With recent prosecutions resulting in a £800,000 fine for one company and 4 directors/employees of another receiving suspended prison sentences, it is clear that the HSE are taking seriously their responsibility to prosecute companies who are not protecting their workforce from hazardous substances.
While the HSE target companies in all sectors for inspections, they currently have a particular focus on companies in the following sectors:
- Fabricated metal
- Food Manufacture – with a particular focus on bakeries.
Source: HSE Manufacturing Guidance
Recent HSE Prosecutions of Manufacturers
Two of the most recent prosecutions by the HSE were:
- A manufacturer of ejector seats was fined £800,000 after three workers developed debilitating lung conditions following exposure to working metal fluid mist. The HSE found that the measures in place within the factory to prevent the workers being exposed were ‘inadequate’. They were also found to have failures in the provision of health surveillance, which would have identified the issue earlier, so the company could have put measures in place. Source: http://press.hse.gov.uk/2016/ejector-seat-manufacturer-fined-800000-for-failing-to-protect-workers-health
- The director of a Port Talbot furniture factory and three of its managers have received suspended prison sentences for ongoing health and safety failings. The factory was inspected as part of the proactive inspection programme to woodworking premises. Problems found included poor control of wood dust and no maintenance of work equipment including fume and dust extraction. As the HSE said after the hearing: ‘There is no excuse for people running a business not to know what health and safety standards apply to their work. When directors or managers who have the power to make the improvements blatantly disregard their workers’ health and safety we have no option but to prosecute.’ Source: http://press.hse.gov.uk/2016/four-receive-suspended-jail-sentences-for-health-and-safety-failings/
Of course it is not just the fine/suspended prison sentences that will affect the directors of these companies – but possibly even more damaging will be the harm to their reputation as a good company to work for or with.
Ensuring your company is meeting its Health and Safety obligations
As the HSE said, there is no excuse for companies not to know the health and safety standards which apply.
If your company emits hazardous substances as part of the manufacturing process, then you need to ensure that you have the right LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) equipment in place and that it is being inspected regularly. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, this testing will need to take place at least once every 13 months and in some cases more often.
The HSE has a section on its website dedicated to COSHH explaining what kinds of substances are likely to be hazardous to health and also what your responsibilities as an employer are here.
If you operate in the target industries of woodworking, fabricated metal or food manufacture, and don’t have regularly inspected LEV systems in place then you are at particular risk of being targeted by the HSE.
How can Vent-Tech help?
Vent-Tech are experts in all aspects of HSE – whether you are wondering if your system is truly working effectively, needs testing or if you are earlier in the process and wondering if you need an LEV system designed then we can help.
Please give us a call on 0117 9712163 or drop us a note using the contact form on the right. Don’t let your company be the next one the HSE prosecutes for LEV failings.