Highly flammable liquids fire burns spray booth operator

We have to be truthful and admit that we sometimes carry out tasks which in hindsight we could have done with far less risk.  It could be driving to work or what we do at home at the weekend away from the eyes of our colleagues and managers.

The case below highlights how susceptible we are to complacency.  We work with items everyday which carry with them great risks but we rarely suffer consequences for taking shortcuts. That in turn leads to greater and greater risk taking until an accident finally occurs.  Read the case below to find out what happened in this instance.

A paint manufacturing company in Manchester has been fined for health and safety failings after a worker suffered burns while trying to clean the floor of a spray booth.

Manchester Crown Court heard how an employee of HMG Paints Ltd was using a highly flammable solvent to clean the floor of a spray booth on site, a job he had done several times since the spray booth was installed.

After complaints about how difficult it was to remove the dried paint he was allowed to purchase an industrial floor scrubber to carry out the task. On 18 November 2014 electric motor on the floor scrubber ignited the cloud of flammable vapour that had built up in the spray booth.

The employee was seriously injured, receiving 26% burns, and was treated at the specialist burns unit at Wythenshawe Hospital.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the planning for cleaning floors using solvent failed to recognise the hazards and level of risk associated with the use of highly flammable solvents to clean floors. The employee who was injured had not been trained to clean floors and was not adequately supervised when carrying out the cleaning activity.

HMG Paints Limited, of Collyhurst Road, Manchester, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £39,669.40.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector David Myrtle said:

“This is a company that handles large quantities of flammable solvent, the hazards are well known and the company has a duty to control the risks arising from the hazards.

“It was custom and practice to clean floors using highly flammable solvents applied using a mop and bucket. In this instance the company failed to adequately control the risks and an employee was seriously injured.” [source HSE]

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Could Health and Safety Fines rise even higher? Probably….

HSEWe have seen fines for health and safety offences increases by 10-15 x their former levels since the Sentencing Guidelines were introduced in 2016 (see our earlier article for more information).

A recent article by Dr Simon Joyston-Bechal of Turnstone Law discusses sentences applying to individuals who have put cost cutting before safety being increased to 8 or more years in prison.  More worryingly, where the two aspects for consideration under the existing sentencing guidelines are triggered you could also be moved into the very high category with a starting point of 12 years in jail (and a range of 10-18 years).

These are in consultation at present on the Sentencing Councils website and it seems from the examples used that the Council would wish to see higher fines introduced in the case of health and safety offences.  They are not law yet but it does look increasingly likely that these revisions will make it through to becoming law.

You can read the article in more detail on the SHP website here; Gross negligence manslaughter: ‘Sit up & take note’ as jail terms increase

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Oxygen explosion causes worker severe injury and costs firm £1m fine

Oxygen is used throughout many sectors of industry and healthcare.  This common element can be taken for granted as we are so familiar with its name and its use.

Are you aware that;

  1. increasing the concentration of oxygen in air from its normal 21% to just 24% can make an enormous difference  in how easily items will catch alight;
  2. They will also be far harder to put out once they are burning and will burn much more fiercely;
  3. Oxygen which is pure and at high pressure (from a cylinder or supply line for example) can react spontaneously with oils, greases and other materials causing them to catch light;
  4. Nearly all materials including textiles, rubber and even metals will burn vigorously in the presence of pure oxygen.

More information on all of the above and the correct precautions which must be in place can be found here; http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg459.pdf

Below is an accident which illustrates the dangers of bad practices around oxygen.  If you need helps and support on these and other issues please do contact us for more information.

Case Law: Oxygen Pipe Explosion

Sheffield Crown court heard that work was carried out by an in-house contractor to fit a valve to an oxygen pipe that carried 99.9 per cent pure oxygen in August 2013

The worker was checking the work when he heard hissing from the valve. When investigating the noise, the pipe and valve erupted in flames causing the person to suffer 60- 70 per cent burns.

As a result of the severe injuries he suffered he was initially not expected to survive and underwent several skin grafts whilst being kept in a coma for several weeks.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the oxygen pipe had been fitted with contaminated second-hand flanges and butterfly valves containing materials unsuitable for use with oxygen.

Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited of Brightside Lane, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £1,000,000 with £58,000 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Carol Downes commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simple carrying out correct control measure and safe work practices.”

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

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What’s the best way to move gas cylinders?

Moving gas cylinders in your workplace – the hazards

We see gas cylinders in use across the wide range of clients we visit.  Some will use cylinders to power their MHE (Materials Handling Equipment) and some will be using gases to complete welding and cutting operations as part of their production process.

We’ve written blogs in the past about cylinders and safety measures but not about their actual handling (see here for an accident linked to this post).

To lift or not to lift; that is the question

The key issue with cylinders and their movement relates to handling and lifting.  Many workplaces are equipped with various handling equipment and it’s tempting to use one of a number of means to lift cylinders.  It’s also quite tempting to manually handle cylinders into position when the distances aren’t too great.

The risks of lifting cylinders

We’ve seen in real life a number of situations where a high risk method has been used to move cylinders, check through the examples below and see if you recognise any of these from your past experience of perhaps even your own site;

  1. Manual handling by churning (rolling on the base);
    1. This is a valid method but what about tall and heavy cylinders and moving them through a cluttered and busy workplace? One drop can cause significant damage to the cylinder, or even the valve, creating a ballistic missile capable of passing through walls!  The is suitable for short movements of easily handled cylinders only (<5m).
  2. Lifting using fork lift truck attachments;
    1. This is fine if the cylinders are safely stored on a pallet or cradle but using attachments such as barrel clamps, scissor clamps or magnets – this can damage the cylinder walls with catastrophic consequences.
  3. Lifting using the valve shroud or valve itself;
    1. Lifting on the valve shroud can cause it to detach from the cylinder, it’s just not designed for a suspension lift.
    2. Lifting on the valve it certainly a very bad idea – again, it’s not designed for this and could lead to leaks, sudden failure and may of course slip from the lifting sling – this is the highest risk and must always be avoided.

What should you do?

In simple terms follow the guidance  issued by the BCGA, which you can download here; BCGA TIS 28

If you still have questions perhaps now is a good time to ask an experienced consultant from Outsource Safety to review your current procedures.  We can visit and carry out specific risk assessments or even a comprehensive Gap Analysis in line with the requirements of the internationally recognised Management Standard OHSAS18001, contact us for more information.

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Case Law: Diversion of workers to maintenance tasks

It can be tempting to allow staff, particularly those who are helpful and keen, to undertake others tasks within your workplace.  You can sometimes hear a staff member state “I could have sorted that for you!”

When you have staff which have worked in other roles through  a diverse career and the work seems reasonably straightforward it can seem like you’re able to make a significant saving or get the work carried out more quickly.

However, you should also consider the lessons which can be learnt from the case below and many like it.

Kent based Erith Haulage Company Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £215,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £10,622 after an employee fell four and a half metres through a fragile skylight onto a concrete floor while cleaning a roof.

The cleaning was undertaken by two drivers, requested by the company’s foreman and took place on the weekend of the 17 and 18 January 2015.

A Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) was hired for the cleaning, but when one of the drivers could not reach a section of the roof from the MEWP he got out and stood on the roof not realising that the roof contained fragile skylights.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told the court the roof in question was metal with gutters running along it. The skylights were located in strips over the portion of roof but were covered in dirt discolouring them and making them appear similar colour to the roof itself.

After some time cleaning, the driver noticed a section of roof left uncleaned and while walking along a section of the roof he fell through one of these skylights. He landed on a concrete floor some 4.5 metres below.

HSE prosecuted the company for its failure to ensure that work at height was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner which was safe, so far as reasonably practicable.

The court heard neither driver had received training or information regarding the use of the MEWP, no edge protection was in place around the roof edges to prevent falls from height, no harness or netting was used (e.g. harnesses or netting) to minimise the distance or consequences of a fall, the fragile roof lights were not covered or edge protected to prevent falls from height.

The fall caused the man to spend a month in hospital sustaining significant injuries including a fracture to the base of his skull, multiple facial fractures, and whiplash. He also suffered damage to bones in both arms which needed pins and plates, as well as leg injuries.  He was, in fact, lucky to still be alive.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Megan Carr said:

“This easily preventable incident resulted in life changing injuries to this man.  I want this case to raise awareness within the industry and amongst companies in general, that proper planning and operation of work at height is imperative. This case highlights the very serious consequences that may arise from oversight.”

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Spa Pools; new legislation for commercial installations

You might be wondering why this post is here, if you are you’re probably not aware of the wide range of clients which we work with!

This post relates to the commercial rather than residential use of these spa’s but if you’re lucky enough to have one at home there are some good points below which are worth being aware of linked to HSE document HSG282 “Control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa-pool systems” published in January 2017.

The simple facts are that these warm agitated pools of water provide a good breeding ground for a number of harmful bacteria; folliculitis, e-coli, viral skin infections and of course legionella.  Add to this the risk of droplet inhalation through agitation and the risk increases significantly.

The key risk is that water in these pools is kept at a steady 30-40oC, an ideal temperature for these bacteria to breed in, but don’t forget the other key associated risks such as;

  • chemical exposure;
  • electrical risks;
  • slipping;
  • entrapment;
  • drowning and so on.

If you have any of this equipment in use or plan to install it take the time to read through this useful guidance, a copy can be down loaded here:  Control of legionella and other infectious agents in spa-pool systems HSG282 (HSE)

If you’re a user of such equipment ask your hotel or operator if water is changed between rental groups as required by this guidance and check that a robust in line disinfectant feeder has been installed as you cannot rely on direct chemical dosing through tablets.

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Occupational Health Risks of Working in the Sun (UV) Rays

What are your legal obligations as an employer?

The Health and Safety at Work Act makes it clear that there is a legal duty on every employer to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, the health of their employees.

It also says that employers must provide “information, instruction, training and supervision” to ensure their safety.

The management of Health and Work Regulations also require the employer to conduct a suitable risk assessment of the risks to the health of their workforce. This includes the risks from UV radiation.

Did you know?

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world
  • Rates of skin cancer are increasing faster than any other cancer in the UK
  • 90% of skin cancer deaths could be prevented
  • 2/3 of construction workers are outside for 7 hours per day
  • Outdoor workers have a higher than average risk of developing skin cancer
  • 100% of UVA rays pass through clouds so sun protection is essential, even on cloudy days

How can you reduce the risks associated with Ultraviolet (UV) Rays in your workforce?

  • Conduct a risk assessment and communicate that risk assessment and the control measures to the workforce;
  • Issue guidance on those control measures which will include using sunblock, re-hydrating and appropriate clothing;
  • Carry out a safety briefing/toolbox talk with all staff explaining the health risks associated with exposure to UV Rays;
  • Don’t forget the sign-off sheet to demonstrate understanding from the workforce and evidence that you have communicated health risks to the workforce

Don’t forget the drivers!

Most glass used for windows blocks UVB but not UVA rays.

A person sitting in a vehicle can still receive significant exposure to solar UVR. There are many different types of glass: each provides very different levels of sun protection. Therefore drivers may also be at risk as glass do not block all UV radiation.

For information on how Outsource Safety can help you implement a more robust Health and Safety Management System encompassing the Occupational Hazards associated with your profession, please get in touch.

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Public Tip Off leads to Prosecution and £52,000 fine

HSE often attends sites which have been reported as dangerous by members of the public.  In fact, we hear of these visits quite regularly and they can be as a result of genuine concerns or perhaps as a result of noise, dust and other disturbances causes nuisance to neighbours.

The case below relates to a North London site at which safety management and edge protection were sadly lacking.  Malik Contractors and Engineers Ltd were fined a total of £52,000  plus £4,415 costs after pleading guilty under Reg 13(1) of The Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.

In response to concerns from members of the public HSE carried out three separate inspections and each time found numerous breaches of health and safety legislation. These included electrical systems, unsafe work at height and no fire detection of fire fighting equipment despite workers sleeping on site.

 

 

 

 

HSE inspector David King commented:

“This case highlights the importance complying with enforcement action. Duty holders have the responsibility to provide their workers with appropriate training and equipment so they can work safely. In this case Malik Contractors failed to do so.

It is essential those responsible for construction work understand they are also responsible for the health and safety of those on and around the construction site, and ensure suitable and sufficient arrangements are in place to plan.”

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Site Managers negligence leads to death of person passing construction site

Some of you may remember hearing a statistic being talked about on past training courses that one person a month dies just walking past a  construction site.

This statistic has been brought tragically to life by an accident which occurred in Hanover Square London on August 2012 when 3 large unglazed windows weighing 655kg fell  to the pavement killing Amanda Telfer.

The frames had been delivered the previous day in line with the schedule but could not be fitted that day due to other programme delays.  The frames were left on the pavement overnight leaning against the building.  No effort was made to secure the frames and no barrier was placed around them.

As Ms Telfer walked past it is believed that a gust of wind blew a door on the building open, hitting the frames and causing them to topple, crushing Ms Telfer.

Several members of the public worked to remove the frames from her but she was unconscious and not breathing she later died as a result of her injuries.

Mr Damian Lakin-Hall (one of the men prosecuted) told officers at the scene that the frames had been secured with a ratchet strap but evidence showed that this had never been the case.

The following were convicted for offences arising from the death of Ms Telfer:

  • Kelvin Adsett – of New Road, Slough, Berkshire was convicted at the Old Bailey on Thursday, 23 March, of manslaughter by gross negligence and offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Mr Adsett was the on-site project manager for IS Europe Ltd.
  • Damian Lakin-Hall – of Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey was convicted of offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was acquitted of manslaughter.
  • IS Europe Ltd – of Slough, Berkshire  was convicted of offences under Section 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Chalmers said:

“The individuals and company who were convicted in this tragic case had a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety and did not take their obligations seriously.

Each had a responsibility for the safety of the construction site but failed to deal with a basic task that very obviously then presented a serious hazard.

Amanda died four-and-a-half years ago and this has been an incredibly long and complex case to bring before the courts with many many hours of enquiries carried out by my team.

Her death was completely avoidable and it is satisfying for all involved in this case – and especially Amanda’s family – that the jury have convicted these people and companies today.

Prosecutions such as this are so important in enforcing adherence to health and safety laws. This tragic case proves just why employers and employees should take their obligations to safeguard workers and the public seriously.”

Barry and Ann Telfer, Amanda’s parents, said following the verdict:

“Amanda was a bright lovely professional woman living her life to the full and making plans for the future. Her future was taken from her when she was crushed to death by half ton window frames which took two seconds to fall on her. The frames had been left standing, almost vertically, at the side of a public pavement, unsecured to anything, unattended and with no safety barriers around them.

If construction companies and the people who work for them are not held to account for such high levels of negligence and incompetence then none of us is safe walking the streets next to construction sites. The Health and Safety training being given is totally inadequate, if risk of death to passers-by is ignored.

It is nearly five years since Amanda died. We would like to thank the police, health and safety officers and prosecution who worked on behalf of Amanda for their persistence and patience. We and all Amanda’s family and friends will always miss her. Nothing will change that.”

In an impact statement for the court they added:

“Every parent who has lost a child to a violent and sudden death knows the overwhelming shock and disbelief which is impossible to describe. We saw our daughter on the morning of the day she died. An hour before she was killed she was with us, telling us about her social plans with friends for that evening and for the weekend, looking forward to some interesting legal work that she was going to be starting that afternoon, planning a weekend in France to see her brother and his family. She was very cheerful, making plans and looking forward.

An hour later she was dead, killed whilst walking along the public pavement in central London. We’ll never see her again or hug her again. We’ll never hear her laugh again or enjoy her company again. Amanda was the best company, funny and interesting herself and always interested in and fully engaged with whoever she was talking to. She was very loving, generous and supportive to us and to all her family and friends. We spoke together regularly and she would contribute enthusiastically to every family event, birthdays, anniversaries, full of ideas and energy, however busy she was. We looked forward to her companionship and interest in us. Our lives were enriched by her and our old age will be diminished by her absence. She had so many plans for the future, ever improving her professional skills and for travelling. She was so full of life. It’s still almost impossible for us to believe that she really has gone or to come to terms with the random carelessness of how she was killed.

We don’t want retribution for our loss of Amanda, though we will never recover from it. We want accountability established, responsibility acknowledged. Her death was avoidable. She was killed by two half-ton window frames which had been left standing at the side of a busy public pavement unsecured, unbalanced and unattended with no safety barriers round them. The risk to passers-by is obvious. Yet the risk was ignored and our daughter, a bright, beautiful woman with so much to live for, so much she wanted to do with her life, was killed.”

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Routine HSE inspection leads directly to prosecution

We are all used to HSE visiting site and reviewing our arrangements on safety.  If these fall below expected standards we typically see Fee for Intervention costs (FFI) and the possibility of the serving of Improvement or even Prohibition notices.

HSE launches several campaigns each year across the different regions of the UK to check on site safety and hundreds of sites are visited.  We know that the April visits in our own region resulted in more than 50% of sites receiving FFI and/or enforcement action.

One site visited in Wilmslow led directly to a court case, an unusual step for HSE.  Read on to find out why these steps were taken.

Despite no specific injury having occurred the site was so poorly organized that the inspector decided that a prosecution was the best course of action. Reference to the photographs above show the poor state of the site and it was felt that a death or serious injury was a real possibility.

Key failings were the missing and removed edge protection and general site debris – this was not removed from site but was tipped to the rear of the plot burying the footings of the scaffolding and making access hazardous.

A prohibition and Improvement Notice were served and the subsequent prosecution saw Skyline Building Services Ltd  fined £20,000 with £4095.60 costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Ian Betley said:

“Numerous failings were found on this site, including serious risks of falls from height and site tidiness that could have resulted in major injuries or even death.

Skyline Building Services Limited showed scant regard for the safety of the workers they were responsible for and it was fortunate that nobody was seriously injured or killed.”

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