HSE Injuries and Fatalities Roundup (UK) (7 Jan)

Poor gas repair work leads to gas ignition which put the injured person in a coma for three months – HSE said: “Mr Smith suffered horrific injuries in the explosion which will affect him for the rest of his life, but he could easily have been killed. Having burnt through the cables while using a blow torch, it would have been obvious to Mr Laffin that the cables were severely damaged. He should have made sure they were properly repaired but instead he just wrapped them in tape. Mr Laffin clearly wasn’t competent to carry out electrical work, and he should have brought in an electrician if he didn’t know what he was doing. Working with gas and electricity are classified as specialist trades for a reason, and it’s therefore vital workers stick to their area of expertise so lives aren’t put at risk.” HSE Press Release is here.

Pipe rupture causes acid burns – HSE found the company had failed to make sure its pipework – the company has around 9,250 metres of it – was in a safe condition and corrosion had been allowed to take hold of the section that carried the acid. HSE Press Release is here.

Work at height fall causes severe injuries – HSE said: “The dangers of working at height are well known, yet workers undertaking roof work and building maintenance sometimes die or are permanently disabled because of the poor safety standards and lack of safeguards that still exist among some contractors. It is essential that the hazards associated with working at height are recognised and understood by the client who commissions the work. The client must make sure the individual or company they employ is competent to carry out roof work and is aware of the hazards and precautions that need to be taken for the work to be carried out safely. Geoff Thompson did not properly assess Mr Davies’ arrangements for health and safety and determine whether he would be able to do the work safely and without risk. This prosecution should serve as a reminder to all involved in construction projects, including clients, that they have a legal duty to ensure work at height is properly planned and robust safety precautions are put in place.” HSE Press Release is here.

Drain cleaner sodium hydroxide causes skin burns – HSE investigation found a leisure centre operator had failed to put a robust system of work in place for cleaning drainage in the changing room for a swimming pool. This system should not only have included clear instructions on how the drains should be cleaned, but also established whose responsibility it was to clean drains. The company also failed to properly assess its use of chemicals and provide proper training on the use of these chemicals. HSE Press Release is here.

Forklift truck reversing results in fatality – Mapei UK Limited of Steel Park Road, Halesowen, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and was fined a total of £173,332. The amount of costs to be paid will be agreed at a later date. HSE 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.” HSE Press Release is here.

Fall from tractor causes serious injuries – the injured person had been standing on the cross shaft arms at the back of the tractor when he fell, resulting in one broken and one shattered wrist, two broken arms and multiple skull fractures. He underwent several operations to put pins and plates in both arms and was unable to work for over a month. HSE found the agricultural sales company had not provided any measures to prevent falls. There was no plan for the work, no safe system of working and no suitable training or supervision. HSE Press Release is here.

Unauthorised scaffolding guardrail adjustment leads to a co-worker fall which broke his back – HSE said: “What happened that day could easily have been avoided and will affect the injured man for the rest of his life. Scaffolding should only be altered by scaffolders, but a colleague took it upon himself to adjust some scaffolding when he was not authorised to do so, with disastrous consequences. He had no ulterior motive – like most construction workers he was simply trying to get on with the job when a problem arose that he was trying to overcome. The consequences of the incident have had a huge impact upon him as well. I hope this case makes construction workers stop and think before putting themselves and their colleagues at risk by altering scaffolding on building sites.” HSE Press Release is here.

Poorly secured forklift load causes crushing injury – HSE said: “This was an entirely preventable incident which resulted in an employee having to have part of his leg amputated. His whole life has been affected by the shortcomings of this company. No effort was made to plan the work in advance, despite it being a highly unusual activity for employees at the factory. The firm should have considered the risks and found a safe way of moving the fish tank. If it had been secured to a pallet and loaded onto a larger vehicle, rather than a van, than the terrible injuries the worker suffered could have been avoided.” HSE Press Release is here.

Machinery guarding failures leads to entrapment – HSE said: “The company failed to guard this machine and the gap was large enough to allow the worker access to dangerous moving machine parts. Sadly for her this incident was both foreseeable and preventable. Luckily, colleagues were quickly able to release her, which minimised her injuries. However, it has had a massive impact on her and she has only recently returned to work, some 18 months after the incident. This prosecution should send a strong signal to companies to identify and act on the risks presented by production machinery and to review the measures they have in place regularly.” HSE Press Release is here.

Machinery guarding failings leads to serious injury – HSE 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 the worker should have been better protected by his employer.” HSE Press Release is here.

Machinery guarding failings again leads to serious injury – 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 Ltd 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.” HSE Press Release is here.

Another work at height fall causes injury – HSE Inspector said: “The worker sustained a serious injury that could have been avoided had a safer system of work been used for removing the fragile sheets. The risk of serious or even fatal injury is high and eminently foreseeable with this type of work, and it is vital that the correct equipment and methods are in place. The company eventually got it right by working from inside the building and avoiding the need to physically go onto the roof, but it is sad that it took a serious incident before this happened.” HSE Press Release is here.

Methyl iodide exposure causes serious injury – HSE Inspector said: “The multiple failings arising from this prosecution are extremely serious and could have had even more devastating consequences. Two of those exposed to methyl iodide have been left with permanent, life-changing after effects. The lack of competent management, control and understanding of the site’s major hazard and chemical processes could have led to these being fatal investigations, as could the incident to the workers who were exposed to methylene chloride. Euticals Limited and Archimica Chemicals Ltd, were fully aware of the standards required to protect workers and ensure that equipment, systems and processes were fit for purpose, yet there is clear evidence of systematic health and safety failings over a prolonged period despite continue advice and support from the regulator to gain compliance. Health and safety should not be neglected, overlooked or compromised, especially in a high risk environment where there are hazardous and dangerous substances.”

Natural Resources Wales said: “Companies that deal with potentially hazardous chemicals, like Euticals Ltd, have permits with strict conditions in place to protect the local communities and the surrounding environment. Despite advice and support from our officers, the company consistently failed to meet the conditions and standards we set, placing local people, the environment and their own staff at risk.”

HSE Press Release is here.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) detected – HSE Inspector said: “A number of employees of Onesubsea UK Ltd developed debilitating symptoms or suffered worsening of existing symptoms. As a result the lives of some have been forever changed. HAVS is preventable but once the damage is done, and it can be permanent. Focus should be placed on eliminating or controlling exposure to vibration. There are cost-effective and simple ways of reducing the risk of HAVS which should be implemented. A good health surveillance system is vital to detect signs of vibration-related symptoms at an early stage. It is imperative that management then respond actively and appropriately to any such signs. Onesubsea UK Ltd did not comply with their statutory duties for a period of several years despite being aware of the risks associated with the use of vibrating hand tools. Their management of health and safety fell well below acceptable standards and a number of workers are now paying the price. HAVS is serious and disabling, and nearly two million people are at risk. Damage impacts on hand and finger dexterity, including the inability to undertake minor day to day tasks, and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks.” HSE Press Release is here.

More Machinery Guarding Fines

Machinery guarding safety failings are a common cause of injury. I posted earlier on machinery guarding fines.

Update: 26th November (automatic scraper system machinery) – breach of Regulation 11(1) and 11(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) resulting in serious injury leads to a fine.

Update: 27th November (rip saw machinery) – breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 resulting in injury leads to a fine.

Update: 28th November (paper conversion machinery) – breach of Regulation 11(1) of PUWER resulting in finger amputation leads to a fine.

Update: 29th November (silo machinery) – breach of Regulation 11(1) of PUWER resulting in finer amputation leads to a fine.

Update: 3rd December (roller conveyor machinery) – breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 resulting in finger amputation leads to a fine. In this case the machinery supplier was also fined under Section 3(1) of the same Act.

Regulation 11(1) of PUWER states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance – (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”

Regulation 11(2) of PUWER states: “The measures required by Regulation 11(1) shall consist of – (a) the provision of fixed guards enclosing every dangerous part or rotating stock-bar where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then (b) the provision of other guards or protection devices where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then (c) the provision of jigs, holders, push-sticks or similar protection appliances used in conjunction with the machinery where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then (d) the provision of information, instruction, training and supervision.”

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”.

Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

Factory Safety Failings Fatality

A major engineering firm is sentenced (26th November) following the death of an electrician who was crushed by an overhead crane at a UK factory.

Investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the electrician had been able to work on a platform in the path of an overhead crane without the power to the crane first being switched off. Preston Crown Court heard that the platform, which was around four metres above the ground, had been installed for a specific project in September 2000. End stops had previously been fitted to the rails used by the overhead crane that stopped the crane reaching the platform, but these had later been removed. The platform had remained at the factory but there was no barrier at the bottom of the access ladder to prevent workers climbing up it while the crane was in use.

On the day of the incident, the electrician had been trying to replace a cable, which hangs down from the crane to a handheld control, after it had developed an intermittent fault. The crane had been moved over the platform so he could reach the top of the cable where it connects to a junction box on the crane. As he climbed onto the platform, the crane moved and he was crushed between the guard rails around the top of the ladder and the crane itself.

The HSE investigation found the crane cleared the top of the guard rails around the ladder and platform by just 8.5cm. Despite this, the company had not identified the risk of workers being crushed by the crane if they used the platform so no action had been taken to stop this from happening.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Roofing Bitumen Burns Fine

One person required skin grafts on both hands and a foot, and also had burns on her head and face. A second person received burns to his chest, forehead, face, lips and under his right arm. Both needed extensive hospital treatment.

Injuries resulted from splashes and scalds by hot bitumen when a roofer’s ladder slipped because it wasn’t properly secured.

Redhill Magistrates’ Court heard the self-employed roofer had been contracted to felt a flat roof and was using bitumen that he melted at ground level before it was transported up a ladder. He and a colleague had already climbed the ladder several times without incident, but it slipped just as the persons approached the workers to ask if they wanted a cup of tea. The bucket fell and the bitumen spilled directly on top of them.

Investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the ladder had not been secured to prevent a slip. It was also in a poor condition, with missing or badly worn rubber feet. The court was told that insufficient measures were taken to prevent the slip and spill, and that it was a wholly unnecessary incident.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector said: “Extreme caution must be taken at all times when working with bitumen because it can be incredibly harmful. The roofer didn’t take extreme care. He was using a ladder with clearly visible defects that wasn’t properly secured, and they sustained horrific burns as a result. Members of the public must be kept out of harm’s way when dangerous materials are being used. The ladder issues aside, the incident could also have been avoided had they been told to stay at a safe distance.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Electricity at Work Safety Failings Fine

An electrical company is fined in Scotland (November 22nd) for safety failings after a worker suffered burns to his face, hands and arms while carrying out live electrical testing at an electricity substation located at the premises of a manufacturing company. The worker, who was not wearing the correct protective equipment supplied to him, was thrown off the stepladder following an electrical flashover but was able to walk out of the substation unaided.

The investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) concluded the company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the task of removing and replacing the bolted covers while the distribution boards were live, and had also failed to have in place a safe system of work by failing to ensure that the electricity supply to the distribution boards was de-energised during removal and replacement of the covers.

In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.

Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Another Work at Height Fatality

A healthcare firm is fined £170,000 and ordered to pay a further £82,145 in prosecution costs on 22 November 2013 for serious safety failings following the death of a worker who fell nearly six metres from scaffolding.

TRU Ltd, which was in charge of the construction site, was prosecuted by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the scaffolding was dangerous.This was due in particular to a lack of guard rails and inadequate decking. In addition, TRU Ltd’s site employees were not trained in safety, there were no risk assessments and there were no method statements.

During a five-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the jury heard that TRU specialises in providing rehabilitation for people with brain injuries, but that it also took on some building projects. The self-employed joiner had been working on the roof trusses for the extension to the house when he fell from the scaffolding. He suffered critical head injuries and died in hospital the following day.

TRU Ltd, which now trades as TRU (Transitional Rehabilitation Unit) Ltd, was found guilty of two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Section 3(1) of the Act states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Safe Systems of Work Fine

A worker suffered severe crush injuries when he was hit by a falling excavator bucket on his first day of work at a demolition site.

The worker, who was 46 when the incident happened, lost his left eye and part of his scalp. He also broke his eye socket, cheekbone, jaw, nose, left collarbone, several ribs and his left leg. In addition, the incident punctured a lung and severed the nerves on his bottom lip. He was in a coma for two weeks and had to have a tracheotomy to help him breathe. He also needed extensive reconstructive surgery, is still receiving medical treatment, and will continue to require pain relief.

An investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the demolition company had no safe systems of work in place and had not given the worker adequate information, instruction, training or supervision including adequate warnings of the hazards involved when working around plant.

Nottingham Crown Court was told that employees should have been excluded from the area while the bucket was being re-attached and a safety pin used to secure it in place.

Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

Another Work at Height Safety Fine

A construction firm and its managing director were fined (21st November) for safety failings after a labourer fell more than four metres through a fragile barn roof, breaking his back on his first day working for the company. As well as fracturing two vertebrae in his lower back, requiring a brace to be worn for two months, he suffered a broken wrist which had to be pinned and a bruised heel. He returned to work after six months but no longer works in construction, and has been left with some restricted movement in his wrist.

Leamington Spa Magistrates Court was told the company and its managing director were aware the roof was fragile and verbally warned employees to be careful, but did not ensure that the job was properly planned or carried out safely.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found equipment provided for accessing and working on the fragile roof was not suitable, and four employees were working unsafely using single scaffold boards and crawl boards without guardrails or harnesses, and at times stepping on the roof itself. No guardrails were in place around the roof perimeter to prevent falls from the edge, and no measures to mitigate the consequences of a fall through the fragile roof were in use, such as fall arrest harnesses, netting, or soft landing systems. In addition, the injured man and another colleague were both working for the firm for the first time that day but neither had been given proper instruction or training for working at height.

HSE’s Press Release is here.

Work at Height Fatality

I posted earlier on Work at Height injuries and company fines.

Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is (a) properly planned; (b) appropriately supervised; and (c) carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe, . and that its planning includes the selection of work equipment.”

Regulation 6(3) states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”

Now a roofer has fallen to his death from an unsuitable and badly maintained ladder.

Aylesbury Crown Court (November 21st) heard that the self-employed roofer who was sub-contracted to a roofing firm on an ad-hoc basis, was working at the rear of a domestic property to install weatherproof eaves protectors. He accessed the roofline using a two-part extension ladder that was footed by the company director, who was also a close family friend. The exact circumstances of how he came to fall are unclear, but he evidently slipped after failing to maintain a secure contact with the ladder and the building as he tried to work.

Thames Valley Police attended the scene before Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was notified three days later. HSE’s investigation established that the choice of extension ladder was inappropriate, and that a more rigid system, such as a tower scaffold, should have been used instead.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector said: “All work at height has to be properly planned and managed, and there were clear failings with the equipment used by Milton Keynes Roofing Ltd. Even short duration tasks need planning and foresight, and it is evident that had more appropriate equipment been provided then Mr Rowe’s tragic death could have been avoided. We were unable to find a direct link between the state of the ladder and his fall, but I also hope this case underlines the need to ensure that work equipment is properly maintained and fit for purpose.”

The HSE Press Release is here.

More Forklift Truck Fines

I posted earlier on enforcement action taken for fork lift truck safety failings. These posts are here and here.

Breaches are in LOLER (regulation 8(1)) and PUWER (regulation 9(1)).

Another LOLER Regulation 8(1) breach is here – this time prosecution occurred after investigation found the company had failed to make sure work to lift beams was planned, supervised or carried out safely. The company had been using fork lift trucks to lift long steel beams, weighing over 100kg, but investigation by Britain’s Health & Safety Executive found the work was not planned and the risks ignored (leading to worker injury).

The company now uses a HIAB crane on the back of a flatbed truck to deliver steel beams to customers, which minimises this risk.