What If Your Company Does Not Adhere to Health and Safety Rules?

Health and Safety
 What If Your Company Does Not Adhere to Health and Safety Rules?
Written by: Alice Williams Updated: In: Industrial Disease

There is legislation in place that companies are obliged to adhere to in order to ensure a safe working environment. These guidelines are clear in what they expect and further information offering practical assistance and ideas on how to ensure companies are always adhering to the relevant rules can very usefully be found from a number of sources including on the HSE website.

Unfortunately, it appears that some companies still are not going far enough to ensure that their employees are adequately protected. There have been a number of instances over the last few years where companies have been fined due to risking the health and safety of their workforce. Some recent examples are considered below;

Poor Local Exhaust Ventilation

Some employees at this company were being exposed to metalworking fluid. This can cause a number of health conditions including asthma and dermatitis.

A visit was conducted on the company by the HSE and in February 2016 the HSE took action, requiring the company to provide health surveillance and manage exposure to metal working fluid. Later that year, an employee was diagnosed with occupational asthma and further enforcement action was taken by the HSE in December 2016. During the HSE’s investigations it was noted that there was inadequate local exhaust ventilation (LEV ) among other issues, and they took enforcement action for the company to provide health surveillance and manage exposure to metal working fluid.

The Company later pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was ordered to pay a fine and costs at Sheffield Magistrates Court.

Inadequate Respiratory Protective Equipment

In 2017, at the site in Wimborne, Dorset, there had been a large spillage of approximately 150 – 200 litres of a chemical preparation which included hydrofluoric acid. Cleaning the spillage took 4 workers several hours and they were provided with inadequate PPE to complete the task. As a result, some suffered adverse health conditions including an asthma attack and severe headaches with one employee requiring a referral for specialist treatment.

Following an HSE investigation, it was found that the company had committed a number of failings including a lack of suitable risk assessments, inadequate respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and a lack of face fit testing.

At Poole Magistrates Court the company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 and was ordered to pay fines and costs totalling in excess of £22,000.00.

Inappropriate Control Measures

This company used styrene in its manufacturing process. Styrene is a liquid chemical often used in the production of rubber and plastic. Exposure can cause a number of health conditions including irritation to the nose and throat, coughing, wheezing and skin irritation.

An inspection by the HSE found that there were no adequate processes in place to control employees’ exposure to this harmful chemical. They served an improvement notice which the company failed to follow until some 22 months later.

The company pleaded guilty to beaching the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and was ordered to pay a fine and costs .

Hazardous and Explosive Conditions

From 2016 workers at a site in Swindon were exposed to wood dust in the preparation of room divider sheets. They were not provided with adequate RPE and the site was found to have poor ventilation. This lead to a number of health conditions and employees complained to their local council.

The council then investigated further and uncovered a number of failings on behalf of the company including the inappropriate use of glues resulting in hazardous and explosive conditions.

The company pleaded guilty to six breaches of health and safety regulations from the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH and were fined almost £400,000.00

What to Do if You Think Your Employer is Not Protecting You From Exposure

If you feel you are not being adequately protected there are a number of things you can do. The first step would be to bring this to the attention of your employer and discuss your concerns with them. There are a number of things they may be able to do in the first instance to ensure you are protected.

If you feel that you need to take things further then you can complain to the HSE or your local council. If appropriate they will then visit your workplace, consider the health and safety procedures and discuss any necessary next steps with your employer.

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