No matter what sector or industry your business is in, it’s essential that you have robust emergency response plans, suitable and sufficient risk assessments and control measures in place so you understand your responsibilities should an incident or emergency that could put you, your business, fellow members of staff and infrastructure at risk.
To help you understand the importance of emergency planning, here are some recent health and safety incidents that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has addressed, which could act as a catalyst for your organisation to review your processes and procedures on a frequent basis.
£500,000 fine for waste management firm after fatal injury
A waste management company was fined £500,000 after a member of staff lost their life after being struck by a reversing loading shovel. The vehicle was loading waste into a trommel and a parked haulage vehicle. In doing so, the vehicle hit a site operative.
An HSE investigation found that there was a lack of pedestrian and vehicle segregation in the waste shed, so people and vehicles couldn’t circulate in a safe way. A risk assessment had been carried out but the control measures hadn’t been fully implemented and were insufficient to manage the risk of collision between vehicles and pedestrians.
Fall from height results in double prosecution
After a worker sustained life-changing injuries as a result of falling through a roof light 9.7m onto a factory floor, two companies were prosecuted and fined £145,000 and £165,000, with court costs totalling over £10,000 as well.
“Work at height, such as roof work, is a high-risk activity that accounts for a high proportion of workplace serious injuries and fatalities each year.
“This was a wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the principal contractor to manage and monitor the works to ensure the correct work equipment was being used,” HSE Inspector Paul Thompson commented.
NHS Trust sentenced after asbestos exposure
An NHS Trust has been fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,385.80 after employees and contractors were exposed to asbestos during refurbishment work on an accommodation block at the premises.
Fixtures and fittings were being removed from an empty flat when asbestos-containing materials were disturbed. The Trust failed to implement adequate measures to handle the initial release of asbestos, which exposed other workers who later came to the flat to carry out jobs.
An investigation found that the Trust didn’t have sufficient auditing procedures in place to make sure that the arrangements in its policy and management plan were implemented, working properly and effectively.
Prosecution following a fall through an unprotected stairwell opening
A principal contractor has been prosecuted after a sub-contractor was injured while laying bricks for the second storey of a house. The man fell around 3m through an unprotected stairwell opening and landed on his feet, shattering his left heel, an injury that required surgery.
It was found that no measures had been put in place to prevent workers from falling from height through the opening. Inspector Ross Carter explained that the incident could easily have been prevented through measures like the installation of guardrails around the opening.
Fine after boy falls from scaffolding
A company has been fined £160,000 and told to pay £22,310 in costs after a young boy slipped off a scaffold ladder and fell around 10m. Cardiff Magistrates Court heard how two boys were able to climb the rungs of the ladder, with one able to climb to the top platform of the scaffold.
It was found that the security measures in place were inadequate for preventing access to the scaffolding. Michael Batt, HSE Inspector, said the incident could have been prevented if the ladder had been removed completely or if a ladder guard that covered the full width of the rungs had been installed.
£1.4 million fine issued after a worker suffered crush injuries
A food processing company has been fined £1.4 million after a member of staff suffered serious crush injuries while unblocking a machine on the poultry slaughter line. His body was crushed at chest height after being struck by a large metal stillage, sustaining several injuries including fractures to his back, a punctured lung and several fractured ribs.
“The employee’s life-threatening injuries could easily have been prevented had the company identified the guarding deficiencies and put in place simple measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.
“This should serve as a lesson to others in the food processing industry about the importance of effectively guarding their machinery to stop others being similarly injured,” HSE Inspector Kirsty Storer commented.
Fine issued for failure to manage the risk of exposure to chemicals
A chemical manufacturing firm has been fined £224,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,098 following failures to manage the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals. Workers were regularly exposed to chemicals that caused long-term damage to their skin, suffering rashes as a result. In some cases, they were unable to continue working on site.
It was found that the firm hadn’t carried out a sufficient risk assessment, failed to prevent the release of hazardous substances, failed to decontaminate properly, failed to prevent the spread of contamination and failed to have an effective system of health surveillance in place.
Care home sentenced after the death of a resident
A care home was fined £60,000 after a resident fell down a set of stairs and later tragically resulted in a loss of life. Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how staff members were unable to find the resident, but following an extensive search was discovering with a head injury at the bottom of the stairs in the boiler room.
It was found that the door to the room had a lock that was opened by a key to allow access, but there was an intermittent fault with the closure mechanism which meant the door didn’t always shut automatically.
Prosecution for failing to manage exposure to vibration
A housing association was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £4,000 after failing to manage exposure to vibration, which resulted in a diagnosis of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAV’s) for one of its workers.
It was found that there hadn’t been a suitable and sufficient risk assessment carried out regarding the use of vibratory tools. The company in question didn’t know the extent to which staff members were exposed to vibration, so suitable control measures hadn’t been implemented. Workers were also not given suitable information, instruction and training.
Builder sentenced over carbon monoxide poisoning risk
A builder was recently sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 24 months, 30 days’ rehabilitation and 150 hours of community unpaid work after putting three people at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
During the build of a single storey extension at a property, the builder had been informed that the boiler flue exited the rear of the house, which is where the extension was to be built.
He said this wouldn’t be a problem and would arrange for a plumber to move the flue, but it was later found that he had failed to make sure the flue was moved to a safe location before the extension was built. This meant the flue was releasing the products of combustion into the extension, which was picked up by the carbon monoxide alarm.