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Health & Safety Executive (HSE): Recent Cases Blog 6

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a regulatory body in the United Kingdom that is responsible for the encouragement and enforcement of health and safety within the workplace. In our weekly review of recent HSE cases we explore current trends and topics of interest from this week’s HSE Bulletin. This week we look at the potential dangers from working with chemicals in the workplace and the potential consequences if the necessary precautions are not put in place.

Andrew Brammer, Head of Regulatory law at Cartwright King and specialist health and safety lawyer commented:

“Two very different cases from diverse industry sectors demonstrate the need for all employers to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks associated with any work activity. Particular account should be taken of exposure to any physical, biological and chemical agents that might pose a risk of harm to employees. Of significance is the successful prosecution of the independent health and safety advisor in case two, “Allergic Reaction”. In my experience this is quite exceptional, and is a timely reminder that all contractors, even health and safety advisors, owe legal duties to employees of the firm they advise or assist.”

Fume Incident

A food waste disposal and recycling firm in Stoke-on-Trent has been fined £250,000 after three of its employees were engulfed by toxic gases which included hydrogen sulphide present in a reduced oxygen atmosphere.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) informed Stafford Crown Court that on 23rd April 2014, an employee of the firm entered a compartment within an animal waste trailer to free the waste it contained. Consequently, they along with two other employees were overcome by the gases contained in the compartment.

The court heard how the incident could have resulted in fatalities and that the company had been prosecuted twice previously for fatal incidents involving confined space entry within a processing plant. It was believed that the latest incident could have been prevented if the correct precautions were put in place.

The company was therefore fined £250,000 with costs of £37,362 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 5(1) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997.

Allergic Reaction

A rubber sealant manufacturing company based in Hereford has been fined after one of its employees contracted allergic contact dermatitis.

Hereford Magistrate’s Court heard how the employee had contracted the skin disease after being exposed to sensitising ingredients in the rubber compounds.

An investigation took place by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found that the company failed to assess the potential risks from their products and put the correct procedures in place.

It was also found that the company’s health and safety advisor failed to appreciate the underlying issues to the level required for the company to understand its responsibilities. Consequently, the health and safety advisor pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, for failing to carry out her duty under the act to the legal standard and therefore exposing others to risks to their health and safety. They were fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £200.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulations 6 and 11 of the Control of Substances hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH), and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,529.

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