Silk weaving firm prosecuted for lack of Health Surveillance and other safety failings

August 30, 2013

In our post last month, “COSHH Health Surveillance – what does it mean for your business?” we explained how a robust employee health surveillance program should be used as one of a range of controls to monitor the effectiveness of your ventilation system.

A recent case reported on the HSE website following the successful prosecution of a Suffolk textile company illustrates how seriously they take failures in health surveillance and other general controls around the use of hazardous chemicals.

The prosecution followed an investigation into serious health and safety breaches which left an employee suffering 3 years of ill health and disabled due to prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The worker was employed as the dye house manager between 1993 and 2012.  He had been suffering from chronic breathing difficulties since 2008 and not only received treatment in hospital on a number of occasions but was also on a cocktail of drugs to suppress the symptoms which improved markedly after he left the company and stopped working with the chemicals.

The firm was found to have the following failings in relation to the health and safety of their employees:

·         lack of assessment of the health risks of working with the hazardous reactive dyes despite the respiratory damage being well known in the industry

·         not providing adequate information, instruction or training to their staff working with the chemicals

·         failure to provide suitable ventilation equipment in respect of the weighing and mixing of the dyes

·         stopping their health surveillance program in 2004

The investigation also identified that the company had failed to provide health surveillancefor exposure to noise after 2007 despite it being a legal requirement where employees are likely to suffer from noise induced hearing loss.

The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 towards costs after pleading guilty of breaching COSHH Regulations 6(1), 7, 11 and 12 and Regulation 9(1) of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

In addition to the fines and costs incurred by the prosecution the company will have to invest in the installation of a suitable ventilation system for the premises adding further costs to their overall bill.

Additionally, what is not often considered when such prosecutions are publicised is the impact on the company’s ability to get and the premiums they will pay for insurance in the future.

Additional Resources

We hope you found the information in this post informative.  Further information about this subject can be located on the HSE website.  We particularly feel that the following are useful starting points:

Safe Handling of Reactive Dyes in Textiles – download here

For help and assistance on this or any aspect of your industrial ventilation system please call the team at Vent-Tech on 0117 9712163, we are always happy to help.