Health and Safety News

Mind the gap down under

The instruction of “mind the gap” is something that has become synonymous with the London Underground. A man in Australia, however, has shown exactly why this is so important after, when trying to board a train, his leg slipped between the train and the platform and he became truly stuck.

In such circumstances, you might expect the fire brigade to step in and perform a complex operation in order to free the man. In this case, the safety of the man was secured in a rather different way.

Several commuters and staff at Stirling station in western Australia braced themselves against the platform and actually managed to tilt the train carriage so that the trapped man could free himself. Happily, the gentleman was not hurt, and managed to catch the next train.

Cedrec's take

Although this particular incident resulted in no injury and an heroic rescue, it may well be very different in other cases, so we at Cedrec Towers would encourage you to “mind the gap” at all times.

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150 tonnes of hazardous material spilled in Essex

A company in Essex has been fined after four chemical storage tanks failed, and spilled around 150 tonnes of hazardous material.

Industrial Chemicals Limited was responsible for the accident which lead to an industrial estate being evacuated and access roads closing. Nobody was harmed as a result of the accident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted on 1 August after an investigation found the company failed to manage, inspect and maintain the tanks in question.

The incident happened when a glass reinforced plastic tank failed which released its contents of 66 tonnes of aluminium chloride. This then went on to damage another three tanks, releasing a further 32 tonnes of aluminium chloride and 52 tonnes of hydrochloric acid.

The company could not show evidence that tanks were being operated within their design lives, or were being suitably inspected and maintained to ensure they were fit for continuous use.

Five Prohibition Notices were served to prevent the use of the glass reinforced plastic tanks that were left and had not been destroyed.

After additional inspections were made in July 2013, a further ten Prohibition Notices were served for the same reasons.

Industrial Chemicals Limited was fined £50 000 and ordered to pay £14 231 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE Inspector, Andrew Saunders stated: “Industrial Chemical Ltd’s failure to manage, inspect and maintain their GRP tanks contributed to this spillage. The measures needed to prevent this kind of incident are straightforward and guidance is freely available from HSE. There is no excuse for companies storing hazardous materials not to follow this guidance.”

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Unsafe scaffold collapses in street

A company in Cambridgeshire and its Directors have been prosecuted in result of an unsafe scaffold collapsing into a street in Stretham.

This occurred on 18 April 2013 only three days after it had been built in front of a house by the company.

Parties were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on 31 July 2014 after investigation. The investigation found that the two-storey structure had not been secured safely or properly. It was around 11 metres long and 4.5 metres high.

Ironically, a piece of plastic, which had been attached to protect passers-by as the work was being carried out, acted as a sail that caused the scaffolding to blow over in the wind.

The company was fined a total of £7 500 and ordered to pay £526 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches, one of the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735 and the other of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The Director was fined £5 000 with £500 costs after pleading guilty to the same Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 offences.

HSE inspector, John Berezansky commented: “It was extremely fortunate that no-one was working on the scaffold at the time and that no-one or nothing was hit when it fell. This is a busy High Street used by children to get to and from the local school. Had the scaffold fell during the morning or afternoon school run it could have been a different story.”

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Lincolnshire poultry firm and four contractors fined

GW Padley Poultry Ltd and four of its contractors have been fined for repetitive safety failings when workers were caught on a roof without taking the proper safety precautions.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors witnessed unsafe work at height on 13 March 2012 while workers were building a poultry shed at the company’s site which lead to their prosecution.

There was no scaffolding or edge protection in place on the roof which was around six metres high. An inspector asked the workers to come down, which to do so they had to walk about ten metres along the sloping roof and down a ladder which was insecure. A Prohibition Notice was issued, stopping further work on the roof until a suitable edge protection was put in place.

When inspectors returned three days later, work on the roof had been completed but the necessary safety precautions had still not been put into place. A second Prohibition Notice was served.

When at trial, it was heard that Harlow Brothers Ltd and Philip Bates both had previous convictions for work on poultry house roofs without edge protection.

GW Padley Poultry Ltd pleaded guilty and was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 in costs. The four contractors were also fined for breaches of health and safety legislation.

Martin Waring, HSE inspector stated: “In this case there was clear evidence of a very poor attitude to health and safety generally on this site. Each of the defendants had clear duties to ensure the safety of the workers, however these were repeatedly ignored.”

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One in six construction sites need health and safety improvements

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has undertaken a national targeted inspection focussing on health risks for construction workers. One sixth of the sites visited required enforcement action to be taken.

The proactive inspections took place over two weeks with the HSE demanding improvements, and even for certain work activities and practices to stop altogether in more extreme cases.

The inspectors made certain health risks their focus which included respiratory risks from dusts containing silica materials, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.

560 sites were visited altogether and 85 of them received enforcement notices. Thirteen Prohibition Notices, meaning certain work or practices must not be continued until improvements have been made, had to be given. 107 Improvement Notices were also handed out.

Heather Bryant, HSE’s Chief Inspector commented: “We recognise the construction sector’s progress in reducing the number of people killed and injured by its activities. But it is clear from these figures that there is an unacceptable toll of ill-health and fatal disease in the industry… We will make sure the construction industry ‘Thinks Health’ as well as safety.”

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Steelwork company fined for Health and Safety breach

A steelwork company in Herefordshire has been fined after an employee was hurt when a metal sheet fell on his foot.

On 15 July, Herefordshire Magistrates’ Court heard the man involved had been asked to move some metal sheets using an overhead travelling crane and a permanent lifting magnet placed in the centre. This involved lifting the sheets around 1.5 metres from the ground and moving them 10 metres to be placed on a conveyor.

After moving two sheets, the last disconnected from the magnet bouncing off the conveyor and fractured three of the workers toes. This resulted in him being off work for six weeks.

It was found by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation that manufacturer’s instructions had not been followed, and the magnet was unsuitable for lifting the sheet of metal involved.

HSE inspector, Tariq Khan said: “Permanent lifting magnets are a common accessory in industry and must be used correctly. Users need to understand the limitations of the ones they have in use. This incident could easily have been avoided had the company provided suitable training.”

He also cautioned: “It was nothing more than luck that the first two sheets were successfully moved and the injured employee was very fortunate that the 180kg metal sheet fell on to a conveyor before landing on his foot. Had it landed on him directly then a more serious injury may have been inflicted.”

The company involved pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and were fined £12 000 and ordered to pay £11 631.40 in costs.

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Firms prosecuted for M25 death

A construction firm has been fined and a bulldozer operator sentenced after Mihai Hondru, aged 39, was run over and killed whilst working on a project to widen the M25.

Mr Hondru was employed to direct lorries to the correct positions on the embankment so that they could tip their soil loads. Stephen Blackmore, operating the bulldozer, was supposed to then level the tipped soil with the bulldozer. As Mr Hondru was helping a lorry manoeuvre, he was struck by the reversing bulldozer.

As a result of the collision which occurred in 2010, Mr Hondru suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.

Following the incident, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection found that having carried out a risk assessment, J McArdle – the construction firm involved – had implemented a one-way system to minimise risks to pedestrians. However, when the collision occurred, ground conditions had changed which meant the lorries had to reverse into position but inadequate safety measures were put into place to protect workers near the reversing bulldozer.

It was also found that Mr Blackmore did not take sufficient account of Mihai Hondru's presence in his immediate vicinity, and assumed that Mr Hondru would move out of the way of the reversing bulldozer.

As a result of the prosecution, J McArdle Contracts Ltd, which is now in liquidation, was given a fine of £2,000 after being found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. However, the judge at Chelmsford Crown Court said that if the company had still been trading, the fine would have been £200,000.

In a separate hearing, Stephen Blackmore was found guilty of breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations SI 2007/320 and was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

HSE inspector Sandy Carmichael said, “Mihai Hondru’s death was a needless tragedy, all the more so because it was preventable. Safe operation of heavy plant, including bulldozers, means continuously checking that pedestrians are clear of moving vehicles. What had seemed like a small change in the task was really very significant. Construction work needs good planning – and good planning includes thorough risk assessment.”

“Any modification to the plan means the risks need to be re-considered very carefully. Re-assessing risk when circumstances change is crucial, as this tragic incident clearly shows. Mr Hondru’s death could have easily been avoided if the transport operations had been properly managed and there had been good vigilance by everyone involved.”

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Recycling business fined for Work at Height Regulations breach

Two contractors fell almost two meters while fixing a roller-shutter door, resulting in a Leicestershire recycling company being fined.

Eurokey Recycling Ltd. admitted two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735. They were fined £9 000 for the breaches and ordered to pay £1 880 costs.

The two contractors arrived on-site on 21 February 2013 to carry out work. They found two forklift trucks with caged containers balanced on their prongs. Each cage was raised around three metres with the contractors inside them. The accident occurred when the cages were not lowered at the same speed, destabilising the load and causing them to fall to the ground.

One contractor broke his wrist, while the other suffered several torn muscles in his back. Both of these injuries resulted in the men not being able to work for substantial periods of time.

Investigation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found several breaches. The HSE inspector felt strongly about the subject stating: “The system of work employed for the work activity was totally inappropriate and posed an obvious risk to the safety of the people being lifted. People should never be lifted on a pallet or similar container, balanced on the forks of a lift truck because they can easily fall off.”

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Blaze at recycling plant “under control”

A fire in East London has been brought under control, according to the London Fire Brigade.

During a period of strikes by firefighters, the timing has been crucial for the waste transfer station in Canning Town.

Letsrecycle.com reports that up to 70 firefighters came to tackle the blaze, and the smoke emitted caused road closures and disruptions to the Dockland Light Railway nearby.

If this instance has proven anything, it is that our fire services should never be taken for granted. The London Fire Brigade say 35 firefighters will remain on scene to ensure the fire remains controlled and safe.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

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China’s success in clothing industry has damaging effects on environment

China has emerged as a leading producer for exported goods, but that accolade which has earned them billions has provided what could be a lasting impact on their local environments.

Factories in Xintang produced 40% of the jeans bought in the US and 60% of Chinese purchases each year, but that has led to contamination of rivers and streams which carry away the toxic chemicals used to dye the fabric. The river in Xintang then leads to the Pearl River.

Similarly, the “Capital of Sexy” of Gurao, known for producing vast quantities of underwear, has led to the river in the local vicinity, the Xiao Xi, to be deemed filthy, unfit for laundry or drinking water. In flood seasons, the gardens and homes of villagers are flooded with waste water, described as “smelly”. Fish no longer inhabit the river, a sad fact that highlights this issue as a serious one.

The issue threatens far more than fish and river cleanliness, however. The Guardian include in their own report a quote from Lin Zhixin, a worker from Sichuan. “My cousin once worked in a dyeing plant. He died of pleurisy.”

Such reports can only add to the voices calling for a more efficient and environmentally conscious China.

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