Metalworking fluids are still causing ill health

Earlier this year, the HSE announced that it would be targeting organisations that use metalworking fluid (MWF) for inspection. Although this case predates the recent round of enforcement visits, it does support the narrative.

Lantern Engineering Ltd was sentenced for health breaches after workers were exposed to metalworking fluid (MWF). MWF is hazardous to health, and exposure can cause health conditions including irritation of the skin/dermatitis, occupational asthma, bronchitis and irritation of the upper respiratory tract.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard that in February 2016 a visit was conducted by the HSE and enforcement actions were taken, requiring the company to provide health surveillance and manage MWF. In September 2016 an employee was diagnosed with occupational asthma. Further enforcement was taken in December 2016 with an Improvement Notice issued to develop a system for managing MWF.

An investigation by HSE found that a water mix MWF was in use in the majority of machines including saws, machine centres and milling machines.  None of these machines had local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and some door seals were observed to be in poor condition.  The MWF sumps to some machines were in visibly poor condition, with fines, swarf and/or tramp oil being present.

Lantern Engineering Ltd of Globe Court, Denby, Doncaster South Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Laura Hunter commented

The company’s failure to manage MWF exposed employees to risk.

Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards