Roundup of HSE fines in August 2020

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02 September, 2020

Ridwaan Omar
Partner and Head of Regulatory

Roundup of HSE fines in August 2020

Simple working practices could have easily avoided these 4 accidents that resulted in fines, adverse publicity and potential personal injury claims for the companies involved.

1 - Brebner and Williamson Limited has been fined following an incident where John Niven, a self-employed subcontractor fell 15 feet from a youngman board, which had been used to create a temporary platform. He sustained multiple fractures and a brain injury.

Perth Sheriff Court heard that Mr Niven was working on a new build at Plot 1, Station Road, Crook of Devon, Kinross. A youngman board was used to create a temporary platform to give access to the roof in an area without scaffolding. Mr Niven was standing on the youngman board when it slipped, causing him to fall onto a concrete floor slab below.

An investigation by the HSE found Brebner and Williamson failed to properly supervise the work at height, to ensure scaffold surrounded the full perimeter of the house under construction, and to ensure a suitable working platform and fall protection measures were in place.

They pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 4 and Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 and were fined £5,000.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Gillian Anderson said: "Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities and severe injuries in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."

2 - Leeds and Bradford Boiler Co Ltd was sentenced for safety breaches after a worker broke his upper arm and suffered crush injuries to his lower arm in a workplace incident.

Leeds Magistrates' Court heard that Paul Madarasz was machining a two-tonne metal plate on a vertical borer machine. The metal cover plate was not sitting flush on the table due to some dirt or debris. He raised one side of the metal plate above the machine table using an overhead crane with C shaped hook so that he could clean the machine table underneath with a rag.

While he was doing this the cover plate slipped off the lifting attachment trapping his arm underneath. Mr Madarasz has had to undergo several long operations on his lower and upper arm and is unlikely to regain full function in his right arm.

An investigation by the HSE found that there was no safe system of work for this activity. This specific lifting operation and cleaning activity had not been assessed, which resulted in employees using a variety of unsafe methods.

The Company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and has been fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £7,692 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrea Jones said: "Lifting operations and foreseeable activities including cleaning should be properly assessed and planned. "Other employees were also at risk of injury by falling metal plates.

"This incident could so easily have been avoided by using suitable lifting accessories, implementing safe working practices, and ensuring these are followed through appropriate supervision and monitoring."

3 - A powder coating company has been fined after a worker in a factory in Poole, Dorset suffered shattered lumbar vertebrae and had to be kept in a lying down position on his back for two weeks in hospital.

Southampton Magistrates' Court heard how the worker was checking the straps on a wheeled A-frame trolley containing ten 6m long twin wall polycarbonate sheets weighing 34kg each, when the load unexpectedly toppled onto him pushing him to the ground. Colleagues had to lift the sheets off the worker and call for an ambulance.

An investigation by the HSE found that C & R Powder Coating and Welding Fabrication Ltd had failed to ensure the safety of workers, engaged in the transfer and storage of plastic sheeting on a trolley. The investigation found that the trolley was not suitable for the storage and transport of the plastic sheets because it was not sufficiently long enough and had no means for ensuring the straps being used would stay in place.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,338.20.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Berenice Ray, said: "This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out safe working practices and ensuring work equipment is suitable for the purpose for which it is to be used.

"Accidents like this can happen with plastic sheets but equally with wood board, steel plate or stone slabs. Any flat profile material should be secured against falling or slipping out as the consequences can be a serious injury or even a fatality.

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."

4 - A paper making company has been sentenced after a worker suffered serious injuries when her hand was caught in machinery.

Plymouth based West Design Products Ltd, which manufactures and edits craft paper for retail, including printing, punching and cutting, has been fined after 22-year-old employee Charlotte Sargent had her fingers crushed, leading to the partial amputation of both her middle and index finger on her left hand.

Miss Sargent was working on a paper punching machine at West Design Products Ltd in Plymouth. This is used to punch holes in card or paper so that they can be bound together. Paper is inserted into a slot underneath a Perspex guard and the punch operation is activated by pressing a foot pedal on the floor. Whilst adjusting the settings of the machine, Miss Sargent had placed her fingers between the die plates to tighten them in place, her foot inadvertently hit the unshrouded foot pedal. The die plates moved up, crushing her fingers between the plates and a metal bar, Plymouth Magistrates' Court was told.

The HSE's investigation discovered that the company fell significantly below the expected standard. The defendant failed to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that Miss Sargent was not exposed to risks to her health or safety.

Neither Miss Sargent nor her supervisor were suitably trained. They had not been shown the operating manual or the safe system of work for the Punch machine before the incident. There was no interlocking switch attached to the guard to prevent the use of the machine when the guard was removed. There was also no shroud supplied for the foot pedal, which can prevent accidental activation.

West Design Products Ltd of Bush Park, Plymouth pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £89,600 and ordered to pay costs of £5,584.28 plus a victim surcharge of £170.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Hatti Shipp said: "Miss Sargent's injuries have been life changing. This incident was foreseeable and preventable.

"Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery."

Forbes Comment

If organisations try to take shortcuts in training or simply forget about their Health and Safety obligations accidents will inevitably happy, leading to fines, and claims. It is important to carry our suitable risk assessments and to act on them to ensure the safety of those working for you. Forbes Solicitors are experienced in dealing with such matters.

For more information contact Ridwaan Omar in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 222457. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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