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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

The Little Book of Health and Safety Horrors: Industry


Foundry death from grinder

Stuart Stead, an employee of H.I. Quality Steel Castings Ltd, was using a hand-held grinder to work on a casting at the company’s foundry in Doncaster. The disc fitted to the machine exploded and sent fragments across his workbay. A shard struck him in the mouth. He suffered fatal injuries. The disc was nine inches in diameter despite the fact that the grinder had a maximum tool diameter of two inches unless guarded. It was attached to the grinder by using a non-proprietary tool. The disk was rated for 6650 rpm but was running at 12,000 rpm. The grinder had no guard. The excessive speed of the grinder, coupled with the added load caused by the non-standard attachment, had put stresses on the disc beyond its capacity.

The HSE’s investigation had discovered a number of previous incidents when discs had flown off grinders. None of these had been mentioned in monthly minutes of the company’s health and safety meetings. Despite some initial training in abrasive wheels, employees did not understand rotation speeds of machines versus discs and had free access to a number of grinders and discs. This contributed to the prevalence of unsafe combinations.

Severed hand

In March 2016 a worker at Pipework Engineering Services Ltd was operating a foot pedal saw. His hand came into contact with the saw’s rotating blade. He suffered a severed hand and wrist which required surgical intervention to reattach. The company had failed to install the machine correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. This meant that it could be operated from a position which took the operator very close to the blade.

Death of steelworker in blast furnace

In April 2006 Kevin Downey was working a night shift at Tata Steel’s Port Talbot plant. He went to the cast house at the site to inspect the slag pool of a blast furnace which was due to close for maintenance. He fell into the open section of a channel containing slag at 1500 degrees Celsius. The company had a reporting system which showed a significant number of near misses where steam had led to dangerous situations.It was common practice to operate the furnace with channels left uncovered without taking additional precautions to prevent workers from falling in.

Severe head injuries in pneumatic metal press

In August 2011 Wayne Hill, a maintenance engineer, was working at H & E Knowles (Lye) Limited’s site. He was repairing a pneumatic metal press when it unexpectedly started working and crushed his head. He suffered severe head injuries including a fractured nose and jaw and lacerations. He needed extensive reconstructive surgery. The press takes a sheet of metal and forms it into a wheelbarrow body. It should not have been able to operate if the door was open. The machine had a faulty interlocking guard which meant that it did not detect that the door was open. The machine had been designed and built by the company 25 years ago. There were no technical drawings or other documentation and an adequate risk assessment had never been carried out. The machine broke down regularly and maintenance staff repaired it with no instructions.

Factory death: overturned vehicle

In April 2008 Martin McMenemy, an employee of O. Turner Insulation Ltd and Clegg Food Projects Ltd, was working on the construction of a food processing plant in Leicester. He was driving a scissor lift to install wall and ceiling panels. The vehicle overturned when it went into an uncovered pit. McMenemy suffered fatal head injuries. O.Turner and Clegg Food Projects Ltd, the principal contractor for the project, had failed to take precautions to cover the hole. The incident could have been prevented if the pit had been covered with a metal plate or cordoned off.

Flammable solvent fire: worker severely burned

In November 2014 an employee of HMG Paints Ltd was using a highly flammable solvent to clean the floor of a spray booth at the company’s premises in Manchester. He complained about the difficulty of removing dried paint and was allowed to buy an industrial floor scrubber to carry out the work. The electric motor of the scrubber ignited a cloud of vapour which had built up in the booth. The worker suffered 26 per cent burns.The planning for cleaning floors with solvent had failed to recognise the hazard and level of risk associated with the use of highly flammable solvents to clean floors. The worker who was injured had not been trained to clean floors and was not adequately supervised.

Distillery fire: employee severely burned

In November 2012 ethyl acetate, a highly flammable liquid, was being moved from a bulk storage tank to an intermediate container at Alcohol Ltd’s warehouse.The liquid ignited. An employee was engulfed in flames and suffered twenty per cent burns to his head, neck and hands. The fire destroyed the warehouse and damaged nearby cars and houses.The HSE investigation found that the most likely cause of the fire was a discharge of static electricity generated by the transfer of the liquid.There was poor management of pipework and associated valves and a failure to completely inspect the equipment or monitor the systems of work.

Severed arm in conveyor belt

An employee of the company was making adjustments to a misaligned conveyor belt at Concrete Fabrications Ltd’s site in Henbury, Bristol. He had to adjust tensioning rods which were inside the machine’s guards. He tried, with a hammer, to remove material which had built up on a rod. The hammer was dragged into the rotating machinery with his arm. The arm was torn off between the shoulder and the elbow.The company should have had adequate guards on dangerous parts of the machinery. Clear procedures should exist regarding maintenance and adjustments of machinery and arrangements should be in place to ensure that machinery is not run without the necessary guarding in place, and that clear isolation and lock off procedures exist. A sufficient risk assessment would have identified the risks associated with tracking conveyor belts and identified appropriate control measures.

Death of worker in crude oil fire

In June 2010 a fire broke out at Total UK Ltd’s Lindsey Oil Refinery in Immingham. The fire was caused by an uncontrolled release of crude oil. Robert Greenacre, a contracted fitter, was working below a distillation column which contained hot crude oil. They opened equipment, which released crude oil. It ignited and Greenacre was killed.

Operators of major accident hazard establishments must have in place a functioning system of risk assessment for all work where hazardous substances could be released. Operators should always try to eliminate risk through hazard avoidance. In many circumstances this can be achieved by carrying out the work during shut-down conditions. Where this is not practicable, the highest achievable levels of isolation to industry standards are required.If Total had followed well established principles of risk assessment the major fire and the death could have been avoided.

Oil burns

Harvey Hopwood, employed by PAS (Grantham) Ltd as health and safety manager, was overseeing the jet washing of an oil storage tank at the company’s site in Easton, Lincolnshire.He climbed between the guard rails of a gantry at the top of the tank to check progress. He knocked a pipe which came away and released oil with a temperature of more than 160 degrees Celsius. The oil spread over his upper body, causing 10 per cent burns.The company had failed to carry out a risk assessment for the cleaning operation. It had done the work first and written the risk assessment retrospectively.

Multiple burn injuries from casting machine

In May 2009 Stephen Bond-Lewis, a foundryman employed by Special Metals Wiggin Ltd, was removing waste material from a metal casting machine at the company’s premises in Hereford.Part of the machine which weighed 964 kg and had a temperature of between 100 and 250 degrees centigrade, became detached, fell forward and pinned Bond-Lewis against a storage bin. He suffered severe burns to 25 per cent of his body and crush injuries.The method used to remove ingot moulds from the casting machine was unsafe. It involved the use of overhead cranes to pull the moulds free. This damaged the bolts and their fixing points. The fixing bolts on a large number of casting machines were in poor repair. This had not been noticed or put right. This, together with the company’s failure to have a proper maintenance programme in place, resulted in the mechanical failure of the machine.

Explosion injuries: both legs amputated

In December 2011 Clive Dainty, an employee of Filtration Service Engineering Ltd, was pressure testing a vessel. The vessel exploded and struck Dainty. He had to have both legs amputated, suffered head injuries and now has restricted movement in his arms.The vessel was being tested because of concerns about the quality of the welding. The company decided to use compressed air instead of water. The pressure built up to such an extent that the vessel exploded. An assessment of the risks involved in pneumatic pressure testing should have identified that air was not a suitable testing medium. The test could have been carried out by simply filling the vessel with water.

Chemical burns

Two employees of PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd were cleaning a pipe system at its site in Cramlington. They were using sodium hydroxide granules through a hose as a cleaning agent. The sodium hydroxide reacted with water in the system. This caused the liquid to heat up and build pressure in the hose. It detached and sprayed the workers with the solution. One worker suffered life-threatening burns. The other sustained severe burns. The work had not been adequately assessed by the company. The equipment provided was not suitable and the company failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment for the work.

Caustic burns

Mark Mclean, an employee of Princes Ltd, was working at the company’s site in Bradford in July 2013. A hose carrying a caustic substance spilt. He was sprayed with caustic solution and suffered chemical burns to the left side of his face and arms and temporary blindness. There was no evidence that the company had taken preventative measures.

Incidents at lead smelting works

In August 2009 a worker at a lead smelting works was transporting molten lead slag with a temperature of more than 800 degrees Celsius on a forklift truck. The container holding the molten metal fell off the truck. The liquid was spilt on the ground and ran into a drain.

When it came into contact with water, the liquid lead exploded and blew heavy drain covers several metres into the air. The employee fell onto the molten metal. He suffered severe burns to his face, arms, chest, back and left foot.

In May 2010 an employee of Key Engineering was investigating a fault on an overhead travelling crane. He was positioned on the crane gantry. As the crane ran along the tracks, he rested his right arm on top of the crane’s control panel. When it neared the end of the bay, the clearance between the control panel and a roof beam narrowed to a few millimetres. His arm was trapped and he suffered severe crush injuries.

Molten steel burns

In April 2013 Kevin Watts, a trainee crane driver employed by Tata Steel Ltd, and two workmates, escaped from the top of a crane when a ladle containing 300 tonnes of molten metal dislodged and spilled. They had been operating an electric overhead crane which carried the ladle. One of the hooks on the ladle was not working properly. The metal caught fire and reached the cab of the crane. Watts suffered severe burns on his head and forearms. His colleagues suffered less serious burns. The crane’s camera system had not been operating properly for some time. This had been reported on near-miss and pre-use checks but had not been remedied. Lighting, which employees stated was poor, cut out completely during the incident. Training documents were ambiguous and instructions had not been communicated

.An HSE inspector made the following comments after the case:

Given the potential consequences of a ladle of holding 300 tonnes of molten metal spilling its load onto the floor, control measures should be watertight. The incident could have been avoided if safety measures, which were introduced after the incident, had been in place at the time.

Scalding injuries

In October 2011 two employees of Meadow Foods Ltd were cleaning a tank at the company’s site in Chester. The cleaning process involved a complex series of valve changes. There were no written instructions or diagrams on how this should be done. One of the employees opened a valve. Compressed air which had built up was released, forcing out hot water with a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius. Both workers were severely scalded. The company had carried out a risk assessment for the cleaning process but had failed to identify basic risks, for example burns from hot water.

Drum explosion: life-threatening injuries

In August 2012 Andrew Foster, an employee of Highway Care Ltd, was using a plasma cutter to cut up a drum which had previously contained a flammable substance. The drum exploded in his face, causing severe and complex head and brain injuries. He has permanently lost vision in his right eye and has very limited vision in his left eye. The company had failed to ensure the health and safety of its employees. An HSE inspector commented after the case that if a welding torch or plasma cutter is used on a tank or drum which has contained a flammable substance, it can explode. It only takes a small amount of residue to create a potentially flammable atmosphere.

Fall of worker into pulping machine

In July 2014 a worker was carrying out maintenance work at a paper mill in Manchester. He was tightening coupling bolts with a torque wrench. The wrench slipped and the worker fell backwards from an unprotected edge into a paper pulping machine. He managed to swim in darkness to a ledge at the side of the pulper. He suffered fractures to his left foot. Valmet Ltd, the company which provided all the mill’s machinery, had carried out a risk assessment but did not identify the fall from height risk. An HSE inspector commented after the case that it was pure luck that the pulper blades were not working when the worker fell.

Leg amputation

In January 2014 Jodie Cormack, a short-term contract worker, climbed onto a production line conveyor belt to clear potatoes into an auger in-feed for soup production. Operators used a ladder to access the conveyor belt and used a squeegee to push vegetables into the auger. Cormack slipped into the auger and suffered an amputated left leg. Baxters Food Group had failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which workers were exposed when they were clearing vegetables from the conveyor belt. It had also failed to provide and maintain a safe system of work. The company had failed to provide necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety of employees.

Industrial blender death

In January 2011 George Major, an employee of Rettenmaier UK Manufacturing Ltd, was working at its site in Mansfield. He was helping to clear a blockage from an industrial blender in which shredded paper was mixed with bitumen and oil before being pressed into pellets for reinforcing asphalt mixes for use in road surfaces. Major was dragged into the blender and suffered fatal injuries. The guard had been removed from the blender and it had not been isolated and locked off from the electricity supply. The production line at the site was computer controlled with control screens on two floors. There was no control screen on the same floor as the blender. There was no written system of work or instructions for isolation, no manuals or written instructions, no proper training and no risk assessments.

Worker sprayed with molten metal

In March 2012 a furnace operative, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working at Tata Steel UK Ltd’s plant in Rotherham. A control system fault caused 25 tons of molten metal to spill from a furnace. The worker began to hose the spill with water to cool it, following standard practice. When the water made contact, there was a large explosion and the worker was showered with molten metal. He suffered life-threatening injuries and needed numerous skin grafts and reconstructive surgery. The HSE investigation identified serious safety failings by Tata in recognising and dealing with risks which resulted in workers being exposed to unnecessary danger. The company had no procedures for dealing with spillages of molten metal, no assessment of the dangers and risks and no safe system of work in place. It had become normal practice for workers to hose water onto spills. The water is trapped under the surface of the molten metal and rapidly turns to steam vapour causing a sudden rise in pressure and a massive explosion. This risk is well known within the industry.The company had no procedures for dealing with spillages. Employees used hoses to cool the metal. This was very dangerous but the scale of the risk was not recognised by workers who had received no information or instruction on what to do.

Death from crushing injuries

Christopher Williams, a maintenance supervisor employed by Morgan Technical Ceramics Ltd at its Wrexham premises, was moving a power press which was stored in a shipping container. As he was moving the press, which weighed half a tonne, on a pallet truck, it toppled over and struck him, causing fatal injuries. The lifting operation had been unsafe. The

An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that thirty per cent of fatal accidents in manufacturing in Britain involve the fall of a heavy item. It was important that everyone involved in maintenance understood the risks, and that lifts were properly planned by a competent person.

Severed hand in lathe

In February 2012 Gavin Nobes was working at Marshall Brass’s site in Heckingham, Norfolk. He was polishing a brass clock face bezel on a lathe. The bezel snagged on a polishing wheel and drew his hand and arm into the machine. His left hand was severed and had to be reattached. The polishing lathe was not suitable for polishing the bezel because there was a high risk of snagging. The firm was prosecuted for failing to arrange an alternative method of polishing the bezel or adapting the machine or work system so that the work could be safely done.

Acid burns

In December 2011 three employees of Polimeri Europa UK Ltd were working on a roadway at the company’s site in Southampton. Pipework situated close to them split and sprayed them with sulphuric acid. A jet of sulphuric acid was sent 20 metres high. The workers suffered acid burns to their faces. The company had a plan to inspect its pipework systems in 2008 but initial target dates had been missed. Priority had been given to pipework carrying other hazardous substances. The company had failed to make sure that its pipework, much of it over 50 years old, was in a safe condition. Corrosion had been allowed to take hold of the section of the pipe which carried the acid. The company would have been well aware of the legal requirement to ensure integrity of the sulphuric acid pipework, But it had failed to do so for many years.

Unguarded power hammer: crushed hand

In March 2011 the employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, was using a 10-tonne power hammer at Johnson Mathey plc’s site in Royston, Hertfordshire. He was using the machine to crush waste pieces of metal when he caught his left hand under the automatic hammer. Two of his fingers were severed. The hammer was unguarded. It had regularly been used without a guard.

Crane death

In May 2011 Wilfred Williams was carrying out maintenance on an overhead travelling crane at C Brown & Sons (Steel) Ltd’s site in Dudley. He was working six and a half metres from the ground. he stepped from the gantry where he was working, to the rail of an adjacent crane and sat down. The crane was moved by an operator who had not seen him. He was crushed against an upright stanchion and suffered fatal injuries. Williams and a colleague had accessed the cranes via a cherry picker. Williams was not wearing a harness, there was no fall protection, nor a safe system of work at height. No measures had been taken by the company to isolate the other cranes in the bay where work was taking place, nor in the adjacent bay.

Severed arm in circular saw

In February 2012 Brian Morris, an employee of Stagecraft Display Ltd, was working at the company’s factory in Powys. He had finished sawing for the day and was cleaning sawdust from below a circular saw. He stopped the machine and reached into the machine as it was still running. The moving blade caught the arm of his jacket, severing his right arm. Although the saw was fitted with an interlock which stopped it when it was accessed, it took more than 30 seconds for it to stop completely. Three months before the incident, a machine maintenance engineer inspected the saw and told a manager that it should be taken out of service or fitted with a brake which would stop it more quickly. An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the case that saws cause the most injuries in the woodworking industry. Power-operated circular saws are dangerous machines which have caused many serious incidents.

Severed finger in blending machine

In March 2010 an employee of Bee Health Ltd was working at the company’s factory in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. He was using a ribbon blender to mix product ingredients. He did not know that a fixed guard below the machine had been removed with a valve which required a new part. Another employee had taken the valve from the blender to clean it. He found that the valve needed a new part, so he did not reattach it. The blender continued to be used with a plastic bag below it to collect the product. The first employee attempted to make a hole in the plastic bag. His fingers were caught in the rotating blades. He suffered an amputation of the index finger of his right hand and severe cuts and nerve damage to the middle finger.

Manufacturing employment resulted in 21 % of fatalities at work in 2010/11. There were a total of 27 fatal injuries in the manufacturing sector. In the same year, there were 17,599 reported non-fatal injuries and an estimated 27,000 self-reported injuries.

Fall into molten metal pit

In May 2010 an employee of Copper Alloys Ltd, 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.


Chemical burns

In February 2015 Keith Brown, an employee of Poligrat (UK) Ltd, an electropolishing company, was told to dispose of waste cleaning materials at the company’s site in Aldershot. The disposal method involved pouring caustic granules into an intermediate bulk container (IBC) to neutralise acids in the container.An exothermic reaction caused the container to become unstable. It erupted over Brown. He suffered alkaline burns to his eyes.The activity, and the substances used in it, had not been suitably or sufficiently risk assessed.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that the use of an IBC as a reaction vessel had been wholly inappropriate. IBCs were designed for storage and not as chemical reactors. Other safer and reasonably practicable options were available, for example using a waste management company to remove and safely dispose of the chemicals.

Death in carding machine

In February 2012 Nasir Hussain gained access to a blocked carding machine which formed part of a production line at Felt Supplies Ltd’s site in Dewsbury. He overrode the safety system using a key to unlock one of the production line’s gates. He stood on top of the carding machine to use a metal bar to clear the blockage. The line was still running. His clothing became entangled and he was pulled into the machine. He suffered fatal injuries. The use of a spare key to access running machinery was custom and practice. Despite the HSE issuing a prohibition notice, this unsafe practice was allowed to continue following the fatal accident.

Amputated hand in carding machine

In March 2016 an employee of The Stuffing Plant Ltd, a soft toy filling company, was attempting to clear a blockage in a carding machine. The machine had a flange attachment for connecting pipework to supply loose fibre to a toy filling machine. The flange and pipework were left off to allow the machine to discharge into a wooden enclosure. A spiked roller inside the discharge chute was unguarded and accessible during the machine’s operation. The employee had entered the wooden enclosure and was clearing a blockage from the discharge chute. The spiked roller dragged him into the machine. He suffered severing of most of his fingers and his hand was amputated from the wrist because of the seriousness of his injuries.

Compressed air hose: eye injury

In July 2012 an employee of Faltec Europe Ltd, who does not wish to be identified, was working at the company’s premises on Tyneside. He was carrying out maintenance work on a paint fume filter. He isolated a compressed air hose at its connection point and disconnected it. He did not know that the hose had to be vented before it was disconnected. The hose whipped and struck him in the face, striking his eye and fracturing his cheekbone. He has permanently lost the sight in his right eye. Faltec had failed to provide the worker with adequate information, instruction or training on the equipment which he was using.

Saw blade: serious hand injuries

In February 2012 an employee of Envirowales Ltd, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working at Jamestown Industries’ lead recycling plant in Ebbw Vale. He was operating a saw to cut lengths of lead into smaller, more manageable pieces. The employee tried to dislodge a piece of lead which had become jammed, in the belief that the saw blade was fully retracted and out of reach. His right hand made contact with the blade of the saw, severing his third finger. He also suffered severe injuries to the tendons of his hand. The employee had not been supervised at the time of the incident and there was no experienced operator working with him. Training had been provided but it was not adequate to ensure that all workers understood the risks when the saw was retracted, or the procedure for removing jammed material. Neither company had provided the necessary measures to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the saw. They had also failed to supervise inexperienced employees or to ensure that the injured employee had understood every aspect of the operation.

Furnace valve death

In November 2009 Graham Britten, an employee of AETC Ltd, was carrying out maintenance work in a vacuum casting furnace at the company’s site in Leeds. The main isolation valve closed suddenly and trapped his head, causing fatal injuries. The deceased had gone to a furnace to deal with a fault after the main isolation valve had become jammed. He was inspecting the valve when it closed. AETC did not have an effective isolation procedure for maintenance work on the furnace, had failed to act on repeated recommendations from their health and safety manager and had failed to adequately train and supervise maintenance staff. The lack of a consistent, monitored isolation policy resulted in there being no effective procedures in place to prevent Britten from entering the furnace without first isolating the equipment and releasing stored energy.The furnace control systems, intended to protect operators when carrying out routine cleaning work, were inadequate and exposed workers to unnecessary risk.

Life-threatening crush injuries

A maintenance electrician employed by Jaguar Land Rover Ltd was working at its site in Solihull. He was investigating a production line stoppage and he approached a gap in the perimeter guarding of a conveyor. He was struck by an empty vehicle body carrier and was dragged through the gap into a restricted processing area. He suffered multiple fractures and lung punctures.The gap was unguarded until HSE enforcement required the provision of

.An HSE inspector is reported to have commented after the hearing that the incident had been entirely preventable. Although the gap in the perimeter guarding was minimally sized to allow empty carriers into the restricted area, it also allowed access to dangerous moving parts within the production process while in itself creating a crush hazard with the moving conveyor

Steelworks death

In April 2008 Kristian Lee Norris was working for Vesuvius UK Ltd at a steelworks in Redcar. He was re-lining a furnace. He was struck on the head by a metal bar which fell from a lift ten metres above him. He suffered fatal injuries. Adequate precautions were not in place to control the risks from falling tools or other materials. These failings were known to Vesuvius and to Tata Steel (the owner of the steelworks) but they allowed work to continue.

Unguarded machinery death

In December 2008 John Smith, an employee of Railcare Ltd, was killed when he suffered head injuries while working at an axle lathe with an unguarded chuck.The lathe was 25 years old at the date of the incident. Smith was using it to clean and polish sets of wheels from railway vehicles. He came into contact with the unguarded chuck and suffered fatal head injuries.

The subsequent HSE investigation found that the company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the risks to employees when using the lathe to clean wheels. It had failed to implement a safe system of work and had also failed to provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision on the use of the lathe.

Crane fatality

In December 2008 Michael Tilley, an employee of Parker Plant Ltd, a quarrying plant and equipment manufacturer, was working at the company’s site in Leicester. He and a colleague were using an overhead crane to load sections of structural steelwork into a shipping container. The steel structures were 9 metres long and weighed 1.5 tonnes. They would not fit into the container and the two workers were told to place one section on top of each other on the ground. As they released the lifting chains from the load, the top section fell onto Tilley’s head. He suffered fatal injuries. The two men had been working from an incorrect diagram. This showed that the structures would fit on top of each other, but in fact this was impossible. Also, the structures were not strapped together. This meant that the load was unstable and likely to fall unexpectedly. The work had not been properly planned or supervised and the lifting equipment was defective. Tilley and his colleague had not been provided with information on the size, weight or centre of gravity of the load. This would have enabled them to sling the load correctly. Further, they had not been given adequate training on how to manage such a complex lifting operation.

Cement explosion

In January 2008 Peter Reynolds, an employee of Cemex, was treating waste cement dust in a bypass dust plant at the company’s works in Rugby. He was clearing a blockage in the plant’s mixer when a violent explosion of dust and steam occurred. The force of the explosion blew Reynolds through the side of a building onto a road 10 metres below. He suffered fatal injuries. Cemex had recognised the potential for blockages to cause explosions as steam pressure built up within the mixer but it had failed to take action to prevent blockages.The company had also failed to review its risk assessment after an incident in May 2006 when an explosion in the same machine bent a metal-cladded external wall.

Cemex was fined £200,000 plus £172,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

The company’s protection against the buildup of pressure was for the plant to be continuously vented when processing waste cement dust. The vents frequently blocked, and the blockages caused steam to build up to a high pressure. Cemex could have made a number of changes to the mixer to reduce the flow of dust and improve the venting and cooling systems, or it could have devised a new system of work. No action was taken. Workers were expected to operate this dangerous piece of machinery.

Foundry death

Stuart Stead, an employee of H.I. Quality Steel Castings Ltd, was using a hand-held grinder to work on a casting at the company’s foundry in Doncaster. The disc fitted to the machine exploded and sent fragments across his workbay. A shard struck him in the mouth. He suffered fatal injuries. The disc was nine inches in diameter despite the fact that the grinder had a maximum tool diameter of two inches unless guarded. It was attached to the grinder by using a non-proprietary tool. The disk was rated for 6650 rpm but was running at 12,000 rpm. The grinder had no guard. The excessive speed of the grinder, coupled with the added load caused by the non-standard attachment, had put stresses on the disc beyond its capacity. The HSE’s investigation had discovered a number of previous incidents when discs had flown off grinders. None of these had been mentioned in monthly minutes of the company’s health and safety meetings. Despite some initial training in abrasive wheels, employees did not understand rotation speeds of machines versus discs and had free access to a number of grinders and discs. This contributed to the prevalence of unsafe combinations.

Death from electrocution

In March 2009 Jake Herring, a trainee design engineer, was carrying out electrical testing work at Grundfos Pumps Ltd’s factory in Windsor. He was working unsupervised while he tested a live electrical control panel. There was no formal training plan for Herring to undertake electrical testing. He came into contact with a live 3 phase electrical system and was killed. At the time of the incident he was working unsupervised outside the designated electrical test area. The company had not adequately risk assessed the testing of live electrical panels to identify a safe system of work. It had failed to provide suitable training and supervision.

Death by crushing: £20,000 fine

Martin Rice, an employee of The Stone Company UK Ltd, was working at the company’s site near Chelmsford. he was unloading a delivery of manufactured stone and placing it on storage A-frames in a warehouse.As he lowered a bundle of slabs which weighed three tonnes, the bundle fell on him and crushed him against the side of building. He suffered fatal injuries. The A-frames were poorly sited and were not appropriate within the confines of the warehouse.

Printing machine crushing death

In April 2012 a 23-year old agency worker from Lithuania was working in Gordon Leach t/a RGE Engineering Company’s print room. She entered the machine to apply thinners to the ink. The machine started. Her head was crushed between the printing pads and the printing table of the machine. She suffered fatal injuries. The machine had no effective guarding system.

Unguarded tyre shredding machine: amputated arm

In November 2013 Nathan Johnson was working at Cartwright Projects Ltd’s premises in Ashford, Kent. He was feeding tyres by hand into a tyre shredding machine. The machine failed to grip a tyre properly on its metal teeth. Johnson’s sleeve was entangled in the metal teeth and his arm was dragged into the machine. He lost his right forearm up to the elbow. Mark Anton Arabaje, the sole director of the company, had removed the metal bucket guard from the machine. This allowed easy access to the metal teeth.

Steel company: serious burn injuries

In August 2013 an in-house contractor was fitting a valve to an oxygen pipe carrying pure oxygen at Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Ltd. He was carrying out checks when the pipe exploded. He suffered severe third-degree burns and was kept in a coma for several weeks.The oxygen pipe had been fitted with unsuitable parts. No action had been taken to take control of pipelines or to implement training or levels of responsibility for the management of the work.

Worker dragged through a CD-sized gap in machine

Compass Engineering Ltd and Kaltenbach Ltd, a machine supply company, were fined at Sheffield Crown Court in July 2011 after a worker was seriously injured when he was dragged through a gap in a machine. The gap was no wider than a CD case.

In December 2008 Matthew Lowe, an employee of Compass, was working at the company’s site in Barnsley. He looked into the machine’s outlet point to check a line of work. Lowe was caught on a conveyor used to move heavy steel beams. He was dragged through a 125mm opening between a moving measuring head and a wall. Lowe suffered serious injuries including a ruptured stomach and bowel, a fractured spine, both hips, his right arm, several ribs and a fractured pelvis. He has lasting physical and psychological damage. There was no guarding in place to protect Lowe from dangerous moving parts. This was a serious safety failing for both Compass and for Kaltenbach, which had supplied the machine. Both companies were responsible for ensuring that adequate guarding was in place. Although the machine belonged to Compass, Kaltenbach had installed the equipment and signed it off as being fit and ready for use. Lowe was inexperienced in operating the machinery after he had been moved from a different line at the premises because of a lull in his regular workload. The lack of guarding was the decisive factor.

An HSE inspector commented that it was remarkable that Lowe had survived. If appropriate guarding had been in place, the incident would never have happened. The prosecution would live long in the memory because of the shocking details. He hoped that it served as a reminder to those involved in the manufacturing, processing and supply of machinery of the need to prevent access to dangerous parts.

Lowe is reported to have made the following comments after the case:

  • What mattered most was that the industry learned from his experience. His life had changed forever and no matter how well he recovered from his physical injuries, he would still have the psychological impact of the accident hanging over him.

  • He hoped that his case highlighted the dangers posed by not following health and safety regulations. It would not put his life back to how it was before the incident, but at least it might prevent others suffering in the future.

  • Too many people are needlessly killed and injured in accidents at work. If hearing his story made them think twice about safety, and about the daily risks which they faced in the workplace, then he would be happy.

Meal blending machine

Norman Porter, who had only been working at J Murray & Son Ltd for eight weeks, died after he became entangled in moving parts of a meal blending machine. The investigation revealed that the company had removed safety panels from the top of the mixer to allow raw ingredients to be added more easily. This had the undesired effect of exposing the dangerous moving parts of the machine, which the company failed to identify and correct. The investigation also revealed that the blender was operated without the safety guards for approximately three years.

Steelworks fatalities: Corus (UK) Ltd

Corus (UK) Ltd, the steelmaking company, was fined £170,000 in April 2007 after a worker was killed by a falling crane.

In July 2003 Shane Eastwood, an employee of Corus, was working at the company’s site in Rotherham. He was working on machinery in an engineering workshop under an overhead crane. The crane’s hoist block, which weighed 260 kg, fell seven metres onto Eastwood, causing fatal injuries.

A limit switch, which was designed to cut power to the crane if its block was hoisted too far, and which was safety-critical, had failed. As a result, the hoist rope snapped and the block fell.

The accident had been entirely avoidable. Corus had failed to properly maintain the limit switch. The switch was defective and had progressively failed.

This was reported to have been the ninth time in five years that Corus has been fined for health and safety offences.

Corus was also fined £1.3million at Swansea Crown Court on December 15, 2006, for health and safety offences relating to fatalities at its Port Talbot plant.

In November 2001 a blast furnace exploded at the plant. The explosion lifted the top half of the furnace two feet into the air and resulted in molten metal falling on workers. Three were killed, twelve suffered serious burn injuries and five others were injured. The explosion was caused by water leaking into the white hot centre of the furnace, which had been in operation for 47 years. Some of the injured, and those who witnessed the incident, were still receiving psychological treatment five years after the explosion.

The Crown Court Judge criticised the company’s casual attitude to safety. During a two-day hearing, evidence was given of a catalogue of errors which resulted in the explosion. These included years of recommendations by senior employees at the plant, relating to the furnace, which were ignored.

In 1993 a decision was taken to prolong the life of the blast furnace. A committee was set up to discuss and report on the furnace four times a year. The committee made a series of recommendations, none of which were acted upon.

One example was a recommendation to carry out a comparative study into the benefits of electrical and diesel pumps. The failure of a succession of electrical pumps, which circulated cooling water to the furnace, resulted in the explosion. The furnace had suffered many pump failures before the explosion.

The power plant log for the period before the incident showed that an electrical transformer had been damaged by rain and needed repair. A plan to repair it was the start of events which eventually caused the incident. The transformer had to be partially isolated before repairs were carried out. This meant that the current to a furnace pump was transferred to another transformer. This operation needed monitoring to ensure that voltage remained constant.

The team of employees working on the furnace on the day before the explosion was not told about the repair work. When the current was transferred, the voltage in the transformer dropped. This caused a pump to trip and an auxiliary pump, which then came into operation, also tripped. The result of this was that water to cool the system ceased to circulate and approximately 50 tons leaked into the furnace. Employees who were sent to deal with the leak thought that it had been repaired. In fact, the water remained in the furnace. It reacted with the molten metal in the furnace and caused the explosion when the metal core was reheated on the next day.

Corus pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety law. Defending counsel stated that this did not mean that the company acknowledged that it had foreseen that lives would be at risk. Modern blast furnaces went back to the Victorian era. There were no records of similar explosions having happened. The inquest into the deaths had recorded verdicts of accidental death. An internal report issued by Corus at the time of the inquest had concluded that the explosion was neither foreseen nor foreseeable.

Senior management responsible for the furnace had met to discuss problems with it one hour before the explosion. The risk of a discharge, but not an explosion, had been discussed at the meeting.

The families of the victims of the explosion were reported to have made the following comments:

  • They were disgusted and shocked at the outcome.

  • It was quite unbelievable that the company should have been fined such a meagre sum.

  • Corus should have been fined up to the maximum allowable. A large fine would have ensured that other companies sat up and listened and understood the consequences of not doing enough for health and safety.

  • The judge had stated that Corus had made £143 million this year after tax, so what they had been ordered to pay was a pinprick.

Molten metal spray

In September 2014 an employee of Gemini Corrosion Services Ltd was killed when he was sprayed with molten aluminium. He came into contact with a rotating pipe being spray coated with molten aluminium by a thermal spray application machine used to spray a coating into steel drill pipes used in the oil industry. The company had failed to ensure that the machine was adequately guarded or that adequate measures were in place to prevent access by any worker to dangerous parts of machinery.

Crushing injuries

In February 2014 Richard Blake, a welder and fabricator employed by Point Engineering (Hull) Ltd, was preparing a marine hutch and frame for inspection, using a sling and overhead crane to move it to a vertical position so that it could be stamped with an approval mark by a surveyor. The frame, which weighed more than 500kg, fell onto him, trapping his pelvis and legs. He suffered a shattered pelvis and fractured hip. The surveyor narrowly escaped injury. The work had not been correctly planned and assessed.

Death from mooring rope

Paul Houghton, a worker at Diverse Ventures, a Portsmouth shipbuilding and repair company, was killed in 2012 when he was struck by a mooring rope. The rope was being used to pull the jib of a small crane back into position. The rope broke under tension. He was standing in the danger area of the operation. There was no management of safety and no suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

Death in waste shredder

In July 2013 Karlis Pavasars, an agency worker working for Mid-UK Recycling Ltd at its site near Ancaster, was cleaning a conveyor. The recycling line started and Pavasars was drawn onto the conveyor, through a trammel and into an industrial waste shredder. He suffered fatal injuries. The fixed gate which fenced off the area and prevented access to the conveyor had been removed several weeks before the incident. This meant that workers could freely gain access to the area. Management knew that the gate was not in place.

Death of worker: £3.8 million fines

In July 2014 Richard Reddish, an employee of Explore Manufacturing Company Ltd, was working in the finishing area of the company’s site in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. He was working from a mobile elevating work platform to remove lifting attachments from a concrete panel which weighed 11 tonnes and which was stored on a transport pallet. The panel toppled and struck the platform. He was thrown from the platform and struck by a concrete panel. He suffered fatal injuries. The pallets had been supplied by Select Plant Hire Company Ltd. The frame used to secure the panel to the pallet was not properly connected. A locking pin had not been inserted and there was no pre-checking system. The pallets were in a poor and defective condition. Large freestanding concrete panels were stored in the finishing area instead of being secured in storage racks. There was a lack of adequate planning

Fatal forklift incident

In July 2014 a worker employed by Vacu-Lug Traction Tyres Ltd was transporting tyres with a forklift at the company’s site in Grantham, Lincolnshire. The truck ran over a loose tyre. The worker, who was not wearing a seat belt, was crushed between the truck and the ground. He suffered fatal injuries. There was no company policy in place instructing workers to wear seat belts when operating forklift trucks. If the tyres had been securely stored, this would have prevented them from rolling onto the roadway and would have reduced the risk of the vehicle overturning.


Serious hand injury

In March 2014 an employee of New Charter Housing Trust was using a ride-on mower with a grass box attached. The chute to the grass box became blocked because the grass was long and wet. The worker reached into the chute to clear a blockage, His hand came into contact with a rotating metal fan. He suffered serious injuries. He had not received training on how to use the mower and did not know that the fan continued to rotate for 30 seconds after the machine’s engine was switched off.

Strimmer chain death

In February 2010 Tony Robinson, a self-employed contractor, was using a chainsaw to cut back overgrown vegetation at Ramsden Dock in Barrow. He had been hired to help clear undergrowth at the site during the construction of the new Waterfront business park. A chain attachment had been fitted to a strimmer so that it could be used for more heavy duty work. The chain, spinning at 300 mph, became detached and struck him on the back of the neck. He suffered fatal injuries. The HSE investigation of the incident found that the work had not been planned or carried out safely. ThreeShires Ltd had not properly considered the risks of using the attachment and had allowed the deceased to work close to where the strimmer was being operated.

The HSE issued a Safety Alert following the incident, which warned that there was a risk of death or serious injury from the use of the chain attachment. It served a prohibition notice on the sole importer of the attachments into the UK. The attachment is now banned throughout Europe.

Hand caught in blades

In August 2011 a maintenance worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, employed by Clear Channel UK Ltd, an outdoor advertising company, was working at a billboard site in Bath Road, Bristol. He tried to clear a blockage from a petrol-powered mower which he was operating. He thought that the mower had been turned off. As he tried to remove the blockage, the mower’s blade started to rotate. His thumb was almost severed and his fingers were severely injured. A 14 hour surgical procedure was needed to reattach his thumb and repair the damaged fingers. A safety feature which cuts out the engine of the mower and stops the blades rotating was not working properly. Clear Channel did not have an effective reporting and maintenance system for reporting faults in equipment. It had allowed a lawnmower which was not in good repair or efficient working order to be used by its employees.

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