The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) has recently prosecuted two manufacturers in respect of separate incidents causing serious health conditions that could have been prevented. These cases are an important reminder to manufacturers of the dangers within factories and warehouses and the need to be proactive to reduce the risk of harm.
Young’s Seafood Limited
Grimsby Crown Court recently heard that in October 2017, a 59-year-old employee was creating the mix for fishcakes at a factory in Grimsby. At the end of a mix run, he went to clear the mix from the machine which involved lifting an interlocked guard that should have stopped the machine from running. He put his hand into the machine without realising it was still running and the auger caught his hand and pulled his arm in up to his elbow.
The employee managed to remove himself but in doing so, his arm and two of his fingers were severed and he suffered serious tendon damage. The medical team were unable to re-attach his fingers and the employee has not yet been able to return to work because of the incident.
The HSE’s findings
The HSE found that:
— the machine continued to run when the safety guard was lifted (the interlock failed to operate, which it should not have done) and failed to respond when the emergency stop button was pressed;
— the guarding/ interlocking system was inadequate;
— the company failed to ensure the machine was effectively maintained; and
— there was poor communication between the shop floor and maintenance, and an inadequate fault reporting system.
Young’s Seafood Limited pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was ordered to pay £787,500 and £33,443.63 in legal costs.
Xtrac designs and manufactures transmission systems for motorsport and high-performance vehicles. Metalworking fluid is used during the machining and shaping of metals to provide lubrication and for cooling purposes.
In April 2019, a worker was splashed in the face and on the upper body with this fluid whilst cleaning out the grinding machines at the firm’s manufacturing site. Following an allergic reaction, the worker was diagnosed with contact dermatitis – a permanent allergy which means even small quantities of the substance could result in another serious reaction.
Upon medical advice and as the worker had a history of dermatitis, the worker was told they could no longer continue in their job as it was a risk to their health.
The HSE’s findings
The HSE found that:
— the company failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment to identify potential exposure to hazardous chemicals, a COSHH risk assessment;
— the company had not implemented controls to prevent skin contact despite the company knowing the worker’s medical history; and
— dermal risks are well-known within the industry, and there are simple and effective controls available to prevent contact with the skin. E.g. use of PPE particularly gloves.
The HSE also recently shared its findings for the manufacturing sector over the last five years. Each year an average 22 workers died in workplace accidents. There was also an average of more than 3,100 reports of major injuries and 4,100 reports of injuries that kept workers away from work for seven days or more. Workplace exposures also cause significant occupational ill-health.
In both of the above cases, the workers’ injuries were sadly preventable, and the risks should have been identified. Being proactive with preventative maintenance to ensure all elements of the machinery work is critical. It is also important to ‘lock off’ equipment until it is repaired, communicate any faults identified, and repair them as soon as possible. Don’t forget to promptly lodge a RIDDOR report for appropriate accidents or occupational illness (you can read our recent update about a builder’s failure to RIDDOR report here. )
If you need help taking a proactive approach to health and safety in your factory or warehouse, please get in touch with our specialist Regulatory team.