19 May 2022

Health & Safety Roundup

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Our Health & Safety team take a look at recent prosecutions, legislation, updates and developments.

Prosecutions

Council fined for Hand Arm Vibration

Following an HSE prosecution, Lancashire County Council has been fined £50k with costs of £10,366.78 in relation to its failure to control exposure to vibration.

In February 2019, a RIDDOR report was submitted to HSE when an operative was diagnosed was hand-arm vibration syndrome (“HAVS”). An improvement notice was served on the Council in July 2019 and, following this, a further 10 cases of vibration-related ill health were discovered (and reported late). An additional 4 reports were made but these were within time under RIDDOR.

HSE noted that its investigation uncovered: “that there had been insufficient supervision and monitoring by the council to ensure that operatives accurately recorded their levels of exposure to vibration”.Issues were also noted in relation to delays in acting upon health surveillance records and inadequacies in risk assessments and working practices.

The Council pleaded guilty and was fined for breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 as well as Regulation 8 of the RIDDOR Regulations 2013.

Further information about managing hand-arm vibration at work can be found here.

Workplace Transport - Farm fined following an accident

A farm, Yorkshire Dairy Goats, has been fined £180k with costs of £20k following the tragic death of a long-term employee. The organisation had entered a guilty plea to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (that is a breach of the general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of an employee).

HSE reported that on 1st August 2018, Janet McDonald was fatally struck by a reversing telescopic handler as the driver was unable to see her.

Whilst this incident occurred on a farm, the risks will be relevant to any workplace where vehicles and pedestrians may come into contact.It is important to ensure that procedures are in place to segregate vehicles and pedestrians.

HSE has published a guide to workplace transport safety. Further information specific to the farming sector is available here.

Network Rail Limited Prosecution

Following an investigation and prosecution by the Office of Rail and Road (“ORR”), Network Rail has been fined £1.4 million, with costs of £63,118.71, in Chester Magistrates’ Court. The case related to an incident on 19th September 2018 where a worker was seriously injured having been “crushed between the conveyor of a 25 tonne ‘Superboss’ ballast distributor…and Kubota people carrier”.A second worker received minor injuries.

Network Rail entered a guilty plea to breaching Sections 2(1) and (2) and also 33(1)(a) of the Health Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The ORR reported that there were failings in “management of the worksite, including poor planning, failure to provide adequate supervision of the works, poor communication at all levels and failure to provide adequate information, instructions and training to safety-critical staff”.

Legislation

Building Safety Act 2022

The Building Safety Bill has received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on 28th April 2022, although it will be some time before the whole Act is in force in England.

The Bill was initially introduced as a response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy which occurred in June 2017. The Act is intended to improve building safety standards, particularly with regard to buildings that are considered to be higher-risk.

HSE has provided some information here about what it is doing to prepare for the new framework.

Developments

Farm Safe Essentials

HSENI has updated its webpage as part of the 2020-2023 Farm Safety Action Plan. The Farm Safe Essentials campaign aims to focus on specific areas of farm safety with a view to reducing the most serious and frequently occurring types of accidents.

The campaign now provides details of key actions that farmers should take in relation to the following areas:

#1 Check your brakes;

#2 Plan safe spaces;

#3 Give slurry space;

#4 Stay off roofs;

#5 Quads need caution;

#6 Calve with care;

#7 Stack bales safely.

Farm safety will likely remain a focus area as in HSENI’s recent annual report it was noted that “fatalities in the agriculture sector increased from one fatality in this sector in 2019-20 to five during the reporting period” (that is 1st April 2020-31st March 2021).

HSENI Safety Alert

HSENI has noted that new research by HSE (GB) has highlighted that respirators and masks which rely on ear loops to hold the respirator or mask in place, do not provide sufficient protection when used as tight fitting respiratory protective equipment (“RPE”).

Where the use of tight fitting RPE has been identified, relevant dutyholders are advised to revisit their risk assessment/equipment to ensure that appropriate measures are in place.

If you would like any further information or advice relating to health and safety law, please contact Ashleigh Birkett or Ben Johnston from the Health & Safety team at Carson McDowell LLP.

*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.

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