Occupational Health: Alveolitis in Metal Working

Health is becoming the central thrust of any HSE visit and with good reason, health causes a huge impact on individuals and a massive strain on our NHS. However, not all safety professionals are aware of these risks well enough to control them and that’s where expert, external, independent advice can be invaluable.

Alveolitis is a condition of the lung caused by the inhalation of the mist created by metal working fluid when machining – particularly at higher speeds.

The Hazards of Metal Working Fluids (MWF) Alveolitis

Exposure to MWF can be hazardous in several ways but dermatitis from skin contact and lung problems from inhalation are the two major issues.  Biocides are often introduced into MWF’s to stop bacterial growth and this gives the clue about what can happen to the lungs when a fine mist is inhaled by workers.

Over a period of time workers may develop a number of ill health conditions including;

  • bronchitis;
  • irritation of the upper respiratory tract;
  • occupational asthma;
  • or, most seriously, extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EEA).

If you use MWF then seek to control exposure by minimising the volume and rate of delivery at the cutting point or seek to capture mist or enclose it within CNC machines.  If you use a small bright torch with a focusing beam you may be able to seek where and how mist is rising from the process – we issue these torches for free to our clients so if you need one please ask – we’ve helped many businesses with this simple tool.

Consider also your current health surveillance provision – if you need any help and support we can provide skilled practitioners to help you put a robust health surveillance plan in place – just call us on 01453 800100 for more detail and read here for a case study involving a major aerospace company which was recently fined £800,000

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us.

Posted by Roger Hart

Major aerospace company receives £800,000 fine for occupational ill health (alveolitis)

Martin Baker Aircraft Company has been fined £800,000 after three of its workers developed Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis (EEA).

EEA is often caused when workers inhale contaminated metal working fluids as a mist when high speed machining is taking place, these fluids can provide a home for bacteria and other organisms to breed and lead to serious and ongoing illness.

Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis

EEA is a condition which causes the small air scacs within the lungs (alveoli) to become inflamed in an allergic reaction. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and joint pain.

The three workers suffering from the condition had been exposed to MWF mist for three years and were among a group of 60 staff which the HSE found to have been put at risk. One of the workers was said to have become virtually paralysed by the illness and the two others have become restricted in the types of work they can undertake in future as they must now avoid contact with the substance.

HSE investigation leads to massive fine

The HSE investigated and found that Martin Baker Aircraft Company (MBAC) had not done enough to reduce the risk with no system of cleaning away the excess fluid and a lack of extraction to prevent the build-up of MWF mist. In addition, they found that there was also a lack of health surveillance (required under Regulation 11 of COSHH.

In court MBAC pleaded guilty to breaching s.2 (1)Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Reg 6(1) Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 . It was fined £800,000 with £36,912 in costs – one of the highest ever penalties for occupational health offences.

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Watch our video on occupational health to learn more about how we can support you on this and similar issues.

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE to Issue Construction Sector Plan for 2017 – 2022: emphasis on CDM 2015 compliance

HSEThe Board of HSE met in December to discuss the draft HSE Construction Sector Plan for construction for the coming 3-5 year period, the summary of the points for consideration are listed below with the emphasis being placed on Health, Smaller Business and CDM 2015;

HSE Priorities (HSE Construction Sector Plan)

  1. Health Hazards – reducing incidents of ill-health, with a particular focus on occupational lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders;
  2. Small Businesses – supporting small businesses to achieve improved risk management and control; and
  3. CDM Regulations 2015 – embedding the principles of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM).

HSE will secure effective management and control of risk by:

  • Project Regulation – directing inspection and enforcement at those failing to manage and control risks, focusing on health risks refurbishment, and licenced asbestos removal;
  • Central interventions – visiting dutyholders to review their health risk management arrangements using leading indicators in the Construction Health Risks Toolkit; and
  • CDM 2015 Pre-Construction Phase – intervening with construction clients, principal designers and designers to ensure proportionate CDM understanding and compliance, working with or through other health and safety regulators (eg ONR) where necessary.

HSE will lead and engage with others to improve workplace health and safety by:

  • Health Ownership – working with the Health in Construction Leadership Group in promoting the ownership by industry of good health risk management, and the development of case studies and health-specific leading indicators;
  • Awareness Research – funding communication insight research enabling improved risk awareness, management and mitigation in small and micro businesses;
  • CDM 2015  for SMEs – helping small businesses to comply proportionately with CDM, eg case studies on social media;
  • Designer Risk Mitigation – working with professional bodies to enhance the competence of designers through the effective teaching of design risk mitigation across built environment higher education courses;
  • BIM Promotion – demonstrating the effective use of building information modelling (BIM) to improve risk information sharing, coordination and collaboration throughout the construction process; and
  • Manual Handling – working with supply chains to reduce risks from manual handling.

HSE will reduce the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents by:

  • Major Projects – early and strategic interventions with major projects, including Crossrail, HS2, Thames Tideway, power generation decommissioning and new build; and
  • Risk Leadership – working with industry to develop clear standards of construction risk leadership and leading performance.

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart

Polishing on lathes still causing injuries at work, £400k fine

When you start out in health and safety you usually end up on a 10 day NEBOSH Certificate and this is often taught in a college.  You all file down to an old engineering workshop and are told about holding emery cloth on lathes (polishing on lathes and the terrible injuries it can cause.

However, you suspect that when you get into industry proper you won’t see such an obvious breach of the Regs and good common sense… how wrong you were.

Polishing on lathes still causing injuries at work

These accidents are as old as lathes themselves but we’re still seeing the awful injuries which result from them, read on to find out more and perhaps make this the subject of a toolbox talk or take a quick walk down to engineering and just do a double check for used pieces of emery cloth…

Cammell Laird Shiprepairers and Shipbuilders Ltd has been fined £400,000 after a workman suffered serious injuries whilst carrying out repair work on a lathe.

The 59 year old worker from Ellesmere Port suffered fractures and crush injuries to his right hand and was off work for 5 months after carrying out repair work to a lathe the 20th July 2015.

Liverpool Magistrates Court heard  on 5 December that while he was repairing the lathe  he noticed that the shafts and couplings were dirty decided to clean these parts by wrapping an emery cloth around the lead screw with the lathe under power.   This resulted in the rotating machine parts pulling him to the moving parts of the machine.

The company pleaded guilty to a breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £400,000 And ordered to pay costs of £7,683.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Karen Fearon said:

“The Defendant had developed a Health and Safety Management System (HSMS) but failed to ensure that the system had permeated all parts of the organisation. If the HSMS had been followed this accident may not have occurred.

Maintenance was being carried out on machinery which was energised whilst someone was in the dangerous part of that machine. There was no lock off, poor control and poor management. Prior to maintenance the equipment was not shutdown, isolated and residual energy released and secured with a means to prevent inadvertent reconnection (e.g. by locking off with a padlock) as it should have been.”

 

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart

CDM Client and their Contractors fined more than £1.5m

A local authority (acting as a CDM Client) and its two contractors have been fined in excess of £1.5 million following two incidents involving roadworks on a busy Liverpool city centre road. A man died and another was seriously injured while attempting to cross Queens Drive in Liverpool during major resurfacing works which happened in the summer of 2012.

CDM Client fined more than £1.5m

In the case, heard at Liverpool Crown Court, it was reported that on the 3 July 2012 a 74-year-old man suffered head injuries after he was hit by a car while using a crossing at temporary lights. One side of the Queen’s Drive dual carriageway had been put into a contraflow to allow vehicles to travel in both directions but temporary pedestrian lights were not working and no alternative was provided.HSE

The Court also heard that on the 19th August 2012, 69-year-old Ernest Haughton died when he was struck by a car whilst crossing a single lane of traffic on the same road using a temporary pedestrian crossing.

Following complaints from motorists changes were made to the traffic control lights to alleviate congestion but this  resulted in the removal of the natural break in traffic flow needed to allow pedestrians to safely cross the carriageway.

When Mr Haughton died the temporary lights were removed but no alternative control measures were put in place to enable pedestrians to cross. In addition, a large A-frame sign was placed on the crossing which obscured the view of both pedestrians and motorists.

Liverpool City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) and were fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £100,000 costs.

HSE investigators found that Liverpool City Council had failed to ensure that the arrangements for managing the roadworks were suitable, including failing to appoint a suitable co-ordinator for the work. Instead the council sought to delegate responsibilities to Enterprise Liverpool Limited who pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) and were fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 costs.

HSE found that Enterprise Liverpool Limited failed to ensure the designs for the traffic management were checked or approved and failed to check that the construction plan for pedestrian routes and provision of barriers was being followed.  At the time of the incidents they were found not to have provided a safe means of pedestrians crossing the works area or the carriageway.

Tarmac Trading Limited of Solihull, pleaded guilty to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and were fined £1.3 million and ordered to pay £130,000 costs.

Tarmac Trading Limited, who were responsible for the provision and installation of the traffic and pedestrian management, failed to provide alternative assistance for pedestrians at the time of the first incident despite it being known that the temporary lights were broken. A temporary bus stop had also been placed in the middle of the road at the crossing.

HSE Inspector Jacqueline Western commented:

“The risks associated with road works are well known in the industry and specific guidance is available to assist with the planning and implementation. It is not unreasonable to expect that those who regularly engage in this type of construction work should be well aware of their roles and responsibilities.

The combined failure of all three dutyholders to comply with their duties on more than one occasion during the Queens Drive resurfacing project, led to one man losing his life and another suffering serious injury. It could quite easily have been two fatal incidents.

By engaging with the entire project team at the very start of a project, clients like Liverpool City Council, can ensure that a good health and safety culture is embodied throughout the life of the project. Ongoing communication and cooperation between the principal contractors and sub-contractors ensures that the project is being adequately planned, managed and monitored.”

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use our contact us page.

 

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE fines increase by 43 percent

Between February 2016 and August 2016, we have seen a significant HSE Fines increase. These totalled totalled £20.6 million, compared to £14.4 million in February 2015 to August 2015 (please note that these costs may in fact be significantly higher as the data does not include sentences imposed in cases prosecuted by local authorities).

HSE fines increase by 43 percent

In the past few weeks alone there have been a number of high value, high profile fines, including:HSE

It seems that for medium sized businesses fines are now routinely hitting the £1m point, indeed it has been argued that under the new Sentencing Guidelines ‘very large businesses’ (those with a turnover in excess of £50m) may see fines as high as £100m becoming common place.

Now may be the time to review your current board level arrangements for health and safety, ensure that you are treating it with the importance it deserves and documenting the good practice you have in place.  Consider a Gap Analysis from one of our experts as a good place to start.

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE consults on enforcing safety for all businesses (with FFI)

HSEIn July HSE ran a consultation on health and safety enforcement allocation with a view to how it shares its enforcement role with local authorities EHO’s (environmental health officers).

A number of options were on the table ranging from completely absorbing the LAs’ regulatory powers for health and safety to allocating them greater duties. It should be remembered that HSE no longer has the resources to directly support the LA’s and that a strange situation has occurred for some clients where one site could be under LA enforcement which has no FFI and another very similar site comes under HSE and is liable to its FFI costs of £124 per hour – hardly fair and equitable!

HSE will always have its place in setting policies and drafting legislation but LA’s play a major part in health and safety enforcement for smaller businesses, from hairdressers all the way up to large vehicle maintenance depots with a diverse range of risk. Their role of the LA’s (EHO), as defined in the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1998 , is to regulate the retail, leisure and service-based sectors with HSE covering pretty much everything else.

However, the government has slashed LA budgets and one of the departments that took the biggest hit was health and safety enforcement leading to a significant reduction in the number of safety inspections conducted.  In addition, staff training  and the support on offer from HSE to inspectors is not what it once was and money continues to be tight and budgets squeezed.  This has led to further and harsher enforcement by HSE under its fee-for-intervention scheme which allows it to charge for its inspectors’ time and is currently worth several million pounds in income each year (see our post on how prosecutions have trebled here).

The likely outcome?  We think HSE will start to take over more and more of the current enforcement territory of the EHO’s leading to many more businesses who are currently out of scope as far as FFI is concerned coming into contact with HSE and its systems of fee’s and fines.

The full findings of the review will be handed to the HSE board in 2017and, once plans are agreed, legislation will have to be amended.

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart

HSE more than trebles the number of Directors prosecuted for safety offences

Research by law firm Clyde & Co. has shown that the number of HSEcompany directors prosecuted by HSE in the year to 31 March 2016 more than trebled from 15 to 46 persons.  In the same period the number of employees prosecuted has fallen from 10 persons to just 1.

According to the research of these 46 prosecutions 34 were found guilty and 12 were given prison sentences, the longest of which was 2 years.

We can only reach one conclusion from the data above and it confirms what we have seen from assisting the thousands of clients across the UK in both construction and industry, and that is that HSE are pursuing clients with a zeal not seen in the past 20 years.

A second conclusion seems to be that prosecutions against employees are becoming less likely, and perhaps less attractive to the enforcer.  Prosecutions against corporate bodies and directors bring with them valuable income from FFI at a time when the regulator is facing budget cuts. Its seems unlikely that the situation will change in the near future and change which could see all businesses covered by HSE from next year to increase the number of fines and prosecutions still further (see our post on this here).

If you’d like to know more about Directors responsibilities please read the HSE guidance pages.  You may also want to look at the advice provided by the Institute of Directors and also IOSH.

Contact us on 01453 800100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or use contact us on 01453 800100

 

Posted by Roger Hart

Dusts in construction (RCS), their risks and how to manage them

dust RCS crystalline silicaHealth in construction is a big issue and HSE are pushing hard to get the message out to clients of all sizes that health in construction is a very high risk.  The latest figures show that as many as 100 staff per week die from ill health causes through their job – and that’s just the construction sector!

With this in mind we are working with our clients to address these risks, educate their staff through training courses and toolbox talks and also running free sessions on the risks associated with construction dusts and how to manage them – the next of which is running in November 2016 at our offices in Stroud.  Check out this link for the talk which we gave to WWT (an HSE and Construction industry partnership organisation)

Dusts in construction (RCS), their risks and how to manage them

These talks won’t just give you an understanding of the risk present, they’ll give you clear and workable advice on how to manage them through changes in working practices and tool selection, we’ll also have expert advice from Dust Control UK on what equipment you can use to clean up dusts without exposing your staff and your clients to cancer causing Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).

We’ll update you on the free course and also put a booking link here as soon as its live on our Eventbrite page, in the meantime feel free to look at these Workers Stories from HSE to give you some useful resources to raise the issue of construction dusts with your staff and click here to see HSE’s latest Health in Construction – The Facts poster HSE;

 

Posted by Roger Hart

The compensation (no win no fee) cases still keep coming… but why?

OS Logo EmailBack in 2013 we wrote a post informing you of the changes which were made on strict liability which links directly to no win no fee liability; read our original post here

A number of changes were put together which aimed to cap the costs charged by solicitors and to remove the incentive to make speculative claims against businesses.  These changes included making  insurance costs against losing the case non recoverable by solicitors and any premiums payable by the claimant only, later that year were also saw the removal of strict liability in health and safety cases.

However, this has only had limited success and the claims adds and ambulance chasers are still out there and earning a very healthy living.

What can you do to protect your business from No Win No Fee

Great question!  A few simple measures will help introduce some protection and don’t forget that insurers are now much less likely to concede a claim than they were a few years ago.  In fact, we know of insurers employing the services of specialists claims investigation teams of claims of under £10,000 – something which was unheard of a year or two ago.

Here’s a list of simple things you can do now with no real cost impact to give you protection in the event of one of these claims hitting your business;

  1. Consider CCTV; having evidence of what happened is liability gold dust and could see the case dismissed entirely, if you’re considering the cost benefit make sure you consider this benefit when talking to installers;
  2. Get savvy on accident recording and investigation; perhaps the biggest single change to to take photo (as many as you can) and gather signed witness statements from everyone on the day the accident happens and as close to the time of the event as is humanly possible;
  3. Look at your current arrangements for health surveillance – we can help you with this, issues such as occupational deafness are the new whiplash for the ambulance chasers (see our 2014 post warning you of this here);
  4. If you receive a claims letter don’t respond to it!  Contact your insurer and put it into their hands, no matter what the content, leave it to their legal team to handle in the best way possible to protect you;
  5. If you think you may have a claim against you from an employee contact your insurer, they may be able to deal directly with a claimant and save you thousands if you have had a genuine accident and one of your staff is injured.

We hope you’ve found the above useful, as always, if you have questions please do call your retained consultant or if you’re not yet a client please get in touch with us directly using the links below.

Contact us on 01453 800 100 if you need expert help with health and safety for a fixed cost or request a call back.

Posted by Roger Hart