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HSE food manufacturing inspections underway 23/01/2018

Companies and people working in food manufacturing are being told they must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of proactive inspections is reviewing health and safety standards in food manufacturing businesses across the country, and a programme of unannounced inspections is underway.

The inspections focus on two of the main causes of ill-health in the sector which are currently occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills, and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – predominantly lower back pain and upper limb disorders from manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the sector.

The inspection visits come as HSE recently released its Manufacturing sector plan which prioritises the reduction of cases of occupational lung disease and MSDs.

Exposure to flour dust is the UK’s second most common cited cause of occupational asthma. MSDs are the most common type of work-related illness in food manufacturing with handling injuries, accounting for around 20% of reported employee injuries (RIDDOR). HSE insists that such ill-health can be prevented when organisations have proper risk control systems in place.

The inspections will ensure measures are being taken by those responsible to protect workers against health risks and HSE will not hesitate to use enforcement to bring about improvements.

HSE’s head of manufacturing sector John Rowe, said: “The food manufacturing sector is made up of over 300,000 workers and its health and safety record needs to improve. This inspection initiative will look to ensure effective management and control of targeted health risks." 

HSE is calling on anyone working in the industry to take the time to refresh their knowledge of the advice and guidance which is available free on the HSE website.

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Helping Great Britain to work well 29/11/2017

Earlier this year, the Health and Safety Executive, along with unions and industry leaders called for broader ownership of workplace health and safety by asking for public commitments from business. A positive response saw more than 100 organisations making commitments. Now, the HSE has launched an online community to inspire businesses to share their commitment to 'Helping Great Britain Work Well'. 

The launch of the new web community will establish a social sharing network where companies and businesses can make their commitments, share their journey of improvement and help each other and encourage others follow in their footsteps.

HSE chair Martin Temple said: “Making a workplace commitment to health and safety is something that takes time, energy and passion, but the rewards for delivering on that commitment are incalculable. Sensible and proportionate health and safety prevents ill-health, death and injury in the workplace and is good for business and good for workers.”

It is estimated at least 300,000 workers have benefitted since the commitments initiative was launched last year with companies introducing many schemes to benefit workers.

Water utility company, Welsh Water, launched a ‘Back to Health’ scheme aimed to providing medical treatment to assist employees’ recovery from illness or injury significantly faster than NHS provided treatment. 

Construction company Morgan Sindall committed to introducing a suite of ‘Engagement Discussions’ as part of its ‘100% Safe’ Cultural Development Programme which has led to improved knowledge and understanding of health and safety practices.  

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HSE makes cost recovery dispute process fully independent 14/09/2017

As from 1st September disputed invoices raised under the fee for intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme will be considered by a fully independent panel, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed.

All disputes will now be considered by a lawyer – acting as chair – and two others who have practical experience of management of health and safety.

HSE made the change following a six week public consultation. Previously, disputes were considered by a panel with two HSE members and one independent.

A spokesman for HSE said: “We have consistently said that we would keep the dispute process under review, and are making sensible changes following the consultation and in light of four years’ experience of running fee for intervention.

“The revised process also provides greater clarity about the information which HSE will give to businesses to allow them to make appropriate representations to the dispute panel.”

Revised guidance on the new process has been published on HSE’s website.

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Tackling occupational lung disease 11/09/2017

HSE is focusing on occupational lung disease (OLD) as one of three priorities as part of its new Health and Work strategy. Marie Warburton, policy advisor at HSE's Health and Chemicals Unit, explains more

For many years, HSE has been able to report an encouraging story of continual improvement in workplace safety; the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries occurring in Great Britain’s workplaces show a decreasing trend. The picture on occupational ill-health, however, is not so encouraging with generally little change over recent years. 

A priority area for HSE is occupational respiratory disease which, linked to exposure to chemicals or dust, is estimated to result in approximately 12,000 deaths each year. Estimates from the 2013/14 to 2015/16 Labour Force Survey indicate that around 36,000 people who worked in the previous year (and 141,000 who had ever had a job) reported lung or breathing problems that were caused or made worse by work. There are an estimated 14,000 new cases of breathing or lung problems caused or made worse by work each year, resulting in at least an estimated 400,000 working days lost.

Occupational lung disease presents a particular challenge as the causes are often not easily recognised. The air might look clear to breathe but the small particles that get deep into the airways and lungs and cause the often irreversible damage cannot be seen. The effects themselves may take many years before they become apparent. This leaves the worker with a legacy that often the employer does not see and means then that both causes and effects are overlooked.

HSE’s vision for OLD is that anyone who goes to work should expect to breathe the same quality of air that they would outside work.    

HSE may be taking the lead on tackling OLD but much of what is planned is around working more closely with partners within the health and safety system. In fact, HSE has established a Healthy Lung Partnership (HLP) made up of employers, employees, trade unions, professional bodies, other government departments, third sector, and representatives from trade associations. The purpose of the HLP is to both work together, and independently, to raise awareness of, and ultimately contribute to, a reduction in the number of cases of occupational lung disease.  

Other planned activities include targeted HSE inspections of activities that create a greater risk of lung disease, for example work where respirable crystalline silica can be generated, welding in manufacturing, and activities where occupational asthma is a problem such as in bakeries. Asbestos remains on the radar, in particular those activities where workers can be exposed when its presence is less obvious, such as in refurbishment.

HSE will be working with HLP, and other partners, across a range of activities including encouraging consultants to provide proportionate and risk-based advice, supporting the rolling out of the ‘Learning Occupational Health by Experiencing Risks’ project, known more simply as ‘LOcHER’ - an exciting and innovate approach introducing apprentices to health and safety in the workplace, and using insight research to help target our communications more effectively.

A more detailed exploration of our plans and how they are developing will be made at the HSE-organised Workplace Healthy Lungs Summit at the QEII Centre on 22nd November this year.

Website links: https://www.hsl.gov.uk/healthy-lungs; http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/; http://www.hse.gov.uk/strategy/index.htm

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Workplace fatality figures released 27/07/2017

The HSE has released its annual figures for work-related fatalities, as well as the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2015.

The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 137 workers were fatally injured between April 2016 and March 2017 (a rate of 0.43 per 100,000 workers), the second lowest year on record.

There has been a long-term downward trend in the number of fatal injuries to workers – they have halved over the last 20 years – although in recent years the trend shows signs of leveling.

HSE Chair Martin Temple said: “Every fatality is a tragic event that should not happen. While we are encouraged by this improvement on the previous year, we continue unwaveringly on our mission to prevent injury, death and ill health by protecting people and reducing risks.”

The new figures show the rate of fatal injuries in several key industrial sectors:

  • 30 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded. While this accounts for the largest share, this is the lowest number on record for the sector. However, over the last five years the number has fluctuated, The annual average for the past five years is 39. The annual average rate over the last five years in construction is around four times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 27 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded. This sector continues to account for a large share of the annual fatality count. It has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 14 fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded. Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 15 times as high as the all industry rate.

The fatalities in the waste and recycling sector in 2016/17 include the single incident at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling Ltd in Birmingham on 7 July 2016 which resulted in five deaths.

Martin Temple continued:“As we approach the one-year anniversary of this incident, our thoughts remain with the families of those who died. We continue to fully support West Midlands Police’s investigation.”

The new figures also highlight the risks to older workers – around a quarter of fatal injuries in 2016/17 were to workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers made up only around 10% of the workforce.

There were also 92 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2016/17. Almost half of these occurred on railways with the remainder occurring across a number of sectors including public services, entertainment and recreation.

Mesothelioma, one of the few work related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, contracted through past exposure to asbestos killed 2542 in Great Britain in 2015 compared to 2519 in 2014. The current figures relating to asbestos-related cancer reflect widespread exposures before 1980. Annual deaths are therefore expected to start to reduce after this current decade.

A fuller assessment of work related ill-health and injuries, drawing on HSE’s full range of data sources, will be provided as part of the annual Health and Safety Statistics release on 1 November 2017.

The HSE Chair added: “We deal daily with the causes and consequences of work-related deaths, injuries and ill health. Today’s updated figures continue to inform our understanding of which areas we need to target.”

“We concentrate our interventions where we know we can have the biggest impact. We hold dutyholders accountable for managing the risks they create in the workplace. This benefits workers, business performance, the economy and wider society alike.”

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Still room for improvement 02/08/2016

The latest provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents in Great Britain’s workplaces has been released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

 

The long term trend has seen the rate of fatalities more than halve over the last 20 years. However, provisional figures indicate that 144 people were killed while at work in 2015/2016 – up from 142 in 2014/5. In manufacturing there were 27 deaths (compared to five-year average 22), but this figure includes three incidents that resulted in a total of eight deaths.

The Health and Safety Executive has called on all sectors to learn lessons to ensure workers return home safe from work. Martin Temple, HSE Chair said: “One death at work or life needlessly shortened, is one too many and behind every statistic lies a real story of loss and heartbreak and families left to grieve. Britain has one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but we should always be looking to improve and to prevent incidents that cost lives.

“This year HSE travelled the country asking industry representatives, employers, unions, workers and others what they could do to help GB work well. The response was hugely encouraging and I would like to ask people to deliver on the commitments made, that will help keep Britain’s workers alive.”

There were also 103 members of the public fatally injured in accidents connected to work in 2015/16, of which 36 (35 percent) related to incidents occurring on railways.

Comparisons of fatal injuries by country or region are based on where the accident occurred. After taking industrial composition into account, those regions and countries with seemingly higher rates are not (statistically) different to the rest of GB. In 2015/16 the highest fatal injury rates across all countries and regions were Wales (0.93 per 100,000 workers); Scotland (0.60); and Yorkshire and the Humber (0.58). Due to the relatively small numbers and to reduce some of the yearly fluctuation, when averaged across a five-year time period to 2014/15 those regions with the highest fatal injury rates were also Wales (0.81), Scotland (0.73) and Yorkshire and the Humber (0.70).

The statistics again confirm the UK to be one of the safest places to work in Europe, having one of the lowest rates of fatal injuries to workers in leading industrial nations.

HSE has also released the latest available figures on deaths from asbestos-related cancer. Mesothelioma, one of the few work related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, contracted through past exposure to asbestos killed 2,515 in Great Britain in 2014 compared to 2,556 in 2013.

A more detailed assessment of the data will be provided as part of the annual Health and Safety Statistics release in early November. As this draws on HSE’s full range of sources, including changes in non-fatal injuries and health trends, and will provide a richer picture on trends.

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Worker crushed by 2t frame 03/03/2015

A Cumbrian engineering firm has been fined £12,000 after a worker suffered severe injuries when he was struck by a metal frame, weighing almost 2t.

 

The worker from Carlisle sustained multiple cuts and fractures to his left foot and leg, and has still been unable to return to work almost a year on from the incident.

Tweddle Fabrications, which trades as Tweddle Engineering, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the partially-constructed trailer chassis had swung out of control while being lifted by two forklift trucks.

Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard that workers had been trying to lift and rotate the frame at the factory in Kirkbride near Wigton on 27 February 2014. Another employee, not involved in the lift, was walking across the factory floor when the 1.8t chassis moved in an uncontrolled way and struck him.

The court was told that the company had failed to plan the work properly, despite it requiring a complicated lift using two forklift trucks. There should also have been someone responsible for supervising the lift, and measures should have been in place to ensure that other workers were kept a safe distance away.

Tweddle Fabrications was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £501 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Steven Boyd said: "The worker still has difficulty walking almost a year after the incident but it could easily have been avoided. He wasn’t involved in the work to rotate the trailer chassis but had no way of knowing his life was being put at risk as he walked across the factory floor.

"Tweddle Fabrications had a legal responsibility to ensure that a complicated lift using two forklifts was planned properly, supervised appropriately and carried out safely, but it failed to do any of this.

"This case should act as a warning to manufacturers that they risk the safety of their employees if they ignore the law, and could find themselves in court as a result.”


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Firm prosecuted after worker's ankle crushed 31/10/2014

A Loughborough company has been fined for safety breaches after an employee’s ankle was crushed by a woodworking machine.


The man, who has asked not to be named, was trying to flush lubricant through the grease unit on the machine at Advance Display when the incident happened on 28 January 2013.


He had one foot on the floor and the other on a base plate of the computer-controlled machine, which puts patterns in wood placed on a large moving bed. 


He asked a colleague to turn the machine on and as it had already been programmed, it immediately moved forward, crushing his foot between the base plate and the moving bed.


The man, from Whitwick, near Coalville, had to have two operations and was off work for five months. He has since returned to the company and is able to walk unaided but will never regain full movement in his ankle and foot. 


A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that for certain tasks on the machine, the operators used to have a mobile remote-controlled pendant in their hand to control the machine. However, the pendant had been broken for more than three and a half years and the company had never replaced or repaired it.


When the employee asked his colleague to switch on the machine, the latter lost sight of the former so could not see he was not clear of the machine. 


Advance Display of Falcon Business Park, Meadow Lane, Loughborough,  was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2677 after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.


Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Berian Price said: "The incident was entirely preventable and stemmed from a failure to keep the remote control pendant – a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment – in good repair and efficient working order. This, coupled with the lack of a safe system of work, led to a man needlessly suffering an extremely severe injury.


"The company was grossly negligent and failed to consider the risk to employees engaged in certain tasks on the machine.”


Every year around a dozen people are killed and 40,000 injured by machinery. Free advice for employers of managing the risks is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/ 


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Worker loses fingertip in unguarded drill 07/10/2014

A West Midlands fabrications company has been fined after an employee lost the tip of his finger in an unguarded drill.

 

Black Country Magistrates’ Court heard the 32-year-old man, from Dudley, was drilling holes into metal components at H&H Alloy Sales when the incident happened on 18 December 2013. As he pushed a piece of metal which was not moving properly, his hand shot across it and his middle finger became caught on the drill bit. His glove became entangled so he was unable to pull it out.

He had to have the tip of his middle finger amputated and was off work for three months. However, when he returned in March this year, he suffered considerable discomfort and surgeons decided to amputate the finger further, to the first joint. He only went back to the factory three weeks ago.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company had a documented safe system of work for the drill which stated that as part of the preparations for work, the guard should be placed in position and then checked by the operator to make sure it is correct. However, the guard had been removed at some point previously and never replaced. It was subsequently re-fitted after being found in a box.

H&H Alloy Sales, of Titford Lane, Rowley Regis, was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1391 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Judith Lloyd said: "The incident was entirely preventable. The underlying cause was that it was custom and practice to use the drill without a guard in place. Instruction for employees was lacking and there was no system in place to check that guards were being used correctly, despite having a written procedure.

"It was reasonably practicable to guard the drill and it had in fact been guarded in the past. Wearing gloves without an appropriate guard significantly increased the risk of entanglement, something the company had been provided with advice on during a previous inspection.

"Following the incident the job was completed on a programmable automatic drilling machine which begs the question, why didn’t the company use this method from the start? If it had, a man would have been spared a painful injury.”

Further information about managing the risks associated with machinery can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/ 

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Workers' health put at risk 02/09/2014

A Hampshire manufacturer has appeared in court after allowing the health of employees to be put at risk.

 

Brooks Crownhill Patternmakers, a precision engineering company based in Andover, was prosecuted by the HSE at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court (28 Aug) for five health and safety breaches.

The offences came to light after an inspection by HSE revealed that risks to health from exposure to vibration, noise and dust had not been adequately managed or controlled.

HSE found that the company, which produces metal castings for a range of industries, had no effective management systems to control exposure to the health risks to their employees. As a result, workers experienced a range of symptoms which required further investigation and monitoring.

Brooks Crownhill Patternmakers was fined £7000 and ordered to pay £1379 in costs after admitting single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974; the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005; and two breaches of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Michael Baxter said: "The company failed to fully control the numerous risks arising from its business activities. This has meant several employees developing symptoms relating to exposure to vibration, noise and dust, which could have been picked up sooner as part of a health surveillance programme. "Brooks Crownhill Patternmakers did not respond to changing workloads and processes, and failed to act on advice provided by its occupational health provider or by contractors servicing equipment.

"The company has since reviewed and made significant changes to its risk management and occupational health monitoring.”

Employees exposed to high levels of vibration at work risk developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, which is serious and disabling. Damage impacts on hand and finger dexterity, including the inability to undertake minor day-to-day tasks, and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks. 

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