A Rotherham-based metals business has been sentenced after it repeatedly risked workers’ lives by making them use dangerous machines – notching up a shocking 31 enforcement notices for safety breaches in just three months.
Sheffield Crown Court was told today (19 March) that Meadowbank Vac Alloys was a serial safety offender. It allowed employees to operate vehicles and plant with category ‘A’ defects, the highest possible level meaning ’immediately dangerous’, and continued to keep the machines in use even after being specifically prohibited from doing so by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Twenty enforcement notices were served by HSE at the end of May 2012 after a visit by inspectors to the firm’s site in Harrison Street. The visit was prompted by a complaint voicing concern about the condition of the firm’s vehicles.
The notices covered a multitude of safety and health risks ranging from improvements needed to a variety of plant and lifting machines to the provision of basic welfare facilities for staff.
The court heard that there were a further four visits by HSE between then and early August when additional enforcement notices were issued. These included seven which banned use of three forklift trucks, three mechanical grabs and a loading shovel that had no brakes. All had category A defects, identified by an independent engineer.
Although numerous extensions of time were granted by HSE to Meadowbank Vac Alloys to comply with the enforcement notices, the company continually failed to take adequate action and workers had to operate the defective machines.
HSE identified that on two occasions in July and August, prohibited machines were still being used. None of the defects had been rectified and again the company director was informed specifically what was needed for the notices to be complied with.
During the last inspection, in October 2012, HSE found the dangerous loading shovel still in use and with some 80 hours’ working time clocked up when it should have been idle.
In total 31 notices were served between 29 May and Aug 2012 identifying 57 safety breaches.
Meadowbank Vac Alloys, of Harrison Road, Rotherham, was fined a total of £36,000 and ordered to pay £36,000 toward prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998; and multiple breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 974, three relating to Prohibition Notices and two for offences of non-compliance with Improvement Notices.
After the hearing, investigating HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham said:
“Meadowbank Vac Alloys displayed a reckless disregard for the safety of its employees and a persistent contempt for the legal notices issued requiring the firm to bring equipment to an acceptable standard.
“HSE exercised protracted patience with the company and was in regular contact with the director to ensure what was needed to comply was clear, unambiguous and fully understood.
“Despite being given ample opportunity, Meadowbank chose to ignore their responsibilities; put workers in danger on a daily basis; defy the law and turn a deaf ear to information, advice and guidance conveyed by inspectors and an independent engineer.”
Notes to Editors:
1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
2. Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.”
3. Section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “If an inspector is of the opinion that a person (a) is contravening one or more of the relevant statutory provisions; or (b) has contravened one or more of those provisions in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated, he may serve on him a notice (in this Part referred to as “an improvement notice”) stating that he is of that opinion, specifying the provision or provisions as to which he is of that opinion, giving particulars of the reasons why he is of that opinion, and requiring that person to remedy the contravention or, as the case may be, the matters occasioning it within such period as may be specified in the notice.”
4. Section 22 of the same Act states: “Where an activity involves, or will involve, a risk of serious personal injury, health and safety inspectors may serve a prohibition notice prohibiting the activity immediately or after a specified time period, and not allowing it to be resumed until remedial action has been taken. The notice will explain why the action is necessary.”