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£300k fine after dad killed by shovel loader 29/02/2024

A RECYCLING company in Wales has been fined £300k after a father-of-two was killed by a shovel loader.

Anthony Bilton, from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, lost his life on 4 September 2019 when he was run over from behind by a Volvo shovel loader at Atlantic Recycling Limited’s Atlantic Ecopark site in Cardiff.

The 59-year-old had been on his way to undertake routine maintenance tasks when the tragic incident happened, while walking across the wood processing yard.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Rhys Hughes said Atlantic Recycling failed to ensure pedestrians and vehicles were separated at its site.

The HSE investigation also found that although a risk assessment had been produced prior to the work commencing, it was not suitable nor sufficient and did not include work taking place in the wood yard. Additionally, the risk assessment should have identified there was a risk to pedestrians where there were moving vehicles.

Every workplace must be safe for the people and vehicles using it and traffic routes must be suitable for the people and vehicles using them. HSE has guidance on workplace transport with advice on keeping traffic routes safe and separating people from vehicles.

Anthony’s son, Jason, says his life was “torn to shreds” following the passing of his dad.

He said: “It took over three hours for me to be notified that my dad had been killed in a work accident. I started to become concerned when he weren’t home from work at his usual time and failed to answer the phone. I remember thinking about popping by his workplace to see him whilst on my journey home from Telford, where I’d been for the past few days, but decided against it as I was exhausted from traveling.

“Had I gone to see him, I would’ve arrived at Atlantic Recycling between 3:30-4pm, he was killed around 4:10pm. Every day I deal with thoughts that: ‘If only I’d stopped to see him, he could still be alive today.’

“There will never be real closure for my dad’s death as it should never have happened, not the way it did. My life was torn to shreds within a few hours and to this day I’m still dealing with the consequences and emotional impact.”

Atlantic Recycling Limited, of Newton Road, Rumney, Cardiff, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £29,917 in costs at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court on 28 February 2024.

HSE inspector Rhys Hughes said: “This tragic incident led to the death of a father of two and could have been prevented. Atlantic Recycling Ltd should have identified, and controlled the risks involved with using large plant and vehicles in line with HSE guidance.

“A safe system of work should have been in place, ensuring that pedestrians and vehicles were segregated. This is sadly a common cause of fatal incidents in this sector. The most effective way of protecting pedestrians in any workplace is to make transport routes entirely separate.”

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Matthew Reynolds and supported by HSE paralegal officer Helen Jacob.

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Unregistered plumber handed suspended prison sentence 29/02/2024

AN UNREGISTERED plumber has received a suspended prison sentence after he carried out illegal gas work at a house in Peterborough.

Anthony Rice, trading as Rice Plumbing and Oil Heating, attended the property on Edwalton Avenue on 31 January 2023 where he replaced a gas boiler and altered gas pipe work. However, Rice accidentally connected the gas supply with water, meaning the property’s gas pipes and gas meter were flooded.

Gas engineers from Cadent later attended the property and were required to pump water from the emergency control valve and replace the gas meter. The engineers classed the gas boiler Rice had installed as immediately dangerous, capped off the gas supply before notifying the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A HSE investigation found that Anthony Rice has never been registered with the Gas Safe Register – a legal requirement. He also held no qualifications nor completed any training in gas work.

HSE has guidance for gas consumers and what they need to know in ordered to manage gas appliances and equipment safety as well as what you need to do in an emergency. To find out more click here: Gas – HSE

To find out if an engineer is legally permitted to carry out gas work, click here: Gas Safe Register

Anthony Rice, of Fullbridge Road, Werrington, Peterborough, pleaded guilty to contravening Regulations 3(1) and 3(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, contrary to Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for six months, and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on 26 February 2024.

HSE inspector Adam Johnson said: “Anthony Rice undertook gas work which he was not registered to do. All gas work must be conducted by registered Gas Safe engineers to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life.”

This HSE prosecution was led by HSE enforcement lawyer Matthew Reynolds.

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Mind responds to ambulance service concerns 27/02/2024

THE ASSOCIATION of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) has warned that patients and paramedics are both coming to harm, following the roll out of a new scheme to reduce police involvement in mental health calls.

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Mitigate risks of e-bikes and scooters in the workplace 27/02/2024

MOST E-BIKES are powered by Lithium Ion (Li-on) batteries, larger versions of the kind found in our smartphones, tablets, and some laptops.

In a recent, UK-based survey1 of users (and potential users) of e-bikes, 40% of current users commuted to (and from) a place of work, with 20% having used them for business travel.  

Questions arise around how we use, charge, and store e-bikes in the workplace – and the additional hazards and risks that this may bring.

The British Safety Council has published an introductory guide for employers on managing the risks from Li-on batteries. 

Over the last six months batteries have regularly made headlines, with tragic stories of fires and explosions, resulting in injury and loss of life. Many of these were traced back to the charging of Li-on e-scooters and e-bikes.

Phil Pinnington, head of audit and consultancy at the British Safety Council said, “As with all new and developing technologies, the increasing use of e-bikes and scooters has prompted a wave of new questions, considerations, and challenges – not least for employers, as e-bikes and scooters have entered the workplace; and are routinely charged at (or under) our desks. British Safety Council’s ‘Introductory Guide’ to Li-on batteries in the workplace offers a series of tips to help employers identify and assess the risks posed, how to put control measures in place, and shows some of the solutions being used around the world. 

British Safety Council’s introductory guide recognises the challenges posed by the storage and charging of lithium-powered e-bikes and scooters in the workplace and provides employers with some tips to help mitigate the risks.

It is available to download for free here.

[1] Full article: Who uses e-bikes in the UK and why? (tandfonline.com) 

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Worker injured by 300kg batteries 27/02/2024

A RECYCLING company in West Yorkshire has been fined £120,000 after batteries weighing at least 300kg fell onto an employee and severely injured him.

The man was working with two colleagues at Wastecare Limited’s site on North Dean Business Park, Halifax when he was struck by the batteries being recycled on 22 March 2019.

The three workers had been restacking the batteries that were stored in Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) after it had toppled over.

However, the FIBCs started to rip in front of them leading to the batteries falling on to one of the workers.

He suffered a double compound fracture to his lower right leg, a fracture to the left tibia, a fractured right collar bone, some bruising to his ribs and a cut on his forehead.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Wastecare Limited failed to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of its employees at work. The site was overstocked, bags of batteries had been stacked in an unsafe manner and there was no specific documented risk assessments or safe systems of work for the correct stacking and storage of batteries. This was not an isolated incident.

HSE guidance says FIBCs must not be stacked unless the FIBC is designed to be stacked and only then should it be stacked in either a pyramid form or against two walls. Learn more about HSE guidance here: Waste Management: Frequently Asked Questions (hse.gov.uk)

Wastecare Limited, of Normanton Industrial Estate, Normanton, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £4,937 in costs at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 21 February 2024.

HSE inspector Jackie Ferguson commented, “There are specific Industry Standards and Guidance relating to Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) which provides users with information on a range of aspects relating to their use including filling, discharging, handling and storage.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by implementing simple control measures and safe working practices to ensure the batteries were stacked safely and securely. The industry should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

This HSE prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Samantha Crockett and supported by HSE paralegal officer Stephen Parkinson.

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Health and Safety Matters Podcast - Episode 36 27/02/2024

EPISODE 36 of the Health and Safety Matters (HSM) podcast is now available and features an interview with David Bishop, the event director of the Health and Safety Event, who explains why the event is now a must-attend for any OSH professional.

Mark also covers all the latest industry news including Non-registered PPE providers failing BSIF tests, a new report shows poor mental health is having a damaging effect across the UK, news of BSIF Alan Murray announcing his retirement and much more.

Mark also gives an update on the Safety and Health Excellence Awards and previews the all-new Health and Safety Matters Live Coventry conference, which takes place on 27 June 2024 at the Coventry Building Society Arena. 

You can listen to the HSM Podcast for free on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, YouTube or Podbean. To download the podcast on Spotify, Google Play or iTunes all you need to do is enter Health and Safety Matters into the platform's search box.

Alternatively you can listen to the podcast online at hsmpodcast.podbean.com or watch it on YouTube via the link below or by clicking HERE

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Regulator provides guidance on menopause in the workplace 25/02/2024

NEW GUIDANCE on menopause in the workplace, setting out employer’s legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, has been issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Many women report experiencing negative impacts of menopausal symptoms in the workplace, with some even feeling compelled to leave their jobs as a result.

Research shows that one in ten women surveyed who have worked during the menopause have left their jobs due to symptoms, while two thirds of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 with experience of menopausal symptoms said they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work. However, very few workers request workplace adjustments during this time, often citing concerns about potential reactions.

As the number of women experiencing menopause while in employment increases, it is essential that employers know how to support workers experiencing menopause symptoms. Not only does this ensure they meet their legal responsibilities, but also that women in this group are able to continue to contribute to the workplace and benefit from work.

The new guidance from the EHRC aims to clarify these legal obligations and provide practical tips for employers on making reasonable adjustments and fostering positive conversations about the menopause with their workers.  

If menopause symptoms have a long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, they may be considered a disability. Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments and to not discriminate against the worker.

Additionally, workers experiencing menopause symptoms may be protected from less favourable treatment related to their menopause symptoms on the grounds of age and sex.

Employers are encouraged to carefully consider the guidance now available from the EHRC website and adapt their policies and practices accordingly, to ensure fairness and inclusivity in the workplace. 

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said, “As Britain’s equality watchdog, we are concerned both by how many women report being forced out of a role due to their menopause-related symptoms and how many don’t feel safe enough to request the workplace adjustments. 

“An employer understanding their legal duties is the foundation of equality in the workplace. But it is clear that many may not fully understand their responsibility to protect their staff going through the menopause. Our new guidance sets out these legal obligations for employers and provides advice on how they can best support their staff.  

“We hope that this guidance helps ensure every woman going through the menopause is treated fairly and can work in a supportive and safe environment.”  

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Employers urged to act on menopause 25/02/2024

THE INSTITUTION of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is urging businesses to ensure they create supportive environments where employers are comfortable discussing menopause.

It comes after the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission issued guidance to bosses to clarify their legal obligations to support people going through menopause.

The commission has warned employers that failure to adhere to these obligations, including making “reasonable adjustments” could lead to legal action.

IOSH has previously issued its own guidance on this subject to support employers.

The tips include:

  • Considering whether existing policies and procedures cater for the psychosocial needs of menopause-related issues, for example whether they can introduce flexible working patterns
  • Ensuring risk assessments consider specific risks to menopausal employees and identify reasonable adjustments for individuals
  • Developing awareness, training and education strategies that raise understanding of the menopause and associated symptoms, their impact on work and potential solutions
  • Following the advice of health and safety professionals based on the outcomes of age – and gender – sensitive health risk assessments, including potential changes in functional capacities
  • Developing more inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and managerial styles that make employees feel comfortable disclosing symptoms or requesting adjustments to support them with symptoms.

Dr Karen Michell, an occupational health specialist at IOSH said, “Menopause can and often does have physical, mental and emotional effects on employees and their ability to cope with work. Yet very few workplaces and managers are knowledgeable on how to address work-related menopause issues and the preventive role that occupational health and safety can play.

“This is concerning. As with other health issues, employees should feel comfortable being able to discuss their symptoms with line managers and other colleagues and be able to request additional support which helps them in their roles.

“It is important that we prepare both workers and employers for what menopause might mean for them. Waiting until there is a pre-menopausal crisis is like acting once the horse has bolted the stable. Initiatives are needed to ensure we all understand the process of menopause and that employers create those supportive environments from the get go.

“We encourage employers to approach menopause in the workplace with a more holistic view that puts the spotlight on providing effective management practices, practical support and the adoption of a workplace culture of an open nature for those experiencing symptoms rather than solely focusing on superficial initiatives, such as the development of a specific policy on menopause.”

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Waste firm prosecuted for liquid cyanide leak 23/02/2024

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency has successfully prosecuted a waste transport company for causing liquid cyanide to leak from a lorry at an industrial estate in Heanor, Derbyshire.

At Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday 21 February 2024, J & G Environmental Ltd of Fareham, Hampshire, were fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £52,500.

The company had previously pleaded guilty to the charge of causing an illegal water discharge. It prompted the Fire Service to set up decontamination protocols and caused hundreds of fish deaths in a nearby pond.

The court was told that the incident occurred on 6 February 2018, when a container was ruptured as the driver started moving them around, having borrowed a forklift truck.

Hundreds of litres of a liquid, which contained diluted cyanide, began to escape going onto the floor before entering the drainage system and natural waterways.

The Fire Service were called and cordoned off the area and set up decontamination protocols to ensure that anyone involved in the incident were fully washed down.

Environment Agency officers were also called and tried to stop the flow of water from nearby ponds.

They also took samples from the dead fish and found that of the 73 sent for testing all were found to have died from cyanide poisoning.

The Environment Agency estimated their clear up costs were in the region of £50,000.

J & G Environmental are contractors offering waste collection and disposal to the printing, photographic and healthcare industry.

On the day of the incident, the company had collected the waste liquid from the Rolls Royce base before the lorry went onto Heanor.

In sentencing the company, Judge Michael Auty noted that it had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty to the offence.

He also took into account the efforts made by the company more widely to ensure no repetition of a similar incident and to contribute to recycling and environmental welfare were also impressive.

The Judge added that it was unfortunate that the driver was unable to provide any detail of the nature of the liquid being transported and that the absence or availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) created a risk to its employees.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said, “We welcome this sentence as this was a serious pollution which caused considerable disruption besides fish deaths.

“The Environment Agency will pursue any company that fails to uphold the law or protect nature and will continue to press for the strongest possible penalties.

“Failure to comply with these legal requirements is a serious offence that can damage the environment and harm human health."

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Bedding manufacturer fined after employees injured 25/02/2024

A BEDDING manufacturer has been fined more than £250k after two of its employees were seriously injured during separate incidents at its site in Rochdale.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Sartex Quilts and Textiles Limited following the incidents, which saw both workers undergo amputations.

HSE inspector Elena Pickford described the injuries sustained by the workers as “serious and avoidable”.

The first incident took place on 29 March 2020 and involved a 32-year-old employee from Burnley. On his first day working on the line, he was instructed to clean the measuring wheel on a cutting machine. He climbed onto the conveyer belt, however the cutting machine had not been properly isolated from all sources of power and the machine’s clamp came down, trapping the employee’s left hand and causing the circular saw to move.

The saw was brought to a stop by another employee who pressed the emergency stop button. Unfortunately, this was not in time and resulted in the worker having three fingers amputated from his left hand.

The worker said in his victim personal statement: “Prior to this incident, I was a healthy, happy and active person. At the time I had one very young son, now I have two children. I try not to expose my left hand too much to my children when I am playing with them or when they are in my company. I do not talk about the incident with my children. When I am out and about in public, I try to keep my injured hand out of the public view.”

On 22 October 2021, a second Sartex Quilts and Textiles employee was involved in an incident while operating a quilting machine. The 51-year-old, from Rochdale, had noticed a fallen casing and attempted to place it onto the back of the machine while it was being operated.

However, his gloves became tangled in the machine, causing his right hand to be dragged in. This caused lacerations and crush injuries to his right hand and resulted in the tips of two of his fingers to be amputated.

HSE inspectors Leanne Ratcliffe and Elena Pickford investigated the incidents in 2020 and 2021 respectively and found Sartex Quilts and Textiles Limited did not guard the machinery and did not implement suitable and sufficient procedures to isolate machinery from power.

HSE guidance says machines should be properly switched off, isolated or locked off before taking any action to remove blockages, clean or make adjustments. Machines should also be fitted with fixed guards to enclose dangerous parts, whenever practical. The full guidance can be found here: Equipment and machinery – HSE.

Sartex Quilts and Textiles Limited, of Castle Mill, Queensway, Rochdale, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £251,250 and ordered to pay £6,862.63 in costs at Manchester & Salford Magistrates’ Court on 14 February 2024.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Elena Pickford said: “These injuries were serious and avoidable, the risk should have been identified.

“Employers should make sure they properly assess and ensure that access to dangerous parts of machinery are prevented. Had these machines been adequately guarded and a safe isolating procedure been in place,  these incidents could have easily been prevented.”

This HSE prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Samantha Crockett and supported by HSE paralegal officer Rebecca Forman.

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