HSE accepts Crown Censure for injury at own laboratory

On 4 October 2016 a worker at HSE’s Laboratory in Buxton suffered serious burns while setting up an experimental hydrogen test rig. He has since returned to work.

The incident happened when a prototype hydrogen storage vessel was being tested to determine if the design would be suitable for its intended use. While filling the vessel a connector failed and a quantity of hydrogen escaped under pressure. The hydrogen ignited and the HSE employee who was close to the vessel was injured.

HM Inspectors of Health and Safety investigated the incident and served a Crown Improvement Notice requiring HSE to provide a system of work for proof testing and leak testing an assembled hydrogen line and test tank to ensure, so far as is reasonable, the safety of employees and other people in the vicinity, with which the HSE complied.  The investigation concluded that the pressure testing went wrong because of failings to assess, plan, manage and control a well-known risk of death or serious injury.

The investigation team also found the incident could have been prevented by putting in place recognised control measures available in longstanding published guidance.

Director of field operations, Samantha Peace said:

“The Act is not intended to stop people from doing work that may be inherently dangerous, such as pressure testing. It is about ensuring that where work involves danger then this is reduced as much as it properly can be.

In this case, HSE bear this responsibility as an employer. They fell below the required standard and as the failings exposed workers to the risk of death or serious injury, a Crown Censure is the right course of action. HSE has co-operated fully with the investigation and we are satisfied that action has been taken to put matters right.”

 

Richard Judge commented:

“As chief executive of HSE, and on behalf of my colleagues on the Management Board and the HSE Board, I very much regret this incident happened, and especially that our colleague was injured. On this occasion, we did not meet the standards we expect of others and that is deeply disappointing. HSE accepts the Crown Censure.

We took early action to resolve the immediate issues identified by the regulatory and internal investigations. In line with our spirit of continuous improvement, we are using the findings from the investigations as an opportunity to learn and to do significantly better.”

 

By accepting the Crown Censure, HSE admitted to breaching its duty under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in that it exposed employees to risks to their health, safety and welfare.

As a Government body, HSE cannot face prosecution in the same way as private or commercial organisations and a Crown Censure is the maximum sanction a government body can receive. There is no financial penalty associated with Crown Censure, but once accepted is an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law.

 

 

Worker paralysed after simple safety failings

A Scottish road paving contractor, M&W Tarmacadam Contractors, has been fined after its failure to safely plan a branch cutting job.  This left one of its workers partially paralysed.

On 7 November 2016 employee Darren Mundell was standing on the bonnet of a paver to cut overhanging branches at the Arkleton Estate in Langholm. He lost his balance and fell into a tar hopper, Dumfries Sheriff Court was told.  He sustained a spinal fracture and a damaged spinal cord which caused permanent paralysis from the waist down.

The Health and Safety Executive said the bonnet was not a safe place to work.

Inspector Kirstin Lynchahon said:

“Planning the branch cutting activity would have included an assessment of the risks and either avoidance of working at height using long reach tools or measures being put in place to prevent a fall.”

M&W was fined £10,000 after it pleaded guilty to breaching reg 4 of the Work at Height Regulations.

Principle Contractor ignored own safety policies

A London-based principal contractor has been fined for repeatedly failing to manage fall risks at Prideway Development’s sites.

During an investigation by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it uncovered serious safety failings, including unsafe work at height, Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told.  The HSE inspected several sites during 2016 and 2017 after workers and members of the public had raised concerns.

A follow-up investigation found that Prideway had ignored its comprehensive policy on work at height that it had drawn up following a HSE intervention in 2013. During the past five years it had been served four enforcement notices relating to work at height issues, the HSE said.

Prideway pleaded guilty to breaching reg 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined £200,000 plus costs of £1,500.

HSE inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said:

“Pride Way has been repeatedly warned by HSE about the need to manage risks and have been held to account for failing to take adequate action to protect the health and safety and its workers.”

Serious injuries sustained by contractor at BBC Studioworks

A contractor plunged 10 m at Elstree Film Studios when he fell through a lighting grid hatch.

BBC Studioworks, a commercial subsidiary of the BBC that provides post-production services, has been fined £200,000 after a contract worker was left with severe head injuries when he fell more than 10 m at the film studios.

Eric Ihoeghinlan, an employee of Gabem Management, fell through on 18 November 2014 while he was recovering electrical cables for BBC Studioworks during a derigging job.  He sustained a blood clot to the brain, fractured pelvis and ankles, and a ruptured spleen.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there was no edge protection around the hatches of the lighting grids.

BBC Studioworks pleaded guilty to breaching ss 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It must pay £6,000 in costs.

Elstree Light and Power, an audio and visual equipment rental service in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, was found guilty of breaching the same regulations and fined £30,000.

Elstree Film Studios was fined £16,000 after it was found guilty of breaching regs 3 and 11 of the Work at Height Regulations.

Both Elstree Light and Power and Elstree Film Studios must pay costs exceeding £39,000.

 

Housing Association receives £100k fines for exposing workers to HAVS

Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard how Charter Housing Association Ltd. reported six cases of HAVS following a health surveillance programme launched in June 2015. The affected employees were all part of the maintenance team for this programme.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a serious and permanent condition caused by regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration. HAVS results in tingling, numbness, pain and loss of strength in the hands which may affect the ability to do work safely and cause pain, distress and sleep disturbance.

An investigation by The Health and Safety Executive’s found the six workers’ conditions were likely to have been caused or worsened by the use of vibratory power tools while in Charter Housing’s employment.  It was also found that staff in the maintenance and refurbishment departments at Charter Housing experienced significant exposure to hand arm vibration in their daily work which put them at risk of developing or exacerbating existing HAVS.

The investigation also revealed that the company:

  • neither adequately planned its working methods nor trained or informed employees on the risks to their health
  • did not limit the duration and magnitude of exposure to vibration
  • failed to put in place suitable health surveillance to identify problems at an early stage.

 

Charter Housing Association Ltd (now part of Pobl Group Ltd) of High Street, Newport pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The company was fined £100,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £9,896.88.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Joanne Carter said:

“An individuals’ health should not be made worse by the work they do. If Charter Housing had correctly implemented its health surveillance earlier, it would have ensured the right systems were in place to monitor workers’ health. The six affected employees’ conditions may have been prevented from developing or developing to a more severe stage.

How people work today can affect their health and wellbeing tomorrow. This case serves as an important reminder of the necessity of task based risk assessments to establish the level of exposure, control measures to reduce that exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable and effective health surveillance systems. In the case of Charter Housing this realisation came too late.

All employers need to do the right thing to protect workers’ health.”