October 2019: H&S Prosecutions

October 2019: H&S Prosecutions

Eliza Bonecka

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Vertellus Specialties UK Limited has today been fined after an employee fell two metres from a ladder and suffered a serious elbow injury.

Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard that on 6 June 2018, at the company’s site in Northside, Workington, an employee was using a ladder to inspect a steam leak at height when the ladder failed and the employee fell to the ground...

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SOUTHALLS COMMENT:

Work at height remains one of the most high priority safety topics for good reason, and incidents such as this one demonstrate the need to carefully risk assess and subsequently maintain equipment such as ladders. Ladders are only suitable for short duration works and for those works that are simple and straightforward to complete.

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The fact that the ladder was being used externally may further complicate matters, bearing in mind it may then be used on a greasy, wet and / or uneven surfaces. The case serves as a good reminder for properly considering the hierarchy of control in relation to work at height, so could this area have been inspected using a camera on an extendable pole or via a drone first? If there was a need for regular maintenance or inspection in this area could a more permanent means of access have been considered? The use of a MEWP would have also been far more preferable to the use of a ladder, and in any of the suggestions mentioned above would have proven far cheaper than both the fine and any insurance claims that may now follow.

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Cardiff-based steelmaker Celsa Manufacturing has been prosecuted for failing to carry out a risk assessment before an explosion at its city centre plant left two workers dead and five more seriously injured...

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SOUTHALLS COMMENT:

In what was a particularly tragic case, the Courts have chosen to apply a very significant fine, firstly because of the overall seriousness of the case, but also because the article highlights the fact Celsa was subject to two further recent prosecutions in quick succession. This may have led the Courts to surmise that health and safety is not seen as a priority for the Company, with the fine for this particular case being used to make a clear statement that this will not be tolerated. In terms of the case itself, it highlights the need to carefully consider not only a process or activity itself, but also any subsequent maintenance and servicing that may be undertaken. A risk assessment that should likely have included a DSEAR assessment as well  should have taken into account the possibility for elimination or substitution of the heater which has acted as the ignition source, and if this were not achievable simple isolation procedures and a formal, documented safe system of work that staff followed consistently could have helped avoid this.

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Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 27 July 2018, an employee of Preston Board and Packaging Limited was trying to repair a cardboard slitting machine. Whilst in the process of lifting a chain back onto a sprocket, a roller attached to the chain dropped to the base of the machine trapping his fingers under the chain, resulting in his left-hand ring finger and the tip of his middle finger being severed...

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SOUTHALLS COMMENT:

The article once more illustrates the need for repairs or maintenance to be considered as part of a risk assessment - it's not sufficient just to consider the day to day risks associated with a machine, activity or process. Consideration should firstly have been given to the safest way to undertake the repair - could it have been done differently so it was safer? A critical look at existing methods of work is always an important part of risk assessment and subsequent review. As a minimum a formal, documented safe system of work that staff followed in the event of a repair being needed would have provided the necessary knowhow to undertake this safely.

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