Archive for May, 2013

Safety checks no longer compulsory

Tens of thousands of businesses will no longer undergo unnecessary health and safety inspections thanks to a new code introduced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The statutory National Enforcement Code bans local authorities from carrying out inspections which are not justified on a risk basis. It means most shops and offices will not be stifled by needless burdens. Council inspections will instead target higher risk activities in specified sectors, or when there is intelligence of workplaces putting employees or the public at risk.

“Real improvement in safety performance will come from targeting those who put their employees at greatest risk,” said HSE Chair Judith Hackitt. “Local inspectors have a very important role to play in ensuring the effective and proportionate management of risks by businesses, and the code is designed to guide them to do this.”

Higher risk activities include sites such as cooling towers, where life-threatening legionella bacteria can develop, and buried liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gas pipes which can create an explosion if corroded. Despite the new measures, health and safety checks will continue at businesses that perform poorly in an attempt to make them get their act together.


Four metre fall lands company in court

A construction company based in South East London has been prosecuted for a serious safety breach after a roofing worker plunged four metres through a badly-protected skylight.
The 45 year-old worker, Paul Shaw, of Maidstone, suffered multiple fracture injuries, including a broken right arm, when he fell through the roof opening which had been covered only with a thick plastic.

The incident, on 29 February 2012, took place at a property in Tonbridge, Kent, where building firm Bryen & Langley Ltd were the lead contractor overseeing the construction of an extension and swimming pool.

Maidstone Magistrates heard (23 May) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Bryen & Langley Ltd had failed to ensure that proper safeguards were in place to prevent anyone falling when work was underway at height.

The court was told that skylight openings above the swimming pool had been covered with plywood sheeting. This was changed to thick plastic to allow some natural light through and to enable workers to lower materials into the pool area if needed. The plastic was then covered with pallets and held down by timbers.

Mr Shaw, who was employed by a roofing sub-contractor on site, went up to the swimming pool roof and stepped on to a skylight opening believing it was safe to do so. It was not. The hole was simply covered by the plastic and he fell straight through landing on the pool’s concrete walkway.

Mr Shaw now has restricted movement in his wrist but was able to return to work after some five months.

Bryen & Langley, of Footscray Road, Eltham, London, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £9,209 in costs by Magistrates after admitting breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005


Company sentenced for exposing worker to deadly fumes

A bath restoration company has been fined for safety failings after a worker died from inhaling toxic fumes in the bathroom of a South West London flat.

Colin Pocock, 55, was using an industrial paint and varnish remover to strip a resin coating from a bath at a housing association property in Eton Close, Wandsworth, when he was overcome by fumes on 16 June 2009.

The stripping agent contained dichloromethane, also known as methylene chloride, a carcinogenic toxic chemical. Fumes rapidly built up in the confined space and he died at the scene as a result of over exposure. His body was discovered by the occupant of the flat, who does not wish to be identified.

Southwark Crown Court heard today (23 May) that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the death and found there was insufficient natural ventilation in the bathroom. Mr Pocock’s employer, Multicrest Ltd, a franchisee of Renubath Services Ltd, should have provided mechanical ventilation equipment to compensate.

HSE found written documentation from Multicrest stating that work of this nature should only be done in well ventilated areas, but no equipment was provided to employees. Managers were unaware of how work needed to be done in bathrooms and failed to provide adequate safe working arrangements.

Multicrest Ltd, of Castle Business Village, Station Road, Hampton, Middlesex, was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £56,286 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.


Joinery firm in court over worker’s severed finger

A Dagenham-based firm has been sentenced after a worker severed a finger and seriously injured two others on a badly-guarded cutting block capable of 10,000 cuts per minute.

The 39-year-old man from Greenwich, south-east London, was employed as a wood machinist by K & D Joinery Ltd when the incident happened on 19 November 2010 at their factory in Chequers Lane, Dagenham.

He was edging a rectangular piece of timber using a hand-fed planing machine and was pushing the timber toward the cylindrical cutting block when his middle, ring and index fingers contacted the blades of the machine. He suffered severe lacerations to the ends of his fingers and had to have the middle finger amputated.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (22 May) prosecuted K & D Joinery for safety breaches at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard the worker, who does not wish to be named, had been unable to move an adjustable guard to cover the cutter block as it was defective, and had not been functioning for several months.

K & D Joinery, registered at Limes Road, Beckenham, Kent, was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,500 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The firm was also told to pay £3,000 compensation to the injured man.


New regulations on preventing sharps injuries in the healthcare sector

New regulations to control the risks posed by needles and other ‘sharps’ in healthcare will take effect this month. The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations will come into force on 11 May 2013. Northern Ireland will introduce equivalent regulations on the same date.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is introducing the new regulations to implement a European Directive. They will supplement the existing health and safety legislation that already requires employers across all sectors to take effective action to control the risk from sharps injuries.

Employers and contractors working in the healthcare sector will be required to:

  • Have effective arrangements for the safe use and disposal (including using ‘safer sharps’ where reasonably practicable, restricting the practice of recapping of needles and placing sharps bins close to the point of use)
  • Provide the necessary information and training to workers
  • Investigate and take action in response to work related sharps injuries
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