Category Archives: HSE Enforcement Actions

Increase in Value of Negligent Dentistry Claims Seen

The DDU has revealed that the number of six-figure claims for compensation made against its members has increased dramatically in the last ten years.

The Dental Defence Union-not unMedical Defence Union, and is an organisation that provides indemnity and legal support for its members when claims for negligent dentistry are made against them. The organisation has recently claimed that there has been a substantial increase in the volume of claims being resolved in excess of £100,000 in the past ten years.

Since 2006 – a year in which only two were settled for amounts in excess of £100,000 – the DDU has paid almost £5 million in six-figure settlements; with £1.1 million compensation for negligent dentistry being paid out in 2015 alone. In the period which was investigated, the highest settlement of the eleven six-figure settlements was for the failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease leading to tooth loss in the victim.

The head of the DDU-John Makin-has aired his concerns that the increasing number of claims and the escalating settlements of compensation for negligent dentistry are making indemnity more expensive for individual dental practitioners. “We are seeing disturbing rises in the cost of clinical negligence claims and a surge of claims exceeding £100,000 against our dental members,” he said.

Makin cites rising patient expectations and aggressive marketing by medical negligence solicitors as contributory causes in the increased number of six-figure settlements of compensation for negligent dentistry. He listed common allegations made by patients in 2015 as implants or cosmetic treatments that were unsatisfactory, excessive, or where the final appearance was not as expected.

However, critics have commented that Makin´s remarks are misleading. One contributor to argued that it was it was within the patient’s rights to expect a high standard of treatment from dentists, and expect dentists to put things right when they go wrong – or pay compensation for negligent dentistry.

The contributor also criticised the DDU´s head for blaming solicitors for the bigger compensation settlements. He commented that if there were no solicitors, the negligent dentists would be getting away with misdiagnosing gum disease and tooth decay. He added that if the DDU were to admit liability for their members´ faults at an earlier stage – rather than defend indefensible claims – the DDU´s legal costs would be much lower.

Staples Disposables Ltd Admits Poor Health and Safety Management after Three Employees are Injured

Following three separate incidents where factors workers sustained hand injuries from using unguarded machines, a Lincolnshire manufacturing firm of disposable paper products – Staples Disposables Ltd – has been ordered to pay fines and costs of £116,000. The company was prosecuted at Lincoln Crown Court on April 19 by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after they investigated the three incidents at its factory located in Fulbeck Heath of Hurlingham Business Park near Grantham.

The first victim was Bruno Jorge, a 32 year old man from Sleaford. His left thumb was amputated after unguarded machinery on a production line crushed it on July 26th 2011. Mr Jorge was left unable to work for several months but has recently returned to employment at the company and has been assigned other duties.

The next victim was Yelena Semenchenko, a 30 year old agency worker from of Lincoln. Her incident occurred only a month after Mr Jorge’s on August 25th.  The blade of a napkin folding machine cut Ms Semenchenko’s finger and she has not subsequently returned to work for the company.

The third victim, Simon Burnett, aged 46 from Navenby, suffered the loss of all four fingers on his right hand a year later when it got caught between unguarded rollers. It is too soon to tell whether or not Mr Burnett will ever be able to return to work.

The court was told how Mr Jorge had been working on a new production line. When he went to clear a blockage in the machine – a common company practice – his hands got caught in the rollers. He not only suffered a crushed thumb but also a fractured palm. The HSE discovered that when the machine was being tested by engineers, the interlocked guards around the equipment had been overridden by the company for easy access. Management of the company were fully aware of this fact but failed to restore the interlocks.

With regards to the second accident it was found that an electrically-interlocked guard had been removed. This guard had been installed in 2007, after a similar incident had occurred where the company had been been prosecuted by the HSE. However, it was soon removed again within a few weeks of installing them.

The third accident occurred because of the company’s general practice to lock operators within an enclosure for the purpose of keeping them away from the hazardous aspects of the toilet paper production line. This dangerous practice was never noticed or stopped by the manufacturers or its management.

Staples Disposables Ltd pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching Sections 2(1) and one charge of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was ordered to pay a fine of £85,000 and are liable to pay costs of £31,380.

David Lefever, a HSE inspector, had this to say after the hearing –

“Staples Disposables Ltd had a poor health and safety management system and failed to suitably supervise factory operations. The company was well aware that machines should have interlocked guards in place to prevent people accessing dangerous moving parts of the machinery, yet it continued to put workers at risk over a prolonged period. Injury was inevitable.”

Brockmoor Foundry Company Limited Fined after Employee Avoids Fatal Accident

Brockmoor Foundry Company Limited, an iron foundry located in Leys Road, Brierley Hill, West Midlands, has been fined by Dudley Magistrates’ Court after an employee fell off a collapsing platform and almost into a 1400 degree stream of molten metal in October 2011. The 42 year old man, who wishes not to be named, sustained bruising to his arm, neck and shoulders after he fell off the front of the platform. If he had fallen backwards, he would have landed in the deadly molten stream.

This platform that the man had been standing on was designed only to hold sampling equipment. However, an investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that employees of the foundry would often use the platform as a means to cross the production line and the conveyer. The company had failed to introduce sufficiently safe working practices and also failed to notice this unsafe practice that was being carried out by workers on a regular basis. The platform had collapsed due to this unsafe practice. It was then found that the other platforms in the vicinity were also old, unstable and missing vital safety features such as handrails.

Subsequently, Brockmoor Foundry Company Limited were fined £10,400 and ordered to pay costs of £4,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (etc) Act 1974.

John Glynn, a HSE inspector, had this to say on the matter –

“The employee was extremely lucky to have only suffered bruising – as it was a matter of good fortune that he fell towards the front of the platform. He could so easily have fallen off the platform entirely, or worse, fallen backwards into the molten metal stream.

“The incident was entirely avoidable and occurred because the company failed to assess the risks and control the hazards associated with their work activities.

“The case demonstrates the importance of effective management. Had the company performed a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks surrounding the area, provided appropriate work equipment and effectively managed their employees’ systems of work, safety in this dangerous environment would have been significantly increased.”

Boatyard Firm Fined for Safety Violations

An Isle of Wight boatyard firm, Harold Hayles Ltd, has been fined by Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court for its failure to adhere to health and safety regulations following an incident where a mobile crane that was poorly maintained turned over in the middle of a lifting operation at Yarmouth Harbour. There was nobody who sustained injury in the incident that occurred in November 2011, however a car was badly damaged.

The controls of the crane ceased to work properly during the de-rigging phase of an operation when it was being utilised for lifting a yacht into a cradle for winter. In order to move and free the controls, the driver retracted stabilising outriggers. Even though the driver was successful, the crane overbalanced and fell over due to the fact that the jib was still extended.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation and found this was a common occurrence with the controls and that the crane was due annual maintenance and testing. By law, all lifting equipment is required to undergo examination every year; however, three weeks before this incident occurred the crane had missed its test because of the occurrence of a mechanical failure when the engineer came.

HSE then discovered that that the company had not provided an adequate lifting plan for the yacht operation, which is also required by law. The company had been warned by the HSE previously in February 2009 when a routine inspection by the HSE found areas of concern with regards to their lifting operations.

Harold Hayles Ltd admitted guilt to two violations of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 in addition to one breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was then ordered to pay fines of £4,000 in addition to £4,000 in costs

John Caboche, a HSE Inspector, had this to say following the hearing –

“This was a serious incident that could have ended in tragedy had the crane toppled onto a person and not an empty car.

“It was wholly preventable and could have been avoided had the crane been better maintained and had the lifting operation been better planned and managed.

“It is essential that all lifting equipment is in good working condition and that work is carefully assessed by competent personnel, with a lift plan in place and communicated to everyone involved in the work.

“Harold Hayles was fully aware of the dangers and HSE publishes extensive guidance that is readily-available of how to safely manage this type of work.”

Suffolk Farming Partnership Fined after Worker Suffers Hand Injury

A Suffolk farming partnership has been ordered to pay fines by Ipswich Magistrates’ Court due to a worker suffering injury whilst working at Cherry Gate Farm, Norwich Road, Mendlesham on 7 November 2011. The worker, Luke Parker, 29 from Eye, was working as an egg collector for Green Label Farms LLP, when he noticed that one of the bird feeding lines in one of the sheds was not operating correctly.

Apparently it was not unusual for these lines to stop working and farm workers were aware of the necessary steps to take in order to make them work again. The cover of a chamber would be removed and chicken feed scooped out so that the sensor would be cleared. The rotating mechanism for carrying the feed along the lines would subsequently be activated and clear the blockage.

However, on this particular day that Mr Parker was clearing the chamber, the sleeve of his jumper got drawn into the rotating parts which pulled his hand and wrist under and around the machine. He successfully prevented the line from working again by covering the sensor with his other hand and called for help from nearby co-workers. He was badly cut which caused nerve damage and tendon damage in his arms. To this day he still suffers from pain and is unable to fully move his right wrist.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the incident and discovered that that there was no safety protocols implemented for rectifying blocked feed lines in addition to their being no safety measures in place to prevent the feed line from inadvertently starting up again.

The company was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay £8,372 in costs after pleading guilty to two offences: breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.

HSE Inspector Saffron Turnell had this to say about the incident –

“Mr Parker was lucky not to have been more seriously injured in what was an entirely preventable incident.

“The company should have had a safe system of work in place to handle blockages, which should have included isolating the power supply to the machinery before anyone put their hand inside the chamber where there were moving parts.

“A secure locking-off of the system would have also ensured the machinery could not start up once the chamber cover was removed.

“Farming is the UK’s most at-risk industry sector with on average between 40 and 50 workers killed on British farms every year. That’s a higher death rate than construction or manufacturing.”

Demolition Company Fined for Unsafe Work Site

Total Demolition UK has been ordered to pays fines of 5,000 with £2,968 costs after the lives of numerous construction workers were put at risk during the demolition of an old office block in Liverpool on 6 August 2012. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector immediately issued a Prohibition Notice which ordered the company to cease work at the site until there had been proper safety measures implemented to prevent workers from falling from a height.

The HSE inspector visited the site when they were informed that the work being carried out by the firm appeared to be unsafe. Upon arriving, it was clear that much of the building had already been demolished above the second floor. There were two workers who were throwing waste to the ground as they stood next to the edge of where a wall had been removed on the second floor. They were climbing over rubble while there was nothing to prevent them from falling if they lost their footing.

HSE Inspector Jacqueline Western stated –

“When I arrived at the site, it was immediately obvious that workers were in danger of being seriously injured if they fell from the building.

“Two of the employees were throwing waste materials from the edge of the second floor so could easily have fallen if they had tripped over the rubble.

“The company installed a handrail around the open edge of the building after receiving the Prohibition Notice, but if that handrail had been in place at the time of my visit then lives would not have been put at risk.”

Paper Company Fined after Worker’s Hand is Crushed

Cotek Papers Ltd, a Gloucestershire paper producer, has been fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,483 in costs by Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court after an unguarded machine crushed a 43-year-old employees hand as they attempted to clean it. The worker, who does not want to be named, sustained severe cuts and bruising to his right hand when it was caught in a paper coating machine rollers on 2 April 2012. He was rendered unable to work for two months.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation following the incident and discovered that when the coating material was changed, the rollers often had to be cleaned several times a day. Generally risk guards protected the five rollers. These guards had to be removed for cleaning, however, which exposed employees to health and safety risks. The company should have provided an alternative, safer method of cleaning the rollers.

HSE Inspector Ann Linden said:

“This incident could have been prevented had there been a safe system of work for cleaning the rollers. Cotek Papers Ltd clearly failed to ensure the safety of its employees, with painful consequences for the injured worker.

“The law clearly states that employers should take all reasonably practicable steps to protect employees from harm arising from their work. In the case of machinery, moving parts that could cause injury should be guarded or made safe so that people cannot come into contact with them. Non-routine operations such as cleaning or maintenance are not exempt from this requirement.”

Council Fined after 29 Workers Develop Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council has been fined a total of £25,000 and ordered to pay £9,417 in costs after 29 employees were diagnosed with a debilitating condition that has left them with long-term hand issues. When employees in the Parks and Leisure Department of the council were affected by Hand Arm Vibration syndrome, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the council.

49-year-old Nick Bower, one of the council workers, developed hand problems after being the Head Green Keeper at Hoylake Golf Course for several years. His duties included regularly working with strimmers and mowers. In 2009 he was diagnosed with the condition and ever since he has had issues with dexterity and feels intense pain in cold weather.

Since being diagnosed he has changed jobs and now has duties that do not involve the use of vibrating equipment. Because of issues with blood flow to his hands and the nerve damage he has sustained, he will have to be on medication permanently. 28 other council other employees at the council also developed Hand Arm Vibration syndrome between July 2005 and December 2009.

Some of the consequences of Hand Arm Vibration syndrome are having a poor grip, experiencing numbness, tingling and suffering an acute sensitivity to cold which results in a great deal of pain. The damage it causes is largely irreversible, but the symptoms can subside somewhat once a person wth the condition isn’t exposed to vibrating tools, which was what the council workers primarily used when they worked. An investigation carried out by the HSE revealed that the council did not adequately assess the risks that the workers faced by using vibrating equipment on a regular basis. Furthermore, limiting use of such tools could have decreased the workers’ likelihood of developing the condition.

Mr Bower had this to say about the affair –

“Before I was diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration syndrome, I would often use vibrating machinery for long periods of time in the course of my job. When I began noticing symptoms and went to the doctor, he immediately asked what I did for a living and made the connection.

“I still have problems with loss of feeling and find it difficult to do everyday tasks such as fastening buttons. An attack can be triggered by everyday events such as a change of temperature or even taking food out of the freezer.

“Although I no longer work with vibrating tools, I will have the condition for life – the nerve and blood vessel damage is irreversible.”

Invetsigating HSE Inspector Christina Goddard said –

“Wirral Council failed to take action to prevent damage caused by vibrating tools, with the result that 29 workers now suffer from a debilitating condition.

“The council should have limited the amount of time workers spent using vibrating equipment or provided alternative tools. If appropriate action had been taken then the workers’ condition could have been prevented.”

Chemical Manufacturing Company Fined after Workers Exposed to Toxic Substances

Endeavour Speciality Chemicals Ltd, a chemical manufacturing company from Daventry, Northamptonshire has been fined by Northampton Magistrates’ Court for exposing its employees to a variety of hazardous chemicals.  A 46-year-old despatch officer who worked for the company developed occupational asthma and rhinitis after she handled numerous toxic substances – used in the process food production – that were categorised as being a health hazard. The former despatch officer now has another job in the firm as she has been rendered unable to work with chemicals any longer.

Employees of the company were expected to manually pour substances into containers to despatch to customers, despite the fact that they were not provided with ventilation or workplace necessary health and safety measures. It was discovered by a Health and Safety Executive investigation that the company had not adequately assessed the dangers of the chemicals they used, or the extent of how it could affect the employees that had been exposed to it, in addition to failing to impose preventative measures

Endeavour Speciality Chemicals Ltd was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000 after they pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6(1), and 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

James Wright, a HSE inspector, had this to say on the matter –

“The company’s failure to assess the risks, and implement control measures for what was a simple work process, has resulted in an employee suffering years of ill health, and has probably prevented her from ever working with chemicals again.

“The measures that were required to have made this work safe were inexpensive and not difficult to implement. These could have included effective fume cupboards suitable for the work, local exhaust ventilation, good hygiene practices, exposure monitoring and suitable PPE. Companies should ensure they have suitable arrangements in place to manage the risks from the handling of hazardous substances.”

“Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung disease such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. These diseases cost many millions of pounds each year to industry, to replace the trained worker, to society, in disability allowances and medicines, and individuals, who may lose their jobs.”

Cardiff Building Company Fined after Exposing Workers and Public to Safety Risks

Rimo Construction Ltd, a building company of Vaindre Road, St Mellons, Cardiff, has been fined for failing to follow health and safety regulations and exposing its employees and members of the public to danger while construction work was carried out on a house in Rumney in June 2012. The Health and Safety Exectutive (HSE) has discovered that the employers were working on the roof with the aid of a scaffolding which did not adequately protect them from falling.

On the 28th of June a portion of the scaffolding had been removed, however employees continued working nevertheless. The HSE was alerted by a concerned local resident and an inspector called to the building site to investigate. Rimo Construction was ordered to cease work on the house immediately; however on June 30th employees continued to carry out their work in exactly the same manner. Guard rails and other means of protection should have been implemented to protect the workers from potentially injuring themselves and others.

Subsequently, Rimo Construction was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs after they pleaded guilty to violating Sections 2(1), 3(1) and 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Simon Breen, HSE Inspector, had this to say on the matter –

“The dangers of working at height without adequate edge protection are very clear, yet companies and individuals continue to take risks and cut corners. Rimo Construction was well aware of the precautions it should have been taking, particularly after being served with a Prohibition Notice to stop work on the scaffolds and on the roof. Yet less than 24 hours later the company ignored the risks and the terms of the notice.

Whilst there were no injuries, the workers could have fallen from the scaffolding or roof into the grounds of the neighbouring houses on either side. I hope today’s prosecution serves to remind all companies who expect employees to work at height of their legal duties to properly manage safety, and to provide the necessary protection required to safeguard them and others from falls.”

Construction Company Fined after Unsafe Work Practices

Peak Construction (London) Ltd, of Takeley Road, Bambers Green, Takeley in Essex – a building firm – endangered the lives of its workers and residents in the vicinity of Bristol city centre after repeatedly ignoring warnings about the safety of their redevelopment project. The company was in the middle converting the upper floors of Riverside House in Welsh Back to residential accommodation with the addition of two new timber framed floors on top of the building.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive visited the site six times between August and October 2011 after concerns were raised by members of the public about work practices that seemed unsafe. On every occasion the HSE inspectors found numerous safety concerns regarding the work practice safety of the company which related to working unsafely from a height, utilising a mobile elevating work platform without the wearing of worker harnesses, no edge protection to prevent workers from falling, negligent construction of scaffolding and a hazard with building materials falling from the roof.

Furthermore, numerous fire risks were identified by inspectors, such as a lack of fire plan, no way of raising an alarm if there was a fire, no fire extinguishers, no emergency escape routes and the use of an open flame gas torch in the timber roof with no fire safety protocols in place. The HSE served seven Prohibition Notices for work to cease with immediate effect, however some hazardous practices continued nonetheless.

Peak Construction (London) Ltd, admitted guilt for breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Regulation 38 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for failing to implement adequate health and safety regulations, and for permitting hazardous practices to continue. The company was ordered to pay fines that totalled £10,000 and also ordered to pay £4,629 in costs by Bristol Magistrates.

HSE Inspector, Steve Frain, had this to say after the hearing –

“Right from the start of the job, the company was warned about its health and safety performance and individual directors were made aware of the initial failings we identified at the site.

“The number of follow-up inspections and interventions we made in this case went far beyond what would normally be required. The same risks were clearly pointed out at each inspection, yet still the company failed to take sufficient action.

“Falls from height are the single most significant cause of death or serious injury within the construction industry and timber frame construction methods pose a greatly increased fire safety risk that requires high standards of management and control throughout a project.

“Although there was no fire on this occasion, a fire on this site carried a high risk of serious injury to the workforce and members of the public.

“These are not minor technical breaches of the law. They show a failure of leadership across the company which led to a high risk of significant injuries.”

Blacburn Construction Firm Fined for Basic Health and Safety Failings

Hall Isherwood Ltd, a Blackburn firm, has been fined by South Ribble Magistrates’ Court after work was carried out on a primary school roof without the implementation of basic safety measures on 31 January. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector was walking past the Clayton le Woods Primary School, near Chorley, when he saw that four men were carrying out work on the roof.

The men had been employed for painting work and replacing slates on one side of a sloping roof at the school on Back Lane in Clayton le Woods.  The only way to access the roof was with an unsecured ladder. Furthermore, there was no safety equipment being used, not even scaffolding to stop any of the men from falling from a height and potentially sustaining a serious injury, even though one of the men was working close to the edge of the roof – next to a potential drop of fifteen feet.

Straight away a Prohibition Notice was served by the inspector and the men were ordered to cease working on the roof until the proper safety measures were implemented. Hall Isherwood Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE for two violations of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was then ordered to pay fines of £750 in addition to £1,581 in prosecution costs.

HSE Inspector Anthony Polec stated following the hearing –

“This was a large project taking place over several days. Scaffolding or other safety equipment should therefore have been used to ensure the work could be carried out safely.

“As the principal contractor on the site, Hall Isherwood was responsible for making sure lives weren’t put at risk. However, it allowed the workers to use an unstable ladder to reach the roof and there were no safety measures in place once they were on top of the building.

“Falls from height are responsible for several deaths on UK construction sites every year and it’s only luck that no one was injured in this instance.”

Metal Components Firm is Fined for Head Injury

Wyman-Gordon Ltd, a manufacturing company which produces metal components has been ordered by Lincoln Magistrates’ Court to pay fines following the serious injury of a young employee at one at its factory at the Tower Works site on Spa Road in Lincoln on 20 October 2010. The agency worker, who does not wish to be name, is twenty years old. He fractured his skull and sustained serious facial injuries when in the middle of working with a hand-held grinder, the grinding wheel broke. It came loose from the grinder, broke through his visor and hit his face. After the incident the man had to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery, but not before having to go through a five-hour operation for the purpose of removing a bone that was touching his brain. He has subsequently returned to work.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation and discovered that this particular employee had not been adequately trained in how to correctly and safely use the hand-held grinder and what precautions should be taken when the grinding wheels needs to be changed. As a result, the grinding wheel that he had changed was more than likely defective before he used it. The employee may have noticed this defect if he had been properly trained before using the grinder. It was also found that the young agency worker had not been supervised when carrying out this work.

Wyman-Gordon Ltd located in Wiggin Works, Holmer Road, Hereford, was fined £16,500 and ordered it to pay full costs of £6,178 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector, Scott Wynne stated following the hearing:

“It is vital that workers who use hand-held grinders get appropriate training in their safe use and in how to change the grinding wheels properly. Most importantly operators need to know how to identify defects.

“Had this worker undergone such training, he may have been able to identify the defective wheel prior to using it.

“This was a preventable incident. Wyman-Gordon Ltd paid insufficient heed to the safety of this worker. As a result, a young man was left with a horrific head injury. He was extremely lucky to escape with his life.”

Six Consturction Sites Closed after HSE Safety Checks

Construction works at six sites in Bradford has been ordered to cease due to health and safety breaches found by a Health and Safety Executive investigation carried out in relation to an initiative focusing on the safety of the construction industry. In the first week of September 61 sites in West and South Yorkshire were investigated. Although most had adequate health and safety measures in place, six small construction sites in Bradford district failed to live up to these standards.

Three of the sites were served HSE Prohibition Notices by HSE inspectors when they discovered that the lives of the workers were being put at risk due to unsafe work practices, poorly planned execution of work and inadequate scaffolding measures. The remaining three buildings sites were served notices for other matters related to safety. This HSE campaign for building site inspection was carried out in response to the fact that death from a height is a continuous occurrence in this industry. 49 workers died on UK construction sites in the last year and falling from height is the most common cause of death.

Principal Inspector for construction in the Yorkshire region for the HSE, David Stewart, had this to say on the matter –

“Whilst the initiative was primarily to raise awareness of the problem of unsafe working practices, it is of concern that work at height was being undertaken in a dangerous manner on three sites.

“Straightforward practical precautions are well known in the industry. Safe access equipment is readily available for purchase or hire and there is no excuse for workers, and the self employed, to put themselves in a position of danger when working at height.

“There was a marginal, though still welcome, improvement for this inspection activity on previous ones in terms of the ratio of good to poor performances but there is no reason to be complacent.

“HSE will continue to maintain a strong enforcement profile where there is blatant disregard to safe working practice.”

Company Receives Fine after Exposing Workers to Asbestos

J Hodgson and Sons Ltd, of Carre Street, Sleaford, a property restoration and development company, was fined by Lincoln Magistrates’ Court after their workers and members of the general public were exposed to asbestos in a Lincolnshire town between March and June 2011. The company disturbed asbestos insulating board while refurbishing the White Hart pub in Southgate.

In the early stages of working on the building, the company put the material in an open skip in a public place. This was reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by an inspector and it immediately served a Prohibition Notice to cease working until the company contacted a licensed asbestos removal company to remove the asbestos properly.

J Hodgson and Sons Ltd were fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,000 after pleading guilty to two separate violations of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 for their failure to prevent the spread of asbestos and subsequently exposing the public to it.

HSE inspector, Sam Russell had this to day –

“The company first put workers’ health at risk by disturbing asbestos and then that of the public by putting the insulation board in an open skip close to a busy thoroughfare between a car park and Sleaford’s main shopping area.

“Asbestos-related diseases kill more than 4,000 people a year. Asbestos is still prevalent in many buildings and has to be managed correctly. Operatives and companies must be trained to work with this potentially deadly material to make sure no-one is put at risk.”

HSE Finds that One in Three London Domestic Basement Projects Fail Health and Safety

It has been established that almost one in three domestic basement projects taking place in four London boroughs fail health and safety spot checks. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted a day-long inspection initiative on 19 June where a group of inspectors visited 59 construction sites in the areas of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden and Haringey.

20 Prohibition Notices were served at 17 of those sites which ordered that dangerous work practices immediately stop, in addition to six Improvement Notices which ordered that improvements be made to health and safety. More than half of the Prohibition Notices were in relation to unsafe practices for work carried out at a height and a fifth were in relation to temporary works that were inadequate, such as methods of support in the form of propping and shuttering. The majority of the Improvement Notices were in regards to training and welfare concerns.

The HSE constructions division’s Principal Inspector in the City and South West London, Andrew Beal, stated that the construction industry is still one of the most dangerous in Britain and that accidents in basements and collapsing buildings can be devastating and deadly. He then went on to say –

“We’ve found similar failings across various sites and we will continue to clampdown on dangerous practices or poor standards until the message gets through.

“Contractors must properly plan their work and protect their workers from risks such as falls from height or structures collapsing.”

Domestic basement construction projects can be significantly risky and be technically challenging. The most common safety issues discovered during the inspection were: when work was planned inadequately, when there was no competent engineer appointed to design suitable propping to support existing structures and excavations, there was few or no welfare facilities for workers, when there were basic precautions missing, such as edge protection to stop workers from falling when working at a height.

Nearly One in Five Construction Sites Fail Safety Checks

During a national initiative to improve the safety of construction sites in the UK, nearly one in five construction sites failed safety checks, which is actually a slight improvement on the years previously. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors went to 3237 sites and saw 4080 contractors. However, it was discovered that 581 sites put workers at risk with unsafe work practices – 870 enforcement notices were issued and work was immediately put to a halt in 603 instances.

The Chief Inspector of Construction, Philip White, had this to say on the matter –

“It is encouraging that inspectors found a slight improvement in standards and small construction firms are taking safety seriously when carrying out refurbishment work.

“But this is just a snapshot, and the number of notices served for unsafe work at height is still unacceptable, particularly when the safety measures are well-known and straightforward to implement.

“Too many contractors continue to put their own or other people’s lives at risk and we will not hesitate to take action where standards are not met.”

The HSE inspectors focused on construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was being performed. This was all in conjunction with an annual, month-long drive across Britain. Its aim is to reduce the risk of death, injury and ill health within the construction industry. High-risk activity, for instance, working at height, was being focused on while the inspectors also sought to ensure that sites were clean and tidy with clear access routes.

One of the most common causes of deaths and major injury in the construction industry is falling from a height. It is also responsible for the largest proportion of enforcement notices issued by the HSE at 49%. However this is still an improvement than in previous years, for example, it was 55% in 2010.

Engineering Company Fined When Man’s Finger is Severed

Hydrapower Dynamics, a Birmingham engineering company has been fined by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after a 53 year-old worker’s finger was severed by a machine used for bending tubes on 24 January 2011. The worker, Robert Cuzick from Birmingham, put his hand on the tube bending machine’s clamping arm to make it start again. Unfortunately, the metal arm of the machine was unguarded and fell towards him. It trapped Mr Cuzick’s left hand middle finger, and subsequently cut iff just before the knuckle. Doctors were not able to reattach the finger and Mr Cuzick was unable to work for a month as a consequence of the accident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the incident and discovered that several dangerous parts on this machine were not guarded. Hydrapower Dynamics’ had before identified that there was a risk with using this machine, however they had done nothing to remedy this.

HSE inspector Matthew Whitaker said after the hearing that if the company had followed its risk assessment and complied with basic health and safety standards then Cuzick would not have been left with permanent injury. He then stated –

“This case shows that putting risk assessments into action is essential to protect employees and completing one should not be seen merely as a paper exercise. Companies must implement control measures that are identified in risk assessments, and then monitor them to make sure they are working properly.”

Hydrapower Dynamics Ltd was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 cost after pleading guilty to violating Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Paper and Packaging Supplier Fined for Health and Safety Breach

DS Smith Packaging Ltd, an international paper and packaging supplier, has been ordered to pay fines after a 27-year-old worker sustained a broken arm and ribs in machinery at the company’s Lincolnshire factory on 9 June 2010. The man who does not want to be named, was in the midst of being trained to use a re-winder – which is a spool that rotates and winds corrugated cardboard packaging into a roll – at one of the company’s plants when the incident occurred.

A co-worker was teaching the worker how to put the cardboard on the spool when his fingers were caught. The co-worker did not notice what had happened and subsequently started the machine. This threw the worker over the top. His right arm was broken in several places and his ribs were fractures. He had to have pins and plates but in his arms and he was rendered unable to work for a year, but has returned to work for the company following this.

An investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the workplace lacked a safety system and that the incident was avoidable. DS Smith Packaging Ltd was fined £50,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £8,244 by Lincoln Crown Court after they pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the hearing Emma Madeley, a HSE inspector, stated –

“There was nothing to prevent the machine being started before people were clear of the danger zone. Having a second operator created a serious risk because the man operating the controls had no idea that his colleague was trapped.

“That working practice has now been changed. The company has also installed a guard so that the machine cannot begin rotating at speed if someone’s hands are in the danger area. Unfortunately these measures have come too late for this employee who has been left with severe and permanent injuries.”