Prosecutions by the Health & Safety Executive

Prosecutions by the Health & Safety Executive

Stonemason 'as seen on TV' is prosecuted

A Cambridgeshire stonemasonry business has been fined over dangerous stone dust after the firm appeared on a BBC television programme.

Atelier 109 Limited, of Main Road, Etton, near Peterborough, featured in March 2010 in the BBC2 series, Mastercrafts, presented by Monty Don - but an eagle-eyed viewer contacted HSE to express concern over what he saw: inadequate precautions to protect workers from dust that can cause serious lung diseases.

HSE inspectors visited the company's workshop in May 2010 and served an Improvement Notice compelling Atelier to take action immediately to cut exposure to stonemasonry dust to within the legal limit.

When a further check was made, it was clear that, although improvements had been made, the ventilation system still had not been thoroughly examined and tested, so a second Improvement Notice was served on 12 February 2011.

When HSE inspectors visited the premises for a third time on 16 June this year they found that the action recommended had not been carried out, despite earlier tests revealing that dust levels for employees were between 100% and 300% of safe levels.

Atelier Limited pleaded guilty today at Peterborough Magistrates' Court to one charge of breaching section 33 (1) (g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,400.10.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Alison Ashworth said:

"Atelier were happy to get their moment on television, but rather less quick to protect their employees from a wholly avoidable risk that can have serious consequences and cause respiratory diseases.

"We understand the pressure that small businesses are under and this company was given ample opportunity on a number of occasions to make the necessary improvements. HSE only brought this prosecution when it became clear that the company was dragging its heels and failing to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserved.

"If you are a company and are issued with a notice requiring improvements to be made you can be expect to be prosecuted if you do not comply."

Brothers prosecuted over Tameside workers' health risk

Two brothers have been prosecuted for putting workers at a Tameside fencing manufacturer in danger of developing asthma.

Brian and Jack Hulme were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after they failed to ensure a regular service was carried out on a dust extraction system. The unit was installed to remove dust created from cutting wooden fencing at the factory.

The brothers should have ensured the unit at the factory, on Crescent Road in Dukinfield, was examined by a specialist at least every 14 months. However, when an HSE inspector visited the site on 22 September 2009, he found the system had not been checked for more than two years.

Trafford Magistrates' Court heard the brothers, who trade as B&J Hulme Fencing, had also received a formal warning about the issue on 27 February 2007. Although they arranged for the system to be tested as a result of the Improvement Notice, they failed to make sure a regular service continued to be carried out.

HSE issued another two Improvement Notices following its visit to the factory in September 2009 in relation to the extraction system before deciding to prosecute.

Brian and Jack Hulme were fined a total of £800 after admitting breaching Regulation 9(2)(a) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

HSE Inspector Gary Hearn said:

"Brian and Jack Hulme put the health of their staff at risk by failing to make sure the extraction unit was checked and working properly.

"The brothers should have had the system examined by a specialist at least every 14 months. But it was only checked once following our previous visit more than two and a half years earlier.

"It's well known in the industry that workers can develop breathing difficulties, including asthma, if they regularly breathe in fine dust particles. But the brothers ignored the deadline for testing the extraction unit and put the long-term health of their employees at risk as a result."

Brian Hulme, 66 of Furnace Street in Dukinfield, was fined £400 and ordered to pay £1,707 towards the cost of the prosecution on 19 November. Jack Hulme, 68 of Platting Grove in Ashton-under-Lyne, was also fined £400 with costs of £1,707.

Every year, thousands of workers in Britain develop diseases from breathing in certain dusts, fumes or other airborne substances while at work. More information on dust extraction is available at www.hse.gov.uk/lev.

Bristol woodworking firm fails to comply with enforcement

A Bristol joinery and staircase specialist took insufficient action to improve a ventilation unit used to control exposure to wood dust, city magistrates' heard.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd, at Unit 14, Satellite Business Park, Blackswarth Road, Netham, Bristol, on 9 February 2011 and found that an Improvement Notice issued on 7 October 2010 had been insufficiently complied with.

The inspector found that the Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) plant, used to control exposure to wood dust was not working in an efficient state and maintained in good repair. LEV is a ventilation system takes harmful substances, such as dust and fumes, out of the air so that they can't be breathed in. But it must be properly designed and maintained in order to do this effectively.

Bristol Magistrates' Court heard that Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd, an architectural and traditional joiners who use hard and soft wood, had been given until 13 January 2011 to make the necessary improvements after the initial visit in October. But, on returning to the business unit in early February the Inspector found that action had not been taken to comply with the Improvement Notice and HSE were forced to prosecute.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector, Christine Haberfield, said:

"Woodworking dusts can be potentially harmful to health. They can cause asthma and dermatitis and some are linked to cancer.It is imperative that where local exhaust ventilation is provided to prevent employees breathing in the dust, it is maintained and examined to ensure that it is working properly.

"Any company that does not take these steps will face enforcement action by HSE. Companies need to be aware that Improvement Notices are a last chance to get their house in order and we will normally prosecute if they have not been complied with by the set date."

Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd of The Old Schoolhouse, 75a Jacobs Wells Road, Bristol, pleaded guilty to contravening the requirements of an Improvement Notice served under Section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is an offence under Section 33 (1) (g) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The firm were fined £3,750 and ordered to pay £836.50 in costs.

Solderer develops asthma at large manufacturers in Gloucester

An employee developed occupational asthma after working for a large multi-national company in Gloucester. He was employed between 1995 and 2004 as a solderer and was exposed to rosin based (colophony) solder fume during his career.

His health was deteriorating from 1999 onwards, and was taking time off work due to breathing difficulties. The company did not have adequate control measures in place and failed to install fume extraction equipment to remove rosin based fumes from the workroom air or from the breathing zones of its solderers.

The company did not substitute the rosin based solder with rosin free solder until December 2003, despite an assessment having identified the need to in 1999. Employees, including the asthma suffer were not placed under a health surveillance scheme at any time.

As a result of action taken by HSE the company was fined £100,000 with £30,000 costs. This attracted local and national media attention.