies must adequately plan and organise all lifting operations – including consideration of the lifting accessories that are being used, and assessments on how lifts are carried out.”

Poor guarding claims two fingers

Dina Foods, a Park Royal food company was fined  £5,477 (inc. costs) on 19th February 2014 after an employee lost the ends of two fingers in a poorly-guarded machine.
The circumstances were:
  • On  4 May 2013 the worker was cleaning the machine and was trying to detach a drum when his foot pressed an operating pedal. 
  • The machine started running and his right hand was caught in the rotating mechanism
  • He suffered partial amputation of the ring finger and serious injury to the little finger of his right hand

The HSE Inspector  said:
“This worker has been severely affected by the injury and now has a long-term impairment. It may have serious consequences on his future work prospects, especially where dexterity is a requirement. If Dina Foods had ensured the machinery was suitably guarded, the incident would not have happened. It was only after enforcement action by HSE that the firm introduced measures that should have been taken before to protect against access to dangerous parts of the equipment. It is not uncommon for employees in manufacturing industries to be injured when cleaning unguarded, operating machinery. The law specifies the measures that should be taken and HSE will prosecute companies which have sub-standard safety precautions in place.”

Saturday 15 February 2014

Man dies during paper-cutting guillotine blade change

Those of you in the Printing Industry may have heard of the recent accident where a man lost his life whilst changing a guillotine blade.

I first spotted the risks of blade changing at a printing company about 12 years ago and have done 160 risk assessments of guillotine blade changing since then.  At training courses I always stress that guillotines are protected up to the eyeballs with light curtains, two-handed control, etc., during normal operation, but the same level of protection is not there during blade change.

My anticipated worst-case outcomes are:
  • Amputation of the foot, or part of it, if the blade is dropped, or 
  • Major lacerations if the blade is swiped horizontally against the body of the person changing the blade or someone nearby.  
I am stunned by this being a fatality.  We don't have the details, but it looks like this was a one-man operation.  Blood flow from a major laceration which, with available first aid support could have been stemmed, could not be tackled by the deceased on his own.
The system of work should be:
  1. Use trained personnel for this.
  2. Have the box as close as possible to the guillotine and at the same height (rather than being on the floor). 
  3. Ensure that housekeeping is good and the area is free from trip and slip hazards.
  4. Use appropriate tools. 
  5. Where there are pedestrian/vehicle routes by the guillotine, barricade the area to protect others.
  6. Avoid this being done as a lone worker operation; however, others must not be "within range" of the blade or distract the person changing the blade.
  7. Whilst not being part of the blade changing operation, ensure that blades in the boxes are stored so that the cannot fall; good practice is to have a simple chain loop and hook so that the box is held against the wall.

This picture shows tools [4], covering blade edge, barricading [5] but housekeeping [3] is poor (trimmings on floor are a slip hazard), and where is the box to which the blade is to be moved?

    Wednesday 5 February 2014

    6 month sentence and £80,000 fine for "Dickensian" owner of lead processing company.

    The owner of LDB Light Alloys Ltd. in Boughton, Nottinghamshire received a 6-month suspended prison sentence and fined £80,000 (inc. costs) failing to protect workers from the risks of lead poisoning after three employees became seriously ill.
    The circumstances were:
    • LDB Light Alloys makes lead sheeting, which involves processing molten lead.
    • Extraction systems, personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, hygiene and rest facilities were all unsatisfactory.
    • No air monitoring or medical surveillance was provided.
    • Personnel had not been told about the effects of lead or how to recognise the symptoms of over-exposure.
    • Lunch breaks were taken in an old, lead-contaminated caravan with no running water. Water was collected in contaminated plastic milk cartons from a contaminated hand washing area in the workshop. Clothes worn for work were not removed before eating and drinking and there was no toilet facility at the factory.
    • One worker, Brook Northey, had the task of scraping off dross (solid impurities on the surface of molten lead in a crucible) and pouring the excess into containers.
    • He required specialist treatment at the West Midlands Poisons Unit after working at LDB Light Alloys Ltd.
    • Mr Northey was hospitalised for three weeks in May 2011 and continued to receive treatment for over a year. He was also off work for a year and can never work with lead again.
    • Prior to being diagnosed with lead poisoning he had been admitted to hospital with renal problems.
    • The HSE served a Prohibition Notice halting all work with immediate effect.

    Sentencing Mr Brown, His Honour Judge Dickinson said:
    “It would take the skill of Charles Dickens to adequately describe the conditions in which your staff worked.”
    The HSE inspector said:
    “Overexposure to lead can have significant long and short-term effects on employees and their lives. Anyone working with lead must put systems in place to control the risks. Mr Brown was reckless in his attitude to the health of his employees. He had not controlled or assessed their exposure to lead or other substances by controlling them at source and had not provided suitable respiratory or   personal protective equipment. He had allowed employees to eat and drink in contaminated areas and had failed to make them aware of the risks and symptoms they might have.”