A Welsh company that manufactures kitchen and toilet tissue paper has been fined £1million after an employee was seriously injured when he was struck in the face by a crane hook.
On 5 November 2019, the man who worked for Sofidel UK Limited based in Neath, was attempting to free a paper reel, which had become stuck on the exit rails of a paper machine, by using an overhead crane. During the operation, part of the crane contacted the spinning reel causing the crane hook to swing violently striking the man in the face. He suffered the loss of an eye, multiple fractures to the face and lost 9 teeth.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Sofidel UK Limited, based at Brunel Way, Baglan Energy Park, Briton Ferry, Neath, failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the hazards posed by paper reels which did not eject correctly from the machine. They also failed to ensure that control measures were in place and that employees were provided with information and instructions on what to do should this situation arise. The issue was happening regularly, yet no risk assessment had been undertaken despite operators being provided with basic equipment to use in these circumstances.
At Swansea Magistrates’ Court on 13 July, Sofidel UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £13,446.50.
A private boarding school has been fined £50,000 after exposing two employees, five pupils, and two other children to high levels of radioactive radon gas.
Five pupils at Kingswood School in Bath, Somerset were exposed to levels of radioactive radon gas almost 8 times the legal limit. Two other children, who were not pupils at the school, were exposed to levels of radon gas almost 14 times the legal limit. Two employees were exposed to radioactive radon gas ¾ of the legal limit. Exposures to radiation need to be kept as low as reasonably practicable.
The radioactive gas radon is a hazard in many homes and workplaces and breathing in radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK resulting in over 1,000 fatal cancers per year. Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that occurs in rocks and soils, some building materials and water. The ground is the most important source as radon can seep out and build up in houses and indoor workplaces like schools.
The legal limits for radiation exposure in the workplace are defined in The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17).
These exposures to radioactive radon gas occurred in 2019. The two employees and their two children were exposed to the elevated radon gas levels as a result of working and living at the school. The five overexposed pupils studied and lived at the school during this time.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the school knew they had a radon problem as far back as 2007 when they carried out monitoring and installed some remediation to reduce radon levels. However, from 2010 to 2018 the school carried out no subsequent radon monitoring and had no systems in place to ensure radon control measures were adequate. Only following HSE intervention in 2018 did the school find out about their previous radon problem and further radon monitoring and remediation was carried out to reduce radon levels.
Kingswood School Trustees Limited, of Lansdown, Bath, Somerset pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £50,000 and was ordered to pay £19,222 costs at a hearing at Taunton Magistrates’ Court on 19 July 2023.
A leading workwear company has been fined £400,000 after an employee had the skin ripped off the palm of her left hand.
Sharon Chaplin, 51, was working an evening shift for Johnsons Textile Services Limited at the company’s site in Burbage, Hinckley on 16 December 2021. The mother of two, from Barwell in Leicestershire, was trying to manually clean a sensor to initiate movement of a conveyor belt, but as she did so, her left hand was drawn into a gap where two conveyor belts meet.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Johnsons Textile Services Limited had inadequately guarded machinery, did not have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the machinery that caused the injury and inadequate health and safety management systems in place.
Johnsons Textile Services Limited, of Logix Road, Burbage, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The company was fined £400,000 and was ordered to pay £5,919.63 costs at a hearing at Leicester Magistrates Court on 12 July 2023.
A construction company has been fined £12,000 after a Shropshire bricklayer fell through a stairwell opening and fractured his skull.
Scott Ife, 30, from Bridgnorth, was working for 2 Counties Construction (Midlands) Ltd when the incident took place on 8 June 2020. The company had been hired as the principal contractor overseeing the refurbishment of agricultural barns into houses on Humber Lane in Telford.
Working alongside another employee, Mr Ife, who was 27 at the time, was laying the blocks to form the gable walls for a two-storey extension. The pair set up a working platform using Youngman boards on the first floor of the property. As there was an unprotected stairwell opening in the property, one end of the Youngman boards was unsupported.
While leaning over to point up the blocks in the gable walls, the worker lost his balance before falling onto the unsupported Youngman boards and through the stairwell opening.
He fell four-and-a-half metres onto the concrete floor below, fracturing his skull and damaging his facial nerve. The man was hospitalised for three days following the incident.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a series of failings on the part of 2 Counties Construction (Midlands) Ltd including a lack of suitable controls for preventing falls into the building and through the stairwell openings. There was also inadequate planning, a lack of selection of equipment for working at height and inadequate site management arrangements.
2 Counties Construction (Midlands) Ltd, of Taylors Lane, Broomhall, Worcester, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. The company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £4,139 in costs at Cannock Magistrates’ Court on 21 July 2023.
A self-employed plumber has received a suspended prison sentence after carrying out unsafe gas work in Hampshire and for pretending to be Gas Safe registered.
Ben Craig Siddle, trading as BCS Gas and Plumbing, worked on numerous homes in Hampshire in 2021 and 2022 even though he was not a Gas Safe registered engineer. Mr Siddle, 24, falsely represented himself as a Gas Safe registered engineer to customers and did not carry out the work to appropriate standards, leaving residents at risk from unsafe gas appliances. He left two of the properties he worked on in an unsafe condition.
Gas Safe registered engineers were later required to correct and repair installations Mr Siddle had carried out at these properties. At one property on East Cosham Road, Portsmouth, the boiler and flue Mr Siddle installed were deemed immediately dangerous. A boiler Mr Siddle installed at another property on Howard Road, Portsmouth, was classed as at risk. Having been prohibited from further gas fitting work by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in July 2021, Mr Siddle committed further gas installation offences between March 2022 to August 2022 at a house on Stakes Road, Waterlooville.
A HSE investigation found Mr Siddle had falsely presented himself as Gas Safe registered while carrying out gas work at these properties. HSE inspectors found Mr Siddle had failed to comply with a Prohibition Notice issued by HSE which required him to stop carrying out gas work.
Ben Craig Siddle, of Hatchmore Road, Waterlooville, Hampshire pleaded guilty to five breaches of Regulations 3(7) and 3(3) and 5(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 2005 and two breaches of Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was handed a six-month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months, ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £5,000 in costs at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on 18 July 2023.
A manufacturing company has been fined after failing to protect two of its workers from exposure to vibration.
The two staff members at Ross & Catherall Limited – a company that manufactures and supplies metal bars for the aerospace and automotive industries – worked at the firm’s Forge Lane site in Killamarsh, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in 2019. The two employees carried out a variety of tasks, which included the use of vibrating tools, throughout the company’s manufacturing process. Both operators used these tools for extended periods of time, over a number of years, without adequate systems in place to control their exposure to vibration.
Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools and can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). HAVS can lead to the loss of strength in the hands as well as tingling and numbness in the fingers – both of which can affect the ability to do work safely.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found there was no hand-arm vibration risk assessment in place to identify what level of vibration the operators were exposed to. There were also no control measures in place to reduce exposure levels, with reasonably practicable measures only being implemented following HSE’s intervention. Health surveillance was also inadequate. This was not carried out annually and there was no initial health surveillance assessment for new operators.
Ross & Catherall Limited, of Bretby Business Park, Ashby Road, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £7605.37 in costs at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 17 July 2023.
A Welshpool manufacturing company has been fined £100,000 after one of its employees partially severed two fingers while trying to find a fault in a machine.
Interior Products Group Limited (known as Newmor Group Ltd at the time of the incident) manufacture and sell pre-finished fit out products to a variety of sectors. The experienced employee, from Wrexham, was attempting to identify a fault in an edgebander machine – used to apply edging tape to the raw edges of wood panels with a hot-melt adhesive or glue.
Wrexham Magistrates’ Court heard how the experienced employee suffered the injuries while checking for debris on the trimming unit of the edgebander. Having failed to turn the machine off correctly before raising it to look inside, the worker then stepped over two supporting rails and placed their fingers on a trimming unit, resulting in two being partially severed.
Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was discovered that although the company had carried out a number of risk assessments on the machine, they failed to identify the hazards presented by the cutting and trimming units from the front of the edgebander. They also failed to provide suitable and sufficient, information, instruction and training to enable their staff to carry out activities such as cleaning, fault finding and minor repairs safely.
Interior Products Group Limited of Madocs Works, Henfaes Lane, Welshpool pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,688.
The largest health board in Scotland has been fined £235,000 after a man took his own life while in its care on 22 January 2020. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) pleaded guilty at Paisley Sheriff Court to a number of failings, including not having a suitable risk assessment in place.
Martin Donnelly, 36, who had a history of mental illness, had been medically detained at the South Ward of Dykebar Hospital in Paisley, two days before his death.
An investigation by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established there had been failures by NHSGGC to ensure existing ligature points at the hospital were suitably and sufficiently risk assessed, and the patients under its care were not exposed to them. NHSGGC had relied upon clinical measures, such as the assessment and observation of Mr Donnelly, rather than physical measures, to ensure his safety.
The NHS-issued guidance aligns with the terms of Regulation 4 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and its ‘General Principles of Prevention’, which require the risks to be combated at source. In this case, that would have involved removing the certain taps and other ligature points, or replacing them with suitable alternatives.
NHSGGC had a duty to keep Mr Donnelly safe and failed to do so. All reasonably practicable measures were not taken by NHSGGC, which could have prevented Mr Donnelly from taking his own life. NHSGGC pleaded guilty to breaching sections 3(1) and 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 on the 30 June 2023. At a hearing on 10 July 2023, it was fined £235,000 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £17,625.
A family run haulage and storage business, has been fined following the death of a 25-year-old employee at its premises in East Lothian. Andrew Black Limited was fined £150,000 after the death of Grant Borton, an experienced LGV driver on 31 December 2022.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that after finishing his driving duties, Mr Borton was using the-onsite wash bay to clean his vehicle in preparation for his next shift. Upon exiting the wash bay, he raised the body of his tipper vehicle and made contact with overhead powerlines which resulted in his death by electrocution.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident revealed that a failure to ensure suitable control measures were in place resulted in Mr Borton being electrocuted. Had the risks been recognised and simple controls been implemented, his death could have been avoided.
On 4 July 2023, Andrew Black Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and were fined £150,000.
A London primary school has been fined £35,000 after a child received 45 per cent burns to their body at a carol concert.
The school was found guilty after a trial following an incident at a church on 11 December 2019. During the carol concert, 60 Year 3 children from the school were waiting in costume, in a narrow corridor, holding 10-inch lit taper candles. As they were waiting, a seven-year-old boy wearing a home-made sheep costume made out of cotton wool balls, caught fire.
The fire was extinguished with some difficulty and the child received first aid at the scene before being taken by air ambulance to Broomfield Hospital and found to have sustained an estimated 45 per cent burns to their body.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the school had failed to take appropriate measures to account for the risks inherent with giving lit candles to children, while wearing potentially flammable costumes.
The injuries sustained by the boy will require on-going, regular, invasive surgeries throughout his youth and into adulthood and have been life changing for him and his family.
The school pleaded not guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act but were found guilty by a jury at Southwark Crown Court on 19 June 2023. At Southwark Crown Court on 30 June they were fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £25,970 in costs
Plymouth City Council has been fined £200,000 after its failures led to employees developing hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
During 2017 – 2019, two council employees developed HAVS and a further four were diagnosed with CTS as a result of prolonged and uncontrolled exposure to hand arm vibration while working in the grass cutting team or when carrying out arboriculture activities.
HAVS can affect the nerves causing pins and needles and numbness and can result in reduced strength in the hands. It can also vascular components in the hands causing asymmetrical blanching of the fingers and numbness which occur when exposed to cold and wet.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that between 2005 – 2019, Plymouth City Council failed in its legal duty to comply with legislation even though guidance has been available for employers since 2005.
Plymouth City Council pleaded guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The local authority was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £25,877 in costs at Plymouth Magistrates Court on 29 June 2023.
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