Separation of People from Moving Vehicles

The lack of separation of people from moving vehicles was one of the reasons that an 89-year-old worker was fatally injured when struck by a reversing delivery vehicle. In too many workplaces that I visit, there is insufficient consideration given to this common, dangerous, controllable practice.

The Magistrates’ Court in Mansfield heard how on 26 April 2016 the woman, working for Savanna Rags International Limited, was walking from the weighbridge towards the smoking shelter in the rear yard during her afternoon break. A delivery vehicle driven by a visiting driver reversed from the weighbridge towards the rear yard to deliver goods when she was struck by the back of the vehicle sustaining fatal injuries.

During the course of its investigation, the HSE found that the company had failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks arising from vehicle movement. It was custom and practice for vehicles to reverse from the weighbridge, which was also used by employees to access the factory. There were no measures in place to adequately segregate pedestrians from moving vehicles, and there wasn’t a safe system of work in place to ensure that vehicles could manoeuvre safely.

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Tank Explosion leads to £100,000 fine for an oil company

An incident that occurred in January 2015 has led to a fine for an oil company.

When contractors working for ESL Fuels Ltd cut into a sealed pipe using a grinder, there was an explosion. The pipe in question was attached to a tank and part of a waste oil recovery process at ESLfuelss Ltd’s North Blend Tank Farm. Flammable gases within the pipe ignited, resulting in an explosion within the tank and the tank lid and vent pipe being partially detached and projected over a raised walkway.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive discovered that the company was having difficulty with the waste oil recovery process, which was foaming out of the vessel and filling its bund. The company’s tests were inadequate and failed to identify the cause of the problem, which was generating flammable carbon monoxide gas. A decision was taken to connect the vessel by pipework to an emergency relief dump tank to prevent a potential catastrophic overpressure in the tank but the safety implications of this modification and its design were not risk assessed. The HSE also found systemic failings with the company’s management of contractors and an inadequate Permit to Work system.

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The fire and rescue service is in crisis

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said:

The fire and rescue service is in crisis. Seven years of budget cuts have left the public at greater risk as there are far fewer firefighters left to respond to emergencies. We’ve seen thousands of frontline firefighter posts axed and dozens of fire stations closed with the result that it’s taking a lot longer for fire crews to arrive at emergencies.

In a fire, every second counts – it can make the difference between life and death. If the government is serious about keeping the public safe, they should use the upcoming budget as an opportunity to bring the cuts to fire and rescue services to an end and invest in the service instead.

Disasters like the fire at Grenfell Tower show how important and valued our emergency services are. MPs from all parties should support investment into the fire and rescue service in order to maintain a world class, professional service that keeps us all safe.

In 2017 there were 33,049 firefighters working in the UK according to a recent Home Office Report. This is a 22% decrease compared with ten years ago (42,385 in 2007). The cut in firefighter posts also mirrors a decline in fire prevention work,  with the number of fire safety audits declining by 14% over the last year and 36% fewer than in 2010.

The FBU has stated that it is deeply concerned about the figures and has warned that the drop in firefighter numbers was is a huge threat to public safety.

The fire and rescue service is in crisis.

Culture of negligence results in Prison Sentences

In a recently reported case, a culture of negligence resulted in prison sentences being given to two Company Directors. A litany of safety failings led to a recycling company and both of its directors being prosecuted and fined. How did this particular company and its management get it so wrong?

A series of visits by the HSE to the recycling plant operated by Monoworld Recycling Ltd revealed a wide range of safety failings. Workers were being put at serious risk in various aspects of their work, including:

  • work at height
  • using unsafe work equipment and unsafe electrical equipment
  • poorly maintained workplace vehicles
  • emergency stop buttons on machinery were marked as broken but were not repaired
  • broken lights and windscreen wipers on forklift trucks were not fixed, putting pedestrians and drivers at risk.

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Surprise safety inspections for the waste industry

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned the waste industry that it can expect unannounced safety inspections at sites from 02 October. This warning came after the HSE advised businesses in the waste and recycling industry that “they must pay closer attention” to how they manage workplace risk. It is part of a “proactive review” of health and safety standards in waste and recycling businesses across the country.

In the recently published HSE sector plan for the waste and recycling sector, there is a targeted reduction in injuries and fatalities to waste workers caused by moving machinery. The main causes of fatal injuries to workers in the sector are thought to be collisions involving moving vehicles, coming into contact with moving machinery, or injury from collapsing or overturning objects.

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Silica dust exposure – HSE/HSL Study

In a published study, HSE and the HSL looked carefully at roof tile cutting operations.

The Problem

When cutting roof tiles, workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).  This dust, if breathed in, causes severe lung diseases such as silicosis. The HSE has produced a video of the effects of silicosis on people’s lives.

Valley tiles are created where rooves meet (see picture). These tiles need to be trimmed to fit. An interim agreement between industry and HSE allowed valley tiles to be cut using hand-held power tools without wet dust suppression systems, which would introduce additional safety hazards, such as slips.


HSE Video of stonecutter suffering from silicosis


Radon Gas – a cause of lung cancer in the UK

Radon Gas: A prime cause of lung cancer across the UK has created an infographic describing the major causes of this radon gas and essential tips on how to avoid getting affected by this gas. It also guides you to buy a special test kit which is inexpensive and easily available online.
There are no symptoms of radon exposure, therefore, it is vital that testing is carried out in properties at risk of containing elevated levels. Exposure to radon is responsible for over 1100 lung cancer deaths each year in the UK yet many of these deaths could have been avoided if testing had been carried out and high radon levels reduced prior to occupants receiving high doses of radiation.

Step ladder fall leads to £1,000,000 fine

A Hull-based bakery has been ordered to pay a fine of £1 Million after a self-employed contractor died when he fell from a stepladder. Hull Crown Court heard that the worker was contracted to complete electrical work at Greencore Grocery Ltd site in Hull in October 2013. The worker was wiring two motors for a new sugar paste machine – the work was situated above a machine and carried out from a stepladder. The company agreed this work activity could be completed using a stepladder, which it had provided. The employee fell from the step ladder and suffered fatal injuries. He is thought to have hit his head on a wall when he fell after standing with one foot on the top of the step-ladder, and the other on a cantilever lid, which moved, causing him to lose his balance.

The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation found that Greencore failed to properly plan the activity from the beginning including access arrangements to be made for installation of motors to use to carry out this work activity.

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couldn’t care less attitude to safety

Having a couldn’t care less attitude to safety has landed the boss of a Swansea skip hire company in jail and with fines. The owner of a skip hire and waste disposal firm based near Swansea has been jailed for a year and his firm fined £35,000 for health and safety breaches. During the sentencing,  the Company owner (Robert Collis) was slammed by Judge Geraint Walters at Swansea Crown Court for his couldn’t care less attitude towards his employees, the public, and the environment. The Company was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive following a fire in 2013 which took five engines and 25 firefighters to put out. Following this blaze, the HSE found a number of safety breaches including the site being unfenced and open to the public, insecure storage of gas cylinders, and a teenage worker not being issued with safety equipment on site.

The Company owner had an aggressive attitude towards the HSE, such that their visits needed to be accompanied by a Police Officer.


Confined space triple fatality

Reporting on fatality is sad; reporting on a Confined space triple fatality is even. Although this tragedy occurred in America, it could so easily be a report about a UK incident. This confined space tragedy happened in South Florida and claimed the lives of three workers – two of them were “would-be rescuers”. Two companies were taken to task over this issue.

Confined space triple fatality: What happened?

The incident occurred on Jan. 16, 2017, when a 34-year-old pipe layer entered the manhole (which is a confined space) and quickly became unresponsive. A 49-year-old laborer then entered the manhole and attempted to rescue the first employee. After the second employee also became unresponsive, a 24-year-old equipment operator followed in an attempt to help his fallen co-workers. Sadly, all three men died. Post-incident atmospheric testing in the manhole revealed lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide.

The fatality count could have been even worse; two other employees and a volunteer firefighter were also exposed to the toxic gases in the manhole during rescue attempts but survived.

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