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HSE Inspections – Refurbishments and Repair Works - October Newsletter

HSE Inspections – Refurbishments and Repair Works

The HSE announced that their Autumn initiative for 2014 will focus on unannounced visits to constructions sites where refurbishment projects or repair works are underway.
They have said: – “Throughout the month long initiative will ensure high-risk activities particularly those affecting the health of workers, are being properly managed. If unacceptable standards are found, Inspectors will take immediate enforcement action.”

During inspections, HSE inspectors will be checking that:

  • risks to health from exposure to dust such as silica are being controlled
  • workers are aware of where they may find asbestos, and what to do if they find it
  • other health risks, such as exposure to noise and vibration, manual handling, hazardous substances are being properly managed
  • jobs that involve working at height have been identified and properly planned to ensure that appropriate precautions, such as proper support of structures, are in place
  • equipment is correctly installed / assembled, inspected and maintained and used properly
  • sites are well organised to avoid trips and falls, walkways and stairs are free from obstructions and welfare facilities are adequate

We would recommend that clients working in such areas make certain that they put the appropriate measures in place and ensure that the necessary training is being provided to all employees.
Clients arranging for such works to be carried out should make sure that contractors engaged are up to standard – and remember that whilst they are doing the work, you are also responsible for ensuring that what they do does not put people (not just their workers but especially your employees or visitors) at risk.

If you have any queries or need assistance in carrying out such work or when managing contractors do not hesitate to contact us.

Company and director prosecuted for stone dust failings

The director of a masonry company has been handed a suspended prison sentence for exposing workers to harmful stone dust and ignoring notices to improve extraction ventilation.
Employees at the company, were placed at unnecessary risk of inhaling dust, which can cause long-term health problems, for a period of six months between January and June 2013.
The company and director, were sentenced after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious concerns.

The Court heard that stone dust was commonplace at the company through regular polishing and grinding work.  If inhaled it can cause occupational asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), silicosis or even lung cancer, so it is vital that adequate measures are in place to limit exposure.

However, a HSE inspection in January 2013 revealed that an extraction ventilation system in the factory was inadequate and hadn’t been properly tested to ensure it was fit for purpose.
Two Improvement Notices were served requiring urgent changes, but follow-up visits in June established that nothing had changed, and that employees were still facing potentially harmful exposure.

The court was told that the employer had a legal duty to protect his workforce and that he and the company had seemingly ignored HSE’s intervention.
The director, was sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, and was also ordered to pay £9,000 in costs for breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The Company escaped penalty for separate breaches of the same legislation because it is no longer trading and is the subject of a winding up order.  The judge ruled that had it the means to pay, a £50,000 fine would have been imposed to reflect the significance of the failings – as illustrated by the MD’s custodial sentence.
After the hearing HSE Inspector said: “Stone dust can be incredibly harmful and exposure, even over a relatively short period, can have devastating consequences.
“It is therefore vital that companies involved in processes that generate airborne dust have effective systems in place to extract harmful particles, and provide adequate personal protective equipment for their employees.

“That didn’t happen at the company, under the lead of the employer, it displayed a poor performance over the period of our investigation. The clear concerns we identified were blatantly ignored and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when worker safety is compromised in this way.”

Employees over 60 “less accident prone”, research indicates

People over the age of 60 are less accident-prone and can cope well with work pressures, according to a recent study.
The research concluded that employing people over the age of 60 is a positive move for employers, and is good news for those who choose to work on later in life – some half a million people.
As the state pension age is rising in the UK, so are the number of people working into their late 60s and 70s. It’s estimated that by 2030, there will be a 50 per cent increase in people aged 65 and over who will be working.

Funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the research is one of the few pieces of research that looked at post-retirement age workers’ own experiences of safety at work.

The researchers found from previous studies that people in their 60s had fewer accidents and injuries than younger colleagues, suggesting that education and experience might help them judge situations better.

However, there was evidence that when accidents did happen the health of older workers was more seriously affected.

The funded study found that older workers thought they were subject to similar hazards at work as younger people, including email pressures, driving conditions and over-demanding clients. They largely coped with such pressures by using their experience or by changing roles or moving to part-time hours.

This research affirms the positive benefits of employing workers over 60, but it is worth remembering that things may be very different for those working beyond 65 in the future.

On researcher said: “We believe that choice is behind the positive results of this research but, as the pension age increases, people will have less choice over whether they want to continue working, or have the option of reducing their hours of work, and this might affect not only their safety in the workplace but also their wellbeing.”

A research and information services manager from IOSH, said: “This is a really positive finding for our research. We all know the reality is that we are likely to have to work for much longer than the generations that have gone before us.

“Looking at the safety aspect of hiring older workers, it’s experience that can often set them up to deal with the demands and pressures of modern working life. It’s fantastic that we have real evidence against age discrimination and towards the benefits of hiring those beyond their sixties.”

Building firm fined following teenager’s ‘lucky escape’

A building firm has been sentenced for safety failings after a 17-year-old labourer had a narrow escape after surviving a four-metre fall through a hole in a loft with only cuts and bruises.
The prosecution comes at a time when HSE’s construction division is carrying out a nationwide safety initiative on loft conversions focusing on falls from height and asbestos; with site visits and briefings aiming to raise awareness about the risks associated with the work.

The company was prosecuted in September by the HSE for safety failings that led to the incident, during the loft conversion of a property in 6 June.

It was heard in court how the teenager stepped on some fragile material that covered a void in the floor and fell four metres, landing on a staircase. The worker,  who does not wish to be named, suffered no significant injuries.

HSE’s investigation found there were several uncovered or poorly-covered fragile surfaces in the loft space on site. It said More Than Lofts Ltd had failed to take suitable action to prevent falls, such as using platforms or robust covers for the holes in the loft floor.

The court also heard that the company had been served with a Prohibition Notice by HSE in June 2010 halting all work underway on a loft conversion because of the immediate dangers to workers from the lack of safety measures.

The company was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £729 in full costs after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations.

After the hearing, the HSE inspector said: “This young man had an extremely lucky escape from what could have been a fatal or severe injury in a fall of that distance. He and his co-workers were put in unnecessary danger by the careless approach to safety demonstrated the company.

“The company had ample materials on site to cover over fragile surfaces during work on this loft conversion but failed to do so.  It also clearly disregarded the lessons that should have been learned from the previous enforcement notice about working at height.

“Companies that skirt around safety put lives at risk. The hazards presented by working on or close to fragile surfaces are widely known in the industry and there are numerous deaths and injuries to workers as a result of safety failures every year.”

Roofing firm hit with fine after roofer nearly dies

A roofer nearly died after falling while working on part of a roof ridge where there was no protection to prevent a fall.

The Court heard that the employee was working on the pitched roof of a mid-terraced house in when he fell down onto the rear tenement roof. The man landed in a neighbouring courtyard, sustaining life-threatening and life-changing injuries and leaving him bed bound for more than six months.

The employee, the supervisor for the work on the house, was working on the ridge of the main roof when he fell.

HSE investigated the incident and prosecuted the man’s employer, at Court. The investigation found that there was no edge protection installed to protect the area where he was working.
The company, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £9,627 in costs.

Following the hearing, a HSE spokesperson, said: “the man suffered major, life-changing injuries and there was a real possibility that the fall could have proved fatal.

“Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and it’s crucial that employers make sure work is properly planned, appropriately supervised and that sufficient measures such as edge protection are put in place to control the risks of harm from falls.

“There is no excuse for employers failing to safeguard workers who have to work at height.”

Timber firm fined after worker loses finger

A timber firm was fined £9,900, after an agency worker lost the top of his finger in an unguarded machine.

The agency worker, was helping to clear a blockage on a woodworking machine at the firm’s premises when the incident happened in 2013. An HSE investigation found two of the machine’s guards had been removed.

The Court heard how, in order to clear the blockage, the machine operator had lifted the main guard, while a fixed guard on one of the machine’s six cutting heads had also been taken off to make cleaning easier. However, the machine was still under power, and when the agency worker reached in his left hand came into contact with one of the moving cutting heads.

The middle finger on his left hand had to be amputated, and he also suffered severe lacerations to two other fingers, leaving him with only partial movement in these and his middle finger. After pleading guilty to three separate breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, the timber company was handed a £9,900 fine and ordered to pay £1,193 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing a HSE inspector said: “About 30 to 40 similar incidents are reported to HSE every year. Nearly all result in amputation injuries and most, including this one, could have been prevented if the cutters had come to rest before operators approached them.

“Neither the machine operator nor the injured man had been trained to a suitable standard by Select Timber Products.”


Machinery firm and director land huge fine after worker’s death

 A company and its director have been handed a huge fine after a worker died in an explosion. The company was fined £110,000 and its director was fined £40,000 at Crown Court.

The worker, died while using cutting equipment to separate a split rim crane wheel while the tyre was inflated and it “exploded like a bomb”. The company and its director denied failing to ensure the workers safety, but were found guilty after a trial last month.

The Judge said that the tragedy was an accident waiting to happen: “The offences are particularly grave because the serious consequences that followed were so obvious,” he told the court.

He said that the director was sentenced on the basis of “sheer ignorance” because he was not aware of health and safety guidelines. He told the court that the director knew “precious little” about what was required of him to ensure the safety of his employees.

The judge said that he was unimpressed by photographs showing the yard in pristine condition, which he said was not a reflection of its condition when the man died.

The court heard how pictures taken at the time of the incident showed a number of clear dangerous practices.  The Judge said that the director had failed to supervise the worker separating the rim and tyre. The QC, defending, said the director was remorseful.

After the hearing, the, council’s public protection manager, said: “the directors” actions and his disregard of his health and safety duties resulted in this tragic event and the council had a duty to take court action against the director and his company.”

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