School worker takes a dive
Published: 01 Aug 2011
An independent school near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, has been prosecuted after an employee fell from the loft of the swimming pool changing rooms to the ground below.
The incident occurred when swimming pool attendant Stacey Paine, 19, was retrieving paperwork stored in a loft above the Kimbolton School changing rooms. To reach the documents, she walked along a beam of the unboarded loft but lost her footing. She fell two and a half metres onto the the tiled floor below, narrowly missing a benched area. She suffered a fractured wrist in the fall on 20 April 2010.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuting told Huntingdon Magistrates' Court that Kimbolton School had not carried out a risk assessment for entering the loft and failed to ensure that its staff did not work on or near a fragile surface.
The school admitted breaching the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735 and was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,276.40.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Stephen Faulkner said, "The outcome of this incident could have been very different. Falling from height, particularly onto such a hard surface often results in severe injuries or even death. It is an employer's duty to ensure the safety of all staff and anyone working at height needs to be protected. In this case, the documents could have been stored somewhere easier to reach and if a simple risk assessment had been carried out, this would have been identified. I urge any organisation to consider where they store items including paperwork and how safe it is for an employee to access."
For more information, see the:
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations SI 1999/3242.
Published: 01 Aug 2011
Two companies have been charged a total of £115,000 for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after a worker was dragged through a 125mm gap by a machine, suffering extensive injuries.
Matthew Lowe became caught on a conveyor system used to move steel beams after he looked into an outline point to check that a beam was connected. He was then dragged through a gap, no bigger than a CD case, between a moving measuring head and a wall. His injuries included a broken back, a ruptured stomach and bowel, shattered pelvis, a fractured right arm and several broken ribs.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there were no guards in place to protect Mr Lowe from the moving machinery. They determine that although Mr Lowe was inexperienced in using the machinery the fact that there was no guarding was the main factor in the accident.
Judge Robert Moore said some of the safety features on the machinery "could be regarded as the equivalent of a chocolate fireguard". Mr Lowe was therefore lucky to survive.
Sheffield Crown Court heard that Compass Engineering Ltd, Mr Lowe's employer, was the owner of the machine and was liable but Kaltenbach, who built and installed the machine, was also liable as they had signed-off the equipment as being ready to use. As a result, both firms were successfully prosecuted.
HSE inspector Chris Chambers said, "Had appropriate guarding been in place the incident could never have happened. While this prosecution will live long in the memory because of the shock details, I hope it serves as a reminder to those involved in manufacturing, processing and the supply of machinery of the need to prevent access to dangerous parts".
Health and Safety is clear cut
Published: 26 Jul 2011
Nicholls and Clarke Glass Ltd has been fined £11,200 with £3,977.40 costs after one of their employees was seriously injured when their arm was cut to the bone.
Ian Swain from Dunstable worked in the glass manufacurers' glass toughening section in Bedfordshire. In October 2009, he picked up a large piece of glass which cracked and then shattered, lacerating his right arm and severing muscle, nerves and the artery.
Although Mr Swain was wearing wrist guards, the shard of glass that caused the injury cut into his arm above the guard. The injury was so severe, Mr Swain was given 250 stitches and had to wear a cast for three months and has lost the full feeling in his forearm.
An investigation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the manufacturer had provided their employees with inadequate and insufficient protective equipment and were therefore in breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. However, the HSE also found that a similar accident in 2008 had not been reported, so they had also breached the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations SI 1995/3163.
HSE inspector Emma Rowlands said "Had Mr Swain been provided with full arm protection he would have avoided serious injury. Guidance on the provision of personal protective equipment for employees is freely available from HSE and trade associations, this could easily have been referred to".
Although Nicholls and Clarke Glass Ltd are now providing appropriate protective equipment to all of their workers, Ms Rowlands stated that "HSE will not hesitate to take action against companies failing to comply with the law".
For more information, see:
- Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations SI 1992/2966.
Crude awakening for Ineos
Published: 22 Jul 2011
The operators of Grangemouth refinery have been fined £100,000 after an uncontrolled release of crude oil from a pipeline at the site on the Firth of Forth in May 2008.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which was helped by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) during the investigation, said a pipeline containing crude oil became over-pressurised as a result of a process known as thermal expansion. The pipeline therefore failed causing extremely flammable crude oil to spray out across a nearby pumphouse and adjacent pipelines containing other dangerous substances. Investigators found that operators Ineos were aware of the risks from thermal expansion but chose to rely on staff to manually drain crude oil from the pipeline instead of installing engineering controls.
Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that crude oil drained from a pipeline was stored in a metal skip, not designed for the safe storage of an extremely flammable substance, so the risk of fire and explosion was increased.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Brian Kennedy said, "The crude oil involved in this incident was extremely flammable and had the potential to result in serious injury had there been a fire or explosion. Despite having recognised the need for engineered thermal relief on their crude oil pipelines following an incident at their refinery a year earlier, Ineos chose instead to rely on a manual system for managing thermal expansion. This system of work actually increased the risk of fire and explosion and ultimately failed to prevent the pipeline from becoming over-pressurised."
Ineos co-operated fully with the investigation and have issued a number of recommendations to prevent a similar incident re-occuring in the future.
Published: 22 Jul 2011
A packaging firm has been fined £90,000 after two workers became engulfed in a fireball at their Cumbrian-based factory. Gordon Metcalf, 62, and another worker were about to clean debris from a damaged fuse box when a ball of fire shot out, setting their clothes alight.
Innovia Films Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the cause of the fire at the plant in 2006. Carlisle Crown Court heard that doctors thought Mr Metcalf was unlikely to survive due to the extent of his injuries. He is still undergoing treatment for his burns, nearly five years on, and will never be able to return to work. His colleague's injuries were less severe and he has now been able to find employment.
The HSE investigation found that there had been a fire in the fuse box during the previous afternoon but live cables had been routed through it so the cooling equipment at the factory could continue to operate. This meant the company, which has production sites in the UK, USA, Belgium and Australia, avoided having to shut down the plant for 36 hours to reset the machines.
When electrician Gordon Metcalf and his colleague, an apprentice electrician, came into work the following morning they were asked to remove the debris from the fuse box and plate over the front to prevent access. The court was told that a suitable risk assessment had not been carried out for the work, and that management at the company had allowed it to go ahead without the electricity supply being isolated.
Mr Metcalf suffered burns to 47 per cent of his body. He spent four weeks in a coma, was in intensive care for six weeks and in hospital for five months. He said, "I remember the fireball just knocking me backwards, and I split my head open. I managed to get downstairs to some water, and only realised I was on fire when I saw my arm on the handrail. When I came out of hospital, I had to wear a suit over my head and body for a year and could only take it off to wash. I still have to apply cream three times a day to stop the scarring getting any worse."
Mark Dawson, HSE Principal Inspector for Cumbria, said, "It was an astonishing decision to allow work to go ahead without the live electricity supply being switched off, and even went against the company's own work procedures. If the factory had been shut down for just a day and a half then neither of the workers would have suffered severe burns."
Innovia Films Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers' lives at risk. The company was ordered to pay £26,790 towards the cost of the prosecution in addition to the fine of £90,000.
CRC scheme to be simplified?
Published: 19 Jul 2011
This month the Government announced a number of proposed amendments to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order SI 2010/768, in a move which is likely to be welcomed by many participants.
The amendments include details on the following.
Fixed price sale allowances
From Phase 2 (1 April 2013) there will be two fixed prices for sales of allowances and there will no longer be any cap or auction. The sale at the beginning of the year (where participants forecast their energy usage) will have lower priced allowances than those sold in the sale at the end of the year.
Participants will no longer need to predict their usage or develop auctioning strategies.
The organisational rules have been simplified so that CRC compliance will more closely follow natural business units. For example, participants will be able to disaggregate business units which are not large enough to qualify in their own right, as well as those which result in the parent falling below the CRC qualification threshold.
The rules relating to trusts will also be amended so the scheme will allocate responsibility to those with a genuine commercial interest in the property and use.
There are no changes planned to the landlord/tenant rule, but the Government is considering whether there should be an exception where a tenant builds a structure on land owned by a landlord, the landlord supplies the energy but the tenant is the sole occupant and is responsible for its maintenance.
Qualification and administration
By 2012, once the first reporting and auditing cycle has been completed, the Government will review the procedure with the aim of reducing the administration burden on participants.
The qualification criteria will be simplified so that only electricity through settled half hourly meters will be taken into account. In addition, the criteria for the performance league tables will be taken out of legislation and placed into guidance.
Out of the 29 fuels originally covered by the scheme, only electricity, gas, diesel and kerosene will now be included.
Draft legislative proposals are expected to be available for consultation in early 2012. In the meantime, the Government is inviting comments on the proposed amendments, to be made by 2 September 2011.