• Robert Spicer

Health and Safety: the reality

Those of us who provide advice on employment law in Bristol, and throughout the UK, have a duty to argue against the current trivialisation of health and safety law. The mocking of this law, described as “elf n safety”, should be compared with the horrific reality of the following recent prosecution.

Copper Alloys Ltd, a foundry company operating in Stoke on Trent, has been fined following an incident in which an employee fell into a pit of molten metal.

In May 2010 an employee of Copper Alloys, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working in the company’s foundry. He was using a long-handled tool to scrape impurities from the top of a freshly poured casting when he tripped and fell into an unfenced gap between the metal mould and the five-feet deep pit in which the mould was sited.

The molten metal in the mould had a temperature of more than 900 degrees celsius. The worker used the tool to try to stop himself falling into the pit. He landed on the edge of the mould. His arm was immersed in the molten metal. His upper legs were burned on the impurities which he had scraped from the mould.

The worker suffered severe burns to his arm and upper legs. He needed skin grafts and continues to undergo physiotherapy for restricted movement in his arm and legs. he has been unable to return to work.

The HSE investigation concluded that there was no guard railing around the edge of the mould pit and that Copper Alloys had failed to recognise the risk of workers falling into the pit.

The company was fined £8000 plus £4800 costs for a breach of Regulation 13(5) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Fenton magistrates’ court, October 2011.

Regulation 13 of the 1992 Regulations states, in summary, that so far as is practicable, every tank, pit or structure where there is a risk of a person in the workplace falling into a dangerous substance in the tank, pit or structure, shall be securely covered or fenced.

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