29 July 2013
Why Health & Safety at Work is so important
In an interesting development, a Cambridgeshire health and safety consultant has been fined for failing to spot potential dangers at a factory where a worker became chronically ill through inhaling high levels of chemicals.
The consultant, a Mr Whiting, had been trading as KW Consultants of Chatteris for seven years, working for a blue chip Cambridge firm where one of its employers developed serious health problems after working in a poorly ventilated work space.
It seems that Mr Whiting was not suitably qualified for the work which he undertook according to investigators working on the case. Following prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive, Mr Whiting pleaded guilty to Health and Safety at Work Act breaches and was fined £1,500 with costs of £1,000.
Mr Whiting was the health and safety consultant for Prior Scientific Instruments which designs and manufactures scientific instruments for clients across the world. His background was apparently in quality control and he did not have adequate knowledge of health and safety for the particular company he supplied his service to, and failed to make them aware of the appropriate and safe use of hazardous chemicals.
Unbeknown to the company, it had employed the wrong person to provide health and safety advice.
The injured employee was a paint sprayer who suffered eye irritation, breathing difficulties, and headaches but who also lost the ability to concentrate after working with harmful substances at the Fulbourn factory. His injuries were such that he is no longer able to work.
The HSE prosecution went further as it also found that the company did not provide suitable equipment to adequately remove the hazardous fumes from the workplace, and it failed to provide its employees with health surveillance if they were using hazardous substances. The company was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,852 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
This case not only highlights the need for companies to monitor and control the chemicals they use , but also to ensure they retain the services of reasonably competent individuals who advise them on health & safety matters. This particular company employed workers who were required to use chemicals including trichloroethylene, a powerful de-greaser used to clean metal before it is painted, and paints containing isocyanates.
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