Dangers of metal powders, were you aware that aluminium powder and water could cause explosions in your workplace?

The recent prosecution of Renishaw by the Health and Safety Executive has brought back to light the dangers present for engineering businesses from the mixture of fine dusts which they can create.

It would be true to say that the dangers of mixing metal powder and water would be lost on most staff within these businesses, accidents are typically followed by a moment when those concerned remember from the dim and distant past what could occur.  For this reasons it is worth re-examining the risks and exploring what situation could give rise to a fire.

Worker injured in fire and explosion caused by metal dust

In the case of Renishaw the incident involved aluminium powder and a specialist vacuum cleaner (but this could just as easily have been a simple wet and dry vacuum which could be present in almost any engineering business).

A worker had used the vacuum to remove some fine aluminium dust from a workbench.  Water was present in the waste container of the vacuum and the worker may or may not have been aware of this fact.  The container was not emptied but left to stand over a weekend, during which time the aluminium powder reacted with the water to give off hydrogen gas.

When the machine was switched on it ignited the hydrogen gas cause a fire and explosion which resulted in a two week hospital stay for the employee.

Mixing of other metal dusts which could lead to fire and explosion

Combustible metals that are common in manufacturing and machining operations include aluminum, lithium, magnesium, niobium, tantalum, titanium, zirconium, and cold rolled steel.

One particularly vigorous reaction which you must seek to avoid is aluminium and steel.  Their combination produces a ‘thermite’ like reaction (thermite is actually iron oxide and aluminium) which is very difficult to control and results in a huge amount of heat energy.

Situations which could give rise to fires in engineering and manufacturing businesses which you may not have considered

One area which is often overlooked is the build up of aluminium and steel within the extract system itself, particularly if it is heavily used or if maintenance has been lacking.  The mixture of the steel and aluminium dusts can start a ferocious fire.

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Care home operator fined £110,000 for health and safety failings

Operators of care homes have strict duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act and are also audited by the CQC (Care Quality Commission).  We have services which give access to a competent person for safety and provide unlimited support for safety documents including risk assessments, fire risk assessments, manual handling assessments and similar.

Care home fined £110,000 by HSE for health and safety failings
A care home has been fined over £100,000 for failing to provide a safe environment for one of its residents who died of his injuries after falling down a flight of stairs.Your Health Limited, who owned Redmount Nursing Home in Buckfastleight, Devon were found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and fined £110,000 with costs of £26,226 following the tragic accident in November, 2010.They were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a 75-year-old blind resident fell down a flight of stairs in his wheelchair. He had gaining access to the staircase via a fire door that had been left open, suffering serious head and facial injuries, and died the following day.HSE Inspectors investigated the incident and found that care home staff had failed to take his increasingly poor vision into account, which had caused periods of disorientation, when carrying out risk assessments on him.

“They failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment for him, neglected to make provision for his deteriorating eyesight, which had been identified in his care plan notes, and did not act on his apparent disorientation,” said HSE Inspector Georgina Speake. “The fire door to the stairwell was regularly left open, which should not have happened at all, and the obvious risk this posed should have been identified.”

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Care home prosecuted by HSE for health and safety failings

Operators of care homes have strict duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act and are also audited by the CQC (Care Quality Commission).  We have services which give access to a competent person for safety and provide unlimited support for safety documents including risk assessments, fire risk assessments, manual handling assessments and similar.

Care home prosecuted by HSE for health and safety failings

The owners of a West Yorkshire care home have been told to pay £183,000 in fines and costs after a frail 93 year-old widow died because established safety measures were neglected.

Mrs Elsie Beals asphyxiated after becoming trapped in the gap between her mattress and incorrectly-fitted bed safety rails at Aden Court Care Home in Huddersfield on 24 April 2010.

New Century Care Ltd of Sidcup, Kent, a private company with around 27 UK care homes,was prosecuted for a serious safety breach by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after it investigated the incident.

Leeds Crown Court was told today (10 September) that the company, which has some 1,700 employees, had failed to train staff at Aden Court to fit bed safety rails.

HSE found also that staff were not trained to carry out regular ‘in-use’ checks to make sure bed rails remained properly adjusted, or to carry out risk assessments for their use.

The court heard that Mrs Beals, formerly of Lepton, Huddersfield, who had been resident at Aden Court for two years, had been helped to bed the previous evening by two care assistants. She had been checked just before midnight and was due another care check two hours later.

When the care assistants entered the room in the early hours of 24 April, Mrs Beals could not immediately be seen in bed. As they went to the side near the window they saw she had become trapped in the gap created between the mattress and the safety rail. It was obvious to staff that she was dead.

New Century Care Ltd of River House, Maidstone Road, Sidcup, Kent, was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £18,000 in costs for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The firm had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.

After the case HSE Inspector Jacqueline Ferguson, who investigated the incident, said that New Century Care’s safety failings came despite widespread Government medical advice on the safe use of bed rails in the health and social care sector.

She said:

“This was a terrible tragedy that could have been so easily avoided. Bed safety rails are used extensively in the health and social care sectors to protect vulnerable people from falling out of bed. The risks of their use are well documented, actively published and widely recognised in the health care industry.

“There are several causes of injury involving bed rails used incorrectly. The most serious is asphyxiation as a result of being trapped by the head or neck. This can happen because a rail is not designed for use with a particular bed, or because of poor bed rail design leading to too much space between the rails.

“Staff at Aden Court, owned and operated by New Century Care, had no instruction in how to carry out risk assessments for the safe use of bed rails and no training how to fit them correctly and keep them safely adjusted.

“If anything positive is to come out of this very sad incident, it is that other employers take note and be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take action against those who fall so far below the required standards.”

In the five years to 2005 there were at least ten deaths and a number of major injury incidents in which the use of bed rails was implicated. More recently, in 2010 a NHS Foundation Trust in the South East was fined £50,000 after the death of a disabled man whose head became trapped between bed rails. The following year, a nursing home was fined £70,000 when an elderly lady died of asphyxiation when she became trapped between a mattress and a bed rail in 2008.

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Roadworks contractor to be tried under Corporate Manslaughter after death of maintenance worker

In each of the first four months of 2013 the Crown Prosecution Service has announced it is to charge a company with corporate manslaughter.

Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Ltd is being charged of gross-negligence manslaughter along with its sole director, Mervyn Owens.  The charge relates to the death of an employee, Malcolm Hinton on 6 March 2012, from crush injuries after working on a repair underneath a road-sweeping truck at the companies premises at Riddings Farm, near Basingstoke. He had inadvertently removed a hydraulic hose, and in doing so, caused the unsupported back of the truck to fall on him – it is good practice to never work underneath a body which has not been propped for this reason.

Colin Gibbs, senior lawyer in Special Crime for the CPS, said:

“I have carefully reviewed all the evidence gathered by Hampshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive during their investigation into the tragic death of Malcolm Hinton [and] have concluded there is sufficient evidence to charge Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited with corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

“I have also decided there is sufficient evidence to charge the company’s sole director Mervyn Owens with gross-negligence manslaughter.“In addition, I have authorised charges against both Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited and Mr Owens with an offence under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 and also with an offence under regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The first hearing will take place at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on 21 March.

Notes on previous three corporate manslaughter cases in 2013
In November, the CPS announced a charge of corporate manslaughter against Norfolk garden nursery Belmont, run by PS and JE Ward Ltd, in relation to the death of an employee in July 2010.

In January, the company that owns Welsh colliery Gleision, where four miners died in a flooding incident in September 2011, was charged on four counts of corporate manslaughter.

In February, Prince’s Sporting Club, of Middlesex, was charged under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 following the death of an 11-year-old girl who fell from a banana-boat ride.

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Elemental copper as biocidal water treatment is no longer legal – legionella

From February 1st 2013 the use of elemental copper as a biocidal treatment to prevent and control the growth of legionella is no longer legal despite opposition by the Health and Safety Executive.

Legionella bacteria

A decision was taken at EU level which means that as of February 1, the use of copper as a biocide is no longer allowed under the European Biocidal Products Directive and the Biocidal Products Regulations 2001. The HSE doesn’t agree with the EU here. In fact, it’s taken steps to have the decision overturned.  Further both HSe and local authorities will not be taking action against anyone who still has this system of treatment in place.

HSE has been quick to state that if your system makes use of copper as a treatment you shouldn’t just turn it off but you should be aware that your supplier is no longer allowed to replenish the system.

The HSE’s current position is as follows:

“The focus of any enforcement activity will be on the failure to control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria and the likelihood of Legionnaire’s disease developing in a given situation, rather than on the means of control.”

 When we have more news we’ll post an update.

If you need help or advice on health and safety please use the links below to contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100

E cigarettes, their health effects and their use in the workplace

The use of electronic cigarettes is on the rise in the UK but questions remain over their use, particularly in the workplace.

E cigarettes, are they harmful
E cigarettes; are they harmful and where can they be used in the workplace

We’re now used to the outlawing of smoking within the workplace but when someone is not technically smoking how do the rules apply?

Our advice is that you should treat e cigarettes as normal cigarettes in terms of where people are allowed to smoke and this includes from a safety perspective as well as a compliance one.

Arguments can be made that the liquids nicotine which is vapourised within these e cigarettes is relatively harmless but it is mixed with a number of other substances in order to produce the smoke like vapour including water, flavoring, and propylene glycol, a solvent for flavorings.

So, whilst there is currently no evidence to suggest that e cigarettes are harmful in themselves you should still have controls on their use in the workplace.

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

t

HSE’s FFI Scheme starts to accelerate, refurbishment, solar PV / renewables and contracting to be hardest hit

Since the advent of Fee For intervention on October 1st 2012 little has been heard about the level of activity on FFI or about how much the scheme will actually generate.  We now know from our own experience that FFI impact is only just being felt and that it is now being followed up by a major drive to target refurbishment projects in particular.

This has been coupled with some candid comments from David Ashton, HSE’s Head of Field Operations who stated at a recent conference on FFI progress that “the money is really coming in”.  Good news for a regulator whose budget has been slashed by 35% but perhaps bad news for a mix of businesses including building services engineers, Solar PV installers, electrical contractors and similar all of which have suffered in the recent refurbishment enforcement drive.

When we looked in detail at the statistics for FFI the current situation and what we can expect in the near future becomes far clearer;

  • October 1 to November 30 2012, the HSE issued bills totalling £700,000 from 1,491 invoices with 903 visits completed;
  • Based on that level of income the scheme would generate on £4.3 million in its first year – some £32.7 million behind target;
  • In order to reach the target HSE will need to extend the scheme to reach far more businesses and for fines to be at a much higher level (fines in the first two months were low with less than 10% of cases resulting in fines of over £1,000 and 70% being less than £500);
  • We can expect the coming months to build on current numbers and fine levels if targets are to be reached with each two month cycle requiring at least £3.6 million – a more than five fold increase;
  • If you are unsure if HSE can or will proceed to reach the target HSE’s Head of Field Operations also touched on the impact of the scheme on his staff “It has been difficult,” “Some have said they didn’t join the HSE to be a revenue collector but I ask them to turn around and look at what is best for our customers, and that is an adequately-resourced regulator.”

With HSE admitting that it is now actively looking to recruit new inspectors clients should be aware, particularly those involved in contracting, that HSE inspection will become a more and more likely with event RIDDOR reports and complaints from staff and members of the public likely to trigger a visit from an Inspector.

Your only defence against this is good health and safety management and having the skills and resources to be able to react quickly when a breach is identified.  If you need more support and are a client of C&G Safety please contact us and ask about our discounted offer for additional cover and also about our insurance policies which may be able to protect you from all costs associated with FFI.

If you need to know more about the FFI scheme please click to download our FFI White Paper if you would like to speak directly to an experienced safety consultant about supporting and protecting your business from FFI simply request a call back using the form below or call us on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.