What are the occupational risks of working in the Steel industry?

What are the occupational risks of working in the Steel industry?

It has been widely reported recently that nearly 2,000 steel workers based in the North East are to be laid off in the next year. Here at Roberts Jackson we speak to people from the steel industry on a daily basis and were shocked and saddened to hear the unfortunate news of a big plant closure employing a large amount of labourers.

The steel industry is regarded as one of the highest risk environments for workers and causes numerous health issues. In 2014 alone there were over 500 handling injuries cited by the HSE [1] in the metal production industry whilst over 5% of occupational asthma cases in 2013 were caused by soldering and welding tasks [2].

In our personal experience, as Industrial Disease claim handlers, a large percentage of our hearing loss cases are made up of ex and current steel workers. The reason for this is not always how loud machinery can get but just as importantly, the number of machines in one work space and the size of this work space. Due to the conditions of steel plants, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can be damaged therefore ruling it defective which leads to further risks for staff.

When carrying out a task that involves equipment that creates fumes or smoke employers are required to provide PPE in the form of dust masks or breathing apparatus depending on the toxicity levels of the fumes produced. Training on different types of machinery is also essential for two reasons – 1) so that workers are aware of what PPE they are required to wear and 2) so the risks of operating each machine is understood to avoid injuries.

Loose clothing, long hair and jewellery pose a high risk around tools and machinery as they can get caught in fast moving parts triggering a serve industrial industry accident. Other risks can involve skin burns caused by chemicals used throughout the steel manufacturing process and the level of heat needed to melt steel.

5 Very important things to remember and follow if you work in steel are as follows:

  • Always wear the necessary PPE and ensure that it is up to scratch, ask your line manager for replacements if not
  • Follow training guidelines carefully for each piece of machinery no matter how experienced you are
  • Make sure clothing, hair and other loose articles are out of the way when using machinery
  • Before using a piece of equipment check that it has been left in a safe working condition e.g. Protective guards are in the correct position
  • Be aware of your colleagues and surroundings – slips, trips and falls in a steel plant are more likely to cause serious injury than other working environments.

All of these factors are your employer’s responsibility in making sure that as an employee you’re kept safe under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 [3]. Your employer also has a duty to take out insurance known as Employers Liability Insurance. In the event of accident or illness caused by work, compensation claims brought by an employee are covered by this insurance policy meaning that staff are not claiming money directly from their employer’s pockets.

This is not to say however that you as an employee can wholeheartedly rely on your employer to keep you safe at all times. You must do as much as is reasonably possible to prevent accidents, injuries and illnesses occurring by following the guidelines.

Roberts Jackson Solicitors are an award winning law firm with over 20 years’ experience in getting the compensation that industrial workers deserve.  Occupational Asthma, Noise Induced Hearing Loss, Occupational Dermatitis (skin conditions), Repetitive Strain Injuries and Back Injuries are very common in the steel industry and compensation can be claimed by anyone who has been affected by any of these conditions due to work. If you think that you or anyone you know have been affected please get in touch and we will be able to provide FREE legal advice and bring a claim for compensation on your behalf.

[1] Handling injuries in Great Britain, 2014 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/handling-injuries.pdf
[2] Occupational Asthma in Great Britain 2014 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/asthma/asthma.pdf
[3] Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37