Monday 24 March 2014

Testimonial on health and safety 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, MD, Deburring Services, Cheltenham

Fall from 1.5m results in post-concussion syndrome

It doesn't take much height for a fall to cause long term injuries.
In this case, a man fell from 1.5m at a caravan company.
The circumstances were:
  • The man was employed at Roma Caravans in  Silsoe, Bedfordshire.
  • He was working on a makeshift platform, comprising an unsecured woodend plank across a metal frame on 21st February 2012.
  • The platform was inherently unsafe and was unsuitable.
  • He attempted to retrieve his tools but the far end of the plan swung up and hit him.
  • He fell to the floor, banged his head but otherwise appeared to have suffered no other injury. 
  • However, he collapsed two days later and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. 
  • He has since suffered from severe headaches and pains to his hip.

Roma Caravans was fined £8,527 (inc. costs) on 17th March 2014.
The HSE Inspector said:
“This incident was entirely avoidable, and illustrates the need for duty holders to ensure work of this nature is carefully planned and managed at all times. By not providing suitable equipment, Roma Caravans put the safety of a worker at risk. Appropriate and stable work platforms should always be used for any work undertaken at height.”

Sunday 23 March 2014

Testimonial covering all 3 areas of SSS support

We originally engaged Phil to implement a simple straightforward H&S system to enable us to manage our site health & safety. Having implemented it very easily and with the minimum amount of pain, Phil then took our old ISO 9001 quality management system manual and restructured it so we now have an intranet based manual which is simple and straightforward to follow.  Phil then integrated the SSS INTACT management system to manage all our audit meetings and actions so we now have a suite of simple systems in place to manage the business efficiently.

Ian Mence, Bushell & Meadows, Tewkesbury

See more about support from Strategic Safety Systems

Tips when outsourcing health and safety support

It makes a lot of sense to outsource health and safety support, but I’ve seen some shocking examples provided by others at companies I visit; not legally wrong, just totally ineffective. So, what should you look for when choosing who can provide such support?

Experience and qualifications
This should go without saying, but there are examples where the provider of the support has no experience in that sector.  Occasionally, I have to decline work because I am not competent in that speciality. So, you should ask them to verify that they have provided support in the same or comparable sectors to yours.
For assurance on qualifications, someone who is CMIOSH should be OK as they are obliged to operate within their competencies; with others, you will need to look more closely. Surprisingly, some trade association advisors are not at this level and I know of one major trade association where none of their H&S advisors are CMISOH! (I have been called in to carry out new assessments because their's were rejected, for example by the local fire service).

Avoid masses of paperwork
Ask to see examples of their work. A thick folder with lots of forms and padding is an indication to be concerned about this provider; it is just not workable. What you should look for are concise records and actions plans.  For example, a set of risk assessments is not enough; what you want is an action plan arising from those assessments. And some organisations just provide masses of forms and text and then expect you to do the work!

Avoid the tick-box/clipboard mentality
This might be difficult to spot without watching how somebody operates. But what you should look for is someone who gets close, communicates with operators and understands what they do, not someone in a suit standing at a distance with a clipboard.

Avoid tie-in contracts
Some providers expect to sign you up for 2 years or so. Avoid these like the plague.

Look for someone who will minimise their work
Done properly, health and safety support should be a diminishing requirement as you get on top of issues and gain ownership. So you should look for someone who is working towards reducing their input in future years.

Ask to see references or testimonials
This is something you would do when employing someone, so why not do it when you are considering them as a service provider?  Our testimonials are on the home page of our website, .

See more about health & safety support from Strategic Safety Systems

Or if you have any questions on health and safety, call me on 07768 011667 or e-mail me at

Friday 21 March 2014

Engineering company fined £12,000 for overridden interlocks

TG Engineering Ltd., of Ferndown was fined £12,369 (inc.costs) after a part was ejected past an open guard where the interlock had been disabled.
The circumstances were:
  • The incident occurred on a CNC lathe.  
  • This has a interlock on the guard which prevents high speed when the guard is open.
  • The interlocks on the guard on this machine and several other machines had been disabled.
  • The operator selected an incorrect speed which meant that the spindle speed was much too high, resulting in the workpiece and clamp being ejected.
  • These hit the operator on the head.

The HSE inspector Matthew Tyler :
“CNC machines are powerful with the potential to cause serious harm, and the employee was extremely fortunate to escape relatively unharmed in this instance. Using the interlocking guards provided with the machine would have prevented access to dangerous parts and reduced the risk of ejection of materials and entanglement. The disabling of interlocks is a common failure in engineering companies and this prosecution should serve as a reminder to the risks involved.”

Lack of adequate guarding on textile machine causes finger crush injury

Lawton Yarns Ltd., of Dewsbury was fined £5,648 (inc. costs) after a worker was caught in an unguarded part of a machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The company bought a miniature carding machine second-hand in 2000 and fitted guards.
  • The guards did not cover access to the carding rollers from underneath.
  • The company had several carding machines and the risks of access from the underside are well known within the industry.
  • A worker reached under the rollers to reach some fibres, was caught and drawn in
  • Three fingers were badly crushed.

The HSE Inspector said:
“Lawton Yarns’ key failing was not to assess the risks adequately in the first place. The assessment is the platform for informing you of the controls and measures you need. If the former is lacking, then so are the controls. In this case, a vital risk was missed and an employee now has to live with the serious consequences. The incident demonstrates that a risk assessment is not an administrative, paper exercise. If companies do not do it properly in the first place, they will always struggle to put in place proper safeguards.”

Monday 17 March 2014

Ceiling company fined £25,000 for inadequate guarding

CEP Ceilings Ltd.,  Stafford, was fined a total of £25,200 (inc. costs) after a worker required skin grafts on his arm which had been caught in machinery.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on a laminator on 21 January 2013.
  • CEP Ceilings had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. 
  • In addition, no safe system of work was in place, and insufficient monitoring of employees took place.
  • Covers protecting the drive mechanism to rollers had been removed to give easier access to the roller.
  • The injured person was removing hardened-on glue from the lower roller when his left arm was caught in the drive mechanism.
  • His forearm was caught in the intermeshing metal gears, which chewed up a large chunk of tissue. He needed a skin graft to help it heal.

The HSE inspector said:
“Mr Turney suffered a painful injury as a result of CEP Ceilings Ltd failing to effectively assess the risk to employees from using and cleaning the machine and then prescribe a system of work which kept employees safe. Workers were left to determine their own methods of cleaning machinery and these unsafe methods had existed for many years. Safe systems of work, information, instruction and training are required to control the risks during both production and maintenance activities. A robust system to monitor employees also needs to be in place to detect any poor practices.”

Company fined £18,200 for overridden interlock

Sika Ltd., a Welwyn Garden City manufacturing firm was fined £18,200 (inc. costs) on 14th March 2014 after an agency worker suffered a hand injury whilst clearing a blockage on a poorly-guarded palletiser machine.
The circumstances were:
  • The incident happened on 12 October 2012 on a palletiser.
  • Sika Ltd had failed to properly assess the risks from using the palletiser. 
  • In addition insufficient training and instruction had been provided to workers, and their supervision was inadequate.
  • Machine guarding was inadequate to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the machine.  Specifically, an interlock had been overridden.
  • A blockage had occurred and the injured person was clearing the blockage via the open guard with the overridden interlock. 
  • As he restarted the palletiser, his hand, which was resting on the top frame of the machine, was struck by a moving part which operated the claw mechanism.
  • He suffered multiple fractures of his hand and lacerations and was unable to return to work to perform a similar role for several months.

The HSE Inspector  said:
“Sika Ltd failed to implement effective measures to ensure workers were not exposed to dangerous parts of machinery. They failed to properly assess the risks, ensure the machine was adequately guarded, and that workers were effectively supervised. This has resulted in a worker suffering a serious injury which has greatly impacted on his ability to work. The hazards from automated machinery, notably palletisers, are well known and there is a history of serious and fatal accidents occurring at palletiser machinery. Clearing blockages can lead to sudden start-up or movement of machinery so adequate guarding and isolation procedures are essential.”

Friday 7 March 2014

Thames Cryogenics fined £9,500 after acetone fire

Thames Cryogenics, a specialist manufacturer of vessels and pipework designed to carry liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen was fined £9,500 (inc. costs) after a welder was seriously burned during unsafe hotwork.
The circumstances were:
  • There was an open bowl containing 7 litres of acetone, a highly flammable liquid, near a welding operation.
  • Thames Cryogenics did not consider the use of large quantities of acetone in an open container to be an issue, and there were 600 litres of acetone were on the premises at the time of the incident.
  • The acetone was intended for use as a degreasing agent, but that welders also cooled items in the open bowl.
  • The welder used it to quench a hot work piece and it ignited.
  • He attempted to move the container outside and it spilt onto and through his trousers. 
  • He was in hospital for a week and needed skin grafts.

The company admitted that the bowl in question had been in place since 1986, despite its highly flammable properties.
Inspectors identified numerous issues with the company’s safety management system, which resulted in three Improvement Notices being served to instigate changes. Following the incident, and in order to comply with the notices, smaller sealed containers were introduced for storing acetone for welders to use.
The HSE inspector said:
“This was an entirely preventable incident that left an employee with serious and extremely painful injuries. Fortunately he was able to return to work, but he was reliant on painkillers for several months afterwards as the burns healed following his skin grafts. The standards governing the use of highly flammable liquids are well established and well known in industry, so it is difficult to comprehend how Thames Cryogenics could mistakenly believe that leaving an open bowl of acetone seemingly unchecked for a prolonged period – in this case several decades – was acceptable. The incident demonstrates the importance of actively managing health and safety and following health and safety advice and guidance where appropriate. The use of flammable liquids must be properly risk assessed and controlled in industrial environments.”

Monday 3 March 2014

Case against Taunton fireworks organiser dropped.

The case against Geoffrey Counsellthe organiser of the fireworks display at Taunton where a crash on the M5 occurred has been dropped. The crash, on 4th November 2011, killed 7 and injured 51. 
The display was at a rugby club close to the motorway.  Smoke from the display drifted across the motorway.  In itself, this would not have caused much of a problem, but it combined with naturally-occurring fog to form smog, which was so thick that motorists on the northbound carriageway likened it to having a tin of paint thrown over their windscreens.
The argument is that smog is not unknown and was common in London before the Clear Air Act.  
However, this was many years ago and its occurrence is not something which most people nowadays consider.
Judge Justice Simon directed the jury at Bristol Crown Court on 9th December 2013 to return a verdict of not guilty.

The judge stated, "The prosecution case required Mr Counsell to appreciate and react more or less instantly to something not thought to be a hazard to anyone and had no previous reason to think it was a hazard.There was no proper basis that you could have concluded that a reasonable person would have appreciated a reasonable risk and reacted to it to stop the display. The Prosecution must show a risk that is more than fanciful and theoretical, one which would require a reasonable person to do something about it.  It focusses on the important aspect of foresight without the benefit of hindsight."

See article on this.

Plaxtons fined £32,000 after fall from height

Alexander Dennis Ltd., otherwise known as as Plaxtons was fined £32,000 (inc. costs) on 24 February 2014 after a worker fell from height whilst working on  a gantry.
The circumstances were:
  • On 7 June 2012, a worker was preparing the top level of a double-decker bus for painting at the Plaxtons site in Anston, South Yorkshire, where vehicles are repaired and refurbished.
  • The four gantries for this type of work were unstable and inadequately guarded.
  • Only two had a single metal bar hinged across the access steps and none had inner guard rails to properly protect employees from falls. 
  • They did not extend the length of a bus so workers would move along by pushing against the vehicle while standing on the gantries, which were set on wheels but with no brakes.
  • Plaxtons had not provided employees with a safe method of working at height and had failed to suitably train them to carry out that type of work.
  • The platform the worker was on did not have a gate or bar fitted to the access steps. 
  • As he worked on the bus exterior, he moved closer to the open edge, took a step too far, lost his balance and fell 2m to the ground.
  •  He suffered head injuries, a broken and dislocated elbow and a fractured big toe.

The HSE Inspector  said:
“Alexander Dennis Ltd did not properly assess the risks its workers faced in performing their day-to-day work and the gantries provided to them were obviously not fit for purpose. In addition, the workers themselves had not been given the right training for working at height, which is one of the most dangerous elements in any industry. For a company of its size and reputation, I would have hoped that Alexander Dennis would be setting the standards in safety at its sites. Instead, this is one of a number of cases in the recent past where HSE has had to take enforcement action against the company. Work at height is inherently fraught with risk and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury.
Source: HSE 24 February 2014

SSS support results in retraction of Improvement Notice and FFI

Strategic Safety Systems support to a client company has resulted in an Improvement Notice and associated Fee For Intervention (FFI) being withdrawn.

The company produces roll labels, on equipment including Mark Andy machines.  In the opinion of the inspector, "there is not a safe system of work in place to isolate and lock off power supplies to the Mark Andys and associated equipment during maintenance, clearance of blockages and safety checks on the machine to prevent the plant from being started whilst someone is in a position of danger."

In the SSS response to this, we were able to show that there are no hidden space and there is nothing special about roll label machines such as Mark Andys which makes them different to thousands of other pieces of machinery.  Therefore, in the absence of the HSE issuing improvement notices to every company which does not have an isolation system, the improvement notice and FFI were contestable.

In response to this, the HSE retracted the improvement notice and corresponding FFI.

This was an example where intervention is occurring for a spurious reasons, one suspects so that FFI targets can be met.  SSS understand that the HSE budget for an inspection and letter incurs an FFI of £750 and an inspection and improvement of prohibition notice incurs an FFI of £1500.

See more about SSS H&S support.

Details of the objection were the following:
  • In other companies where people have been injured on roll label presses, the injuries have occurred where interlocks on guards over in-running nips have been disabled.
  • The client company have a rigorous interlock checking system and so the primary cause of injury on these presses is controlled.
  • Isolation and lock-off is essential when there is the possibility of a person being in a hidden position of danger, but roll label printers such as the Mark Andys at the client company have no hidden spaces.
  • The nature of roll label printing where there is a continuous web means that there is no such thing as a blockage. 
  • Similarly, safety checks are those on the presses are the checking of interlocks.  This is done by lifting each guard and verifying that the machine cannot be started. This obviously requires power to the machine.
  • Therefore, clearance of blockages and safety checks cited in the improvement notice are either not carried out or cannot be done with the machine isolated.