Monthly Archives: March 2012

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.”