A Nottinghamshire cold storage firm has been fined £40,000 for separate health and safety failings after one worker was injured by falling equipment and several others developed a disabling condition of the nerves and joints.
In the first incident, an agency worker was struck and trapped by a section of falling portable cold storage at Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage Ltd, of Huthwaite, on 26 October 2010.
Kevin Rodgers, 37, from Mansfield, was trapped under the L-shaped section of cold store while breaking up smaller sections of the equipment. He broke several bones in his foot and also suffered an epileptic seizure, which kept him off work for some time afterwards.
Nottingham Crown Court heard today (13 February) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a number of safety failings by Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage Ltd. The firm failed to properly assess the risks involved in the dismantling process, staff training and supervision was inadequate, and there was no safe system of work in place.
A separate HSE investigation was conducted after several employees were reported to be suffering from various stages of Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) after working for the company.
One case was shown to be so severe that the worker, Paul Straw, 47, from Mansfield Woodhouse, was unable to do his job any longer.
HSE discovered that workers were using power tools for significant periods of time.
Regular monitoring of workers’ use of power tools, and for how long they were using them, was very limited or not in place. Job rotation and regular health checks were rare so symptoms of HAVS were not picked up at the earliest stage.
The court was told that some limited assessment had been carried out in the past and the risk of HAVS was raised, but no remedial action was taken by the company, which had allowed the problem to continue for several years.
Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage Ltd of Export Drive, Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc act 1974 and two breaches of Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined a total of £40,000 and was ordered to pay £20,000 costs.
After the hearing HSE inspector Stuart Pilkington said:
“In both the incident of the worker becoming trapped and, separately, the offence involving members of staff developing HAVS, we found that proper risk assessment by Dawson Rental was seriously lacking.
“The agency worker was lucky not to suffer far more serious injuries and the incident shows the importance of training agency workers and ensuring they are properly supervised.
“HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent, serious and disabling. Dawson Rental failed to protect its workers and several have suffered long-term damage as a result.
“The most effective way of controlling exposure is to look for new or alternative work methods which eliminate or reduce exposure to vibration. Health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage.”
Paul Straw said:
“I’d worked at Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage for around 18 years – it’s all I knew.
“I was told by letter that I had Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome – something I didn’t understand at the time. It didn’t sink in at first that it could stop me from doing the job I love.
“Being out of work and having to claim benefits has been very difficult. I used to play snooker and go fishing with my sons but I can no longer do that as I have lost confidence because of my condition.
“Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome has made it very difficult for me to find employment and I really miss working. The thought of re-training for a new job at my time of life is very hard.”
Further information on Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome go to: http://www.hse.gov.uk/VIBRATION/hav/index.htm
Notes to editors
- Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
- Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking, for the purpose of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions and by Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.