Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the company was undertaking a project that included the refurbishment of a building at Netherall Gardens, London. A proactive site inspection in July 2016 found that workers in a basement had been dry cutting approximately 250 bricks to shape them for use in bay windows.
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.
What is silica & how does respirable crystalline silica arise?
Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay and products made from these materials, such as bricks and concrete. In the workplace (including construction sites) these materials create dust when they are cut, drill, sanded, polished, etc. Preparation of concrete floors, such as through bead blasting or shot blasting may lead to substantial quantities of airborne respirable crystalline silica. Some of this dust may be fine enough to reach deep inside the lung, this is known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and can cause harm to health. Significant exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis and lung cancer.
Exposure levels for respirable crystalline silica
Construction Cancer Risks – according to the HSE, the construction industry has the largest burden of occupational cancer amongst the industrial sectors. It accounts for over 40% of occupational cancer deaths and cancer registrations. It is estimated that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and approximately 3,700 deaths. Unless the risks are properly managed, the dangers of developing one of these diseases will remain.
The most significant cause of these construction cancer risks is asbestos (70%), followed by silica (17%), and then working as a painter and exposure to diesel engine exhaust (6-7% each). Other types of cancer can affect those in the construction industry, including skin cancers. These can be caused by exposure to solar radiation (sunlight) and hazardous substances.
Why are Construction Cancer Risks so high?
COSHH Risk Assessment can be daunting for smaller businesses. Most of the businesses in the UK are small or medium sized enterprises. The same health and safety laws apply to small businesses as apply to big ones, with a few exemptions on written risk assessments and policy documentation for very small companies. It should be noted that these size based exemptions are not exemptions from the risk assessment itself, but from the need for a written record of the assessment.
The basic principles of COSHH for small business (the COSHH Risk Assessment)
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) require that the health risks arising from exposure to substances hazardous to health are avoided where this is reasonably practicable or that they are controlled where it is not reasonably practicable to avoid them. In order to comply with the principles of COSHH, the employer should:
According to the HSE website, here is some information about HSE inspections 2017:From January 2017 inspectors will be targeting sites that carry out metal fabrication looking at the control of exposure to welding fume and metalworking fluids. Information on controlling the risks from these hazardous substances can be found through the inspection programme link above.
From January 2017 inspectors will be targeting sites that carry out metal fabrication looking at the control of exposure to welding fume and metalworking fluids. Information on controlling the risks from these hazardous substances can be found through this inspection programme link for Manufacturing Sector Workplan 2016-17: Occupational asthmagens and carcinogens in manufacturing industries.
Ill health effects from exposure to respiratory sensitisers and/or carcinogens can be chronic and life-changing. Every year, many workers develop occupational asthma or occupational cancer as a result of exposures to substances in their workplace. The purpose of the HSE inspections 2017 programme is to target sectors where carcinogens and/or asthmagens are regularly used, produced or process generated to ensure the risks are properly managed and to reduce the incidence of serious health effects from exposure.
Metalworking fluid – COSHH extrinsic allergic alveolitis – an Uxbridge manufacturer of ejector seats has been fined £800,000 after three workers developed debilitating lung conditions.
Three skilled CNC machine operators developed extrinsic allergic alveolitis after many years of years of exposure to the mist of working metal fluid. The lung condition, also known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, is a body’s allergic reaction to breathing in a substance and symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and joint pain.
Aylesbury Crown Court heard how the workers, who had served with the company for more than 20 years, were exposed to the metalworking fluid mist over at least a three-year period. One worker has been so severely affected they have become virtually paralysed by the illness, another will never be able to work with metalworking fluids again, a key material in the industry and a third must have special measures in place to ensure he never comes into contact with the substance.
COSHH extrinsic allergic alveolitis: An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the measures in place within the factory to stop the exposure to workers were inadequate. The fluid is commonly used as a lubricant and coolant in engineering processes. During the process of using the machines, the fluid creates a mist, which in this case was breathed in by around 60 workers.
School Prosecuted For Science Experiment Injuries
- School fined after technician seriously injured preparing science experiment
- Chemistry lab technician lost parts of three fingers and ruptured his bowel in the incident
- School fined £26,000 plus costs
CLP Serious Health hazard – what does this symbol mean?
Under the CLP Regulations, there are several new symbols in use. Not everyone is as familiar with them as they should be. A hazard pictogram is an image on a label that includes a warning symbol and specific colours intended to provide information about the damage a particular substance or mixture can cause to our health or the environment. The CLP Regulation has introduced a new classification and labelling system for hazardous chemicals in the European Union. The pictograms have also changed and are in line with the United Nations Globally Harmonised System (GHS).
This symbol is used to indicate several serious health hazards: Continue reading