Health & Safety Update - Jul 2010
Welcome to July’s edition of Health and Safety Update. In this issue, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigates a company who failed to take necessary precautions to prevent arson attacks and an agricultural building company faces a hefty fine after a worker falls four metres from a roof.
A York-based hazardous waste recycling specialist has been fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £6,110 in costs for failing to safeguard flammable substances that were in used on an arson attack on the premises.
A detailed investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that the company had stored drums of hazardous chemicals close to unprotected electrical equipment and forklift trucks.
To make matters worse, the company was also regularly using an illegal drum crushing machine, on which the emergency stop button was almost unrecognisable and a vital guard was missing. This violated the Provision and Use of Work Regulations 1998.
The employee was prosecuted for arson at an earlier hearing.
This could have been avoided if adequate precautions were made to reduce the risk of arson. Arson is a common reason for workplace fire and can be seen in the following list of common causes:
- Electricity - neglect and misuse of wiring and electrical appliances. Refuse/rubbish - accumulating in work/storage areas.
- Smoking - discarded cigarettes, matches, inadequate ashtrays.
- Heaters - Portable heaters can be knocked over, poorly sited or inadequately guarded. All heaters could overheat if obstructed.
- Hazardous goods - includes materials such as paints, adhesives or other chemicals.
- Arson - by mischievous children or adult fire raisers, facilitated by ineffectively secured buildings.
Falls from height
An agricultural building company has been prosecuted after a worker fell four metres from the roof of a building. It was found that work was being undertaken without adequate edge protection, safety nets or suitable work platforms.
The company was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) and the Work at Height Regulations 2005 at Beverley Magistrates' Court.
The court heard how the company also failed to report the fall until more than two months after it occurred, and then allowed work to be carried out on the roof without adequate safeguards. It was fined £22,500 and £7,103 costs.
Following the hearing Inspector Geoff Clark said:
I hope today's prosecution reminds companies that inadequate protection when working at height is unacceptable. HSE provides free guidance on the required standards for companies when working at height. If these standards are not followed it poses a risk of serious, if not fatal injuries for those at work, and HSE will take action.
Working from heights
An international food company has been fined £3,500 after a worker injured herself while cleaning processing machinery. The worker was cleaning a machine consisting of three tanks which tipped food into each other, but to clean the machine properly, a hygiene operative had to stand on the frame of the machine to reach various parts. As the worker reached up, she lost her footing and fell into one of the tanks, causing her to lose consciousness. The injured woman was subsequently off work for five weeks and reported suffering from severe headaches and pains in her neck and back.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. HSE Inspector Jo Anderson said, "No-one at the company realised that climbing was involved when cleaning this machine. A risk assessment should have been carried out and an examination of how work at height was being undertaken”.
Keep on track with your Health and Safety and you’ll not only be providing a safe and healthy working environment for your employees, but you’ll also be significantly reducing your risk of facing costly penalty and fines, which can be very easily avoided.