Health & Safety News
Recent news from the Health & Safety executive has highlighted the still apparent breaches of health and safety regulations in modern working environments. The cases vary in their severity and their circumstances however they do paint a similar picture regarding negligence and the prevention of workplace injuries.
In the first case a Rochdale based fabric firm was fined after an employee suffered severe chemical burns. The 47-year-old workers climbed onto a container in the attempt to dislodge a piece of cloth that had become stuck in the machinery. The man then slipped into an open container of corrosive solution used to bleach fabric. The chemical solution caused chemical burns to his lips, arms, chest, groin and legs as well as large cuts to his face. As a consequence the worker was then airlifted to Wythenshawe Burns Unit and off work for months.
A HSE investigation found that the company hadn’t properly completed the correct risk assessment for the bleaching equipment and that there were several other occasions in which employees climbed onto the equipment to rectify a jam.
Following the incident the company has since carried out risk assessments and made changes to the equipment in question such as lids, handrails and stepladders.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £718 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to the breach.
In the second case a Glasgow based construction company has been fined due to an employee suffering severe injuries.
Stuart McNaught, a joiner, was putting up plasterboards inside an extension at a house in Duntocher. A colleague, Mr Fulton, was driving an unsecured load of plasterboard sheets which were then lowered into the courtyard. Mr McNaught was in the courtyard below the forklift as it began to lower to drop of the plasterboards. As this happened Mr McNaught saw the plasterboards moving on the forklift, he attempted to move out the way however he slipped and the load fell of the forks and landed on Mr McNaught. The plasterboards weighed 1925kg trapping Mr McNaught and requiring a forklift to lift the weight of him.
He suffered many different injuries including a broken rib, pelvis, punctured lung and fractures to his right ankle and both legs.
The company was find £8,000 and prosecuted after a HSE investigation found different instances of negligence. The site in which the work was being done was questioned due to it being badly affected by ice and the training of the staff, mainly the forklift driver who had not been given the proper training in operating the forklift machinery.
In the third case a Middlesex based property firm and a Buckinghamshire contractor have been heavily fined after a worker was killed.
Geoffrey Crow, 48, from Bedfordshire, was working at ground level of the site as he and colleagues were working on excavating a basement at the new build properties. A dumper, which weighed five tonnes, fell into the unguarded excavation just after Mr Crow had attempted to move the vehicle when it became stuck. The drop of the excavation was up to 6.5 metres deep, Mr Crow was then killed instantly by the machine.
The HSE investigation that followed the incident found that no measures were in place to prevent people or machinery from falling into the excavation. It was also discovered that none of the workers on the site were used to operating the machinery in question.
When the case went to court it was noted that a range of issues all contributed in the death and that basic safety standards fell well below those expected.
The property development firm was fined £150,000 and £28,033 in costs after pleading guilty. The contractor was fined £2,000 and £1,500 in costs.
All of the cases above highlight the need for health and safety guidelines in the workplace. In all the above cases, the injuries suffered could have been prevented if the proper guidelines were followed and implemented. It should not be the case that injuries to employees are the reason that companies then implement the proper health and safety procedures.
The following comment from HSE Inspector Stephen Manley highlights the issue
“There are clear industry standards setting out how to identify and manage risks, and guidance is widely available. So there is no excuse to let operations continue without having the proper health and safety measures in place”
 “Property developer and builder in court over death at construction”, Health and Safety Executive, http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/property-developer-and-builder-in-court-over-death-at-construction-site/
 “Construction firm in court over workers multiple injuries”, Health and Safety Executive, http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/construction-firm-in-court-over-workers-multiple-injuries/
 “Rochdale company in court over worker’s severe chemical burns”, Health and Safety Executive, http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/rochdale-company-in-court-over-workers-severe-chemical-burns/