Health & Safety Roundup: May 2022
Our Health & Safety team take a look at recent prosecutions, updates, legislation and developments in Northern Ireland.
Unnecessary spread of asbestos material at a factory site in Lurgan
On 4th February 2022, Portadown Recycling and Skip Hire Limited pleaded guilty at Craigavon Crown Court to breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, relating to removal of asbestos containing materials at a former factory site at Shaerf Drive, Lurgan.
HSENI inspectors reportedly attended the site and observed workers throwing what was believed to be asbestos cement sheeting onto the ground through a window opening of the derelict factory building. The material was later confirmed to contain asbestos fibres consistent with those found in asbestos cement sheeting.
HSENI reportedly did not observe the use of control measures required during the removal of asbestos containing materials. In addition, employees of the company were not wearing suitable respiratory protective equipment designed to further reduce the potential exposure of workers to asbestos fibres. HSENI initially served a prohibition notice at the time of the visit, restricting any further asbestos removal work from continuing.
The company received fines totalling £10,500.
Forklift Truck causes crush injuries in ‘poorly lit’ chicken house
Moy Park Limited and Victor Foster Poultry Services Limited pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 in relation to an accident involving a forklift truck in 2017.
HSENI’s investigation found that an employee of Victor Foster Poultry Services Limited was working along with others in a commercial chicken house at a site in Moira, County Down, when he received multiple crush injuries after being struck by a forklift truck.
The prosecution highlighted that there was a lack of light sources in the working area at the time of the incident, increasing the likelihood of a collision.
Both companies were found to have failed in their legal responsibilities to ensure safe working conditions in the working area where a forklift truck was required to operate in the same area as pedestrian workers.
Moy Park Limited was fined £125,000, while Victor Foster Poultry Services Limited was fined £18,000.
Update to PPE Regulations (GB)
From 6th April 2022 the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force, requiring employers in England, Wales and Scotland to provide ‘limb (b)’ workers with suitable PPE.
Limb (b) workers are known as ‘dependent contractors’ who are registered as self-employed but provide a service as part of someone else's business. They generally must carry out the work personally, rather than being able to send someone in their place.
If a risk assessment identifies that limb (b) workers require PPE, employers are responsible for providing the PPE free of charge. In addition, employers will be held responsible for the compatibility, maintenance, storage and replacement of PPE.
The legislation does not apply in Northern Ireland; however, the Assembly reportedly intends to mirror the Regulations and is currently in the process of consulting.
List of subordinate Health and Safety Legislation
HSENI has published a helpful list of subordinate health and safety legislation currently in force:
HSENI to undertake annual inspection of engineering businesses in May
HSENI has announced an inspection and enforcement initiative within engineering companies. The inspections, which are set to begin in May, will focus on compliance with industry standards, specifically in relation to the control of welding fume.
HSENI inspectors will be focusing on controls that are in place to ensure that health risks associated with welding activities are adequately controlled, in line with current legislation. In particular, inspectors will require that:
- Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) (on-tool extraction, fixed extraction, mobile extraction) is provided to control welding fume at source;
- Records exist, and are available, showing that LEV has been thoroughly examined within the last 14 months, or evidence that it is planned for a specific date; and
- Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE) is provided (where appropriate) to the correct standard and properly used and maintained.
HSENI has produced a series of six video presentations outlining the risks involved with welding and the controls that should be in place to protect workers (available from www.hseni.gov.uk/welding).
HSENI publish annual report
HSENI has recently published its 22nd annual report for the period 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021.
Unsurprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 features heavily in the report, with HSENI’s Chief Executive, Robert Kidd confirming that “the effects of the pandemic had a significant impact on the organisation’s performance”. HSENI noted the focus of its operational teams was in COVID-19 related work, responding to complaints and requests for advice and guidance from employers, employees and members of the public.
The report recorded 11 work-related deaths during this period, which was the same number recorded during the previous period. On a brighter note, HSENI reports a significant decrease of 46% in the number of major and recordable injuries in the workplace and 16% in the number of reportable injuries.
Only one prosecution was recorded during this period in relation to a fatal accident where an employee fell through an unsecured roof panel during work at an industrial premises. The company received fines totaling £75,000 after pleading guilty to health and safety breaches and a separate offence of corporate manslaughter.
*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.