Thanet Council admits health and safety breaches over ‘white finger’ syndrome

The council pleads guilty to two out of four charges over health and safety failings amongst workers


Thanet District Council has admitted at Canterbury Crown Court this week, that they failed to adhere to health and safety regulations over ‘white finger’ syndrome. The council pleaded guilty to two of four charges which involved a number of offences dating as far back as 2005 and up to 2014.

The court hearing has now been postponed until November, whilst the Health and Safety Executive decide whether to accept the council’s plea, or push for a trial relating to the other two charges.

Thanet Council admits health and safety breaches over 'white finger' syndrome

A worker using a lawn mower © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The court heard that all charges were associated with workers at the Dane Park Depot, around 40 in total and are connected to their use of lawnmowers and grave digging equipment, plus other specialist machinery.

The council admitted to the charge of breaching the ‘Control of Vibration at Work Regulations’, meaning the council failed to reduce the amount of exposure to vibration for their employees.

‘Vibration white finger’ (VWF), also called ‘hand-arm vibration syndrome’ (HAVS), or ‘dead finger’, is a secondary form of the industrial injury known as ‘Raynaud’s syndrome’, which can be triggered through continual use of hand-held vibrating machinery and equipment.

Prosecutor, Mr Richard Beyne stated that since 2005 and up until 2014 when a report was made, some of the workers were diagnosed with ‘white finger’, or some form of the syndrome.

Mr Beyne added: “This was a systematic failure by the council to protect the interests of their workers during that period. Nothing was done in relation to training or risk assessment.”

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Lancashire based flooring company admits health and safety breaches

Company fined £3,300 for health and safety offences, after one of their employees fell through a hole in the floor

A Lancashire based flooring company, has pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety measures, after one of their employees fell through a hole in the floor of a building they were working on, at Fort Kinnaird Retail Park, in Edinburgh.

The specialist flooring contractor, who operates throughout the UK, pleaded guilty to a violation of Regulation 4, of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and to Section 33(1)(c), of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £3,300.

Lancashire based flooring company fined for breaching health and safety after worker injured

Technic Concrete Floors Ltd admit health and safety failings

The incident occurred on May 16, 2014. Court heard that Steven Stewart, who was a self-employed contractor with Technic Concrete Floors Limited, was walking along the floor of the building, which was under construction, when he caught his boot and tripped up. His foot knocked loose an unsecured panel of wood that was covering up a hole in the floor and Mr Stewart fell around 4.5 metres, landing on steel mesh grids that were on the ground beneath.

Mr Stewart sustained serious back injuries and also broke a foot.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident and concurred that if a thorough risk assessment had been planned and undertaken by the company, before the work started, the badly covered up holes would have been found and made safe.

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£500k fine for Bulgarian construction firm over health and safety breaches

Fined after breaching the ‘Work at Height’ Health and Safety Regulation 2005, whilst working on the Closer to the Edge attraction

A construction firm from Bulgaria, has been fined £500,000 after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety regulations, whilst working on the ‘Closer to the Edge’ high rope attraction at Markeaton Park, in Derby.

A member of the public noticed that work from a height was being carried out on a pallet, sat on the forks of a telehandler, whilst the company, Walltopia, worked on the new attraction in 2015, Derby Magistrates’ Court was told.

The member of the public contacted Walltopia about their concerns but despite the company assuring the individual, they carried on working from unsafe heights.

Company fined over 'work at height' health and safety breaches

View of the entrance to Markeaton Park, Derby

The individual decided to report the dangers to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They discovered that work was being carried out on a section of roof that was eleven metres off the ground and no proper safety measures were in place to stop the two workers from falling off the open edges.

The also found that the workers were getting on to the roof by climbing out of a cherry picker basket.

The company, which is based in Letnitsa, Bulgaria, pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and were fined £500,000 and made to pay £8,013.25 in costs.

After the case, Lee Greatorex, an HSE Inspector said: “Using a pallet on a telehandler for planned work at height is an unacceptable means of access. It appears that the company failed to put in place control measures after being alerted about this.”

He added that when working at height, safety measures should always be carefully planned and put into place, to protect workers from the dangers and extreme risk of falling.

Mr Greatorex said: “In this case, someone could have suffered significant injuries, or death.”

Walltopia have worked around the world, on at least 1,500 projects and in total have built about 2.9m square feet of climbing areas.

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Health and safety threatens church candlelights

New health and safety rules are threatening the use of candlelight chandeliers at a Macclesfield church

New health and safety rules are threatening a Macclesfield church which lights up its chandeliers using candles to help celebrate special occasions such as weddings, concerts and Christmas events.

The two Jacobean and Victorian brass chandeliers and five smaller chandeliers hold 90 candles in total and are suspended high up in St Michael’s Church, on Market Place. For the past twenty years, the candles have been lit by David Smith, aged sixty, of Tytherington Park Road, Tytherington, who reaches the candles by climbing 20ft up a ladder.

Macclesfield church candles threatened by health and safety rules

St Michael’s Church, Market Place

But new health and safety rules now mean that David is only allowed to climb 9ft, which no longer enables him to get close enough to the chandeliers to light the candles.

David and other members of the church have launched an appeal to raise money to buy an electronic winch and pulley system and hope to raise the £7,000 needed to buy the equipment. The new system would mean that the special lights could still be used.

The chandeliers would have to be placed on new cables and David would then be able to use a remote control to bring the chandeliers down for lighting.

David, who is also a member of the choir, along with his wife Sheena, said: “The candles are a feature of our services especially in the winter. I enjoy seeing the church lit up and people have come to expect to see the candles.”

To help raise money for the new system, the church is hosting a hot pot and whisky supper at 7.30pm on Friday 3rd June.

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Health and safety advice given in Tudor England

University of Oxford researchers have been analysing health and safety pamphlets from the Tudor period

A research professor at the University of Oxford has found that health and safety guides were popular in the Tudor period, when gruesome deaths by hay scythes and horse-drawn carts were not out of the ordinary.

According to Professor Steven Gunn, from the University of Oxford, the Tudor period was a dangerous era in which to be alive, and indeed to work. Statistics taken from multiple coroners’ reports from this era, show that over half of the fatal accidents recorded in Tudor times happened to people while they were working.

Workers in Tudor times had health and safety guides too

Tudor health and safety guides analysed by Oxford researchers

The coroners’ reports detail accidents which befell workers between the years 1551 and 1600. The reports list all fatal accidents from this period, but researchers from Oxford have been focusing upon those that happened in the workplace.

The incidents recorded include the death of three people in Lancashire while washing sheep in a river; and the brutal death of a farm labourer who was accidentally sliced by his colleague’s scythe at the end of a busy day on the fields.

The team of researchers found that drivers of horse-drawn carts in the Tudor period were the group most likely to become involved in a fatal accident; this was due to wheel-seizures, collisions, and overworked drivers.

Health and safety pamphlets, like Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry published in 1614, became popular due to the dangerous nature of the workplace for the common Tudor worker.

Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry advises farm labourers to work diagonally so as to avoid being caught by another’s scythe; advises cart drivers to carry a bag of snails to use a wheel-lubricants to prevent wheel seizures; and warns of the dangers involved in climbing trees.

Professor Steven Gunn, of Oxford’s Merton College, commented: “Reading about how people died in Tudor times, you might think that people must have been daft. Actually people did make an effort to work out the risks and minimise them.”

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Health and safety experts guilty of failing to ensure workers’ safety

Consultancy firm found guilty of health and safety offences

A health and safety company has been found guilty of committing multiple offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act at Ipswich Crown Court and will be sentenced next month.

Worksafe Training Consultancy, based in St Andrew’s Street, Bury St Edmunds, appeared in Ipswich Crown Court where the directors underwent a four day trial before a judge and jury, who decided that the company was guilty of failing to ensure the safety of workers at a factory which had hired the company for its supposed expertise.

Managers at Jan Cavelle Furniture, in Haverhill, hired Worksafe Training Consultancy to advise them on meeting current health and safety standards. Worksafe contracted the job out to a third-party consultant, who gave the managers at Jan Cavelle “bad advice”.

Two Jan Cavelle employees, Caine Heathcote and Stefan Puricel, suffered serious injuries at their workplace factory when operating a woodworking machine, an overhead router, and a biscuit jointer. Jan Cavelle and the Health and Safety Executive hold Worksafe responsible for providing an ‘inadequate’ consultancy service.

The court heard how Worksafe were to receive a payment of £1,500 from Jan Cavelle for its consultancy service. The managing director of Worksafe, Russell Fife, said his company would have pocketed half of this, while the other half would have gone to the sub-contracted consultant.

Worksafe Training Consultancy was found guilty of a number of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act and will be sentenced in April.

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Aldi fined £100K for health and safety offence

German supermarket firm fined £100k for health and safety breach

The German supermarket chain has been fined £100,000 in Teeside Crown Court following an accident in 2014 during which an employee was left trapped by an insufficiently secured smoking shelter.

The incident took place on a windy afternoon on 21 October, 2014, at Aldi’s Faverdale distribution centre, located in Darlington, when Michael Simpson went out on his lunch break to smoke a cigarette on the benches at the outside smoking point.

Aldi fined following health and safety incident

Aldi fined for health and safety breachheal

A sudden gust of wind caught up an insecurely fitted sheltered smoking area and blew it in the direction of the benches, where it struck Mr Simpson on the back and trapped him momentarily to the floor. He suffered damage to the soft-tissue on his back and says he still suffers from nightmares.

The metal smoking shelter had been removed from its formerly secured place by Wilkinson Maintenance who had been carrying out construction work at the distribution centre. Wilkinson Maintenance did not take any action to secure the shelter in its new place, believing that that was Aldi’s responsibility.

Aldi and Wilkinson Maintenance were both taken to court by Darlington Borough Council for breaching Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Both companies pleaded guilty to the charge; Aldi was fined £100,000, while Wilkinson Maintenance must pay a £20,000 fine.

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Health and Safety Executive to prosecute Alton Towers’ owners

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd will be prosecuted by the HSE following Alton Towers accident

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it will be taking legal action against the owners of the Alton Towers theme park following the horrific accident which occurred at the Staffordshire site in summer last year.

The HSE announced its decision on February 25 after it had informed Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd of its intention to prosecute the company for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974, which states:

“It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

The accident which left five people seriously injured took place on June 2, 2015, when a carriage full of theme park visitors crashed into a stationary carriage on the ‘Smiler’ rollercoaster ride. Two young women who were sat on the front row of the carriage had to have their legs amputated as a result of the crash.

Health and Safety Executive to prosecute Alton Towers' owners

The ‘Smiler’ ride at Alton Towers

Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd, which also owns Thorpe Park, the London Eye and Madame Tussauds, will appear at North Staffordshire Justice Centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme on April 22, 2016.

Following the accident in summer last year, Alton Towers was closed for four days and bosses confirmed a significant decrease in the number of visitors to the theme park when it reopened. Despite this, the group still managed to make a pre-tax profit of 0.3% in 2015.

Neil Craig, head of operations for the Midlands HSE, said: “This was a serious incident with life-changing consequences for five people. We have conducted a very thorough investigation and consider that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution.”

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Cornish farming company prosecuted for employee fatality

Farming company fined £125,000 for breaching health and safety regulations

A father and son farming company based in Cornwall has been fined £125,000 after being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a result of the fatal electrocution of one of the farm workers while he was out harvesting in the fields.

The 24-year-old farm worker was working on a potato field on July 3, 2011 at Higher Kergilliack Farm, near Falmouth, when he was struck by a overhead power line, which had been caught by a conveyor connected to the potato harvester on which the Polish man had been working.

Konrad Miskiewicz died as a result of being struck by the 6,300-voltage power line. Truro Crown Court heard how it could not be determined for definite whether Mr Miskiewicz died as a result of the first contact with the power line or by the re-surging power which is emitted to test if the line is actually broken.

The farm owner, Pengelly Farms Limited, pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations as set out by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Truro Crown Court was told that the managers had now implemented a number of health and safety improvements, including staff training, and had invested in new equipment which make the farming operations safer.

Pengelly Farms Limited was ordered to pay a £75,000 fine and prosecution costs of £50,000. Judge Simon Carr criticised HSE for taking so long to decide to prosecute the farm, and told the court: “This is not a company that ignored its responsibilities in respect of health and safety … this is a company who long before the prosecution began had learned from this event and I would like to think would never fall foul of it again.”

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HSE to prosecute Star Wars production company

Star Wars to be prosecuted due to Harrison Ford injury

A production company involved in the making of the most recent Star Wars film is to be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive for the injury that was sustained by Harrison Ford during filming.

The accident happened at Pinewood Studios in London, where Ford sustained an injury from a faulty hydraulic metal door, which resulted in him being air-lifted to hospital in an helicopter. He was out of action for two months with serious injuries, with director JJ Abrams forced to halt filming.

The 73-year-old American actor reprised his role as Hans Solo for The Force Awakens, the latest in the Star Wars franchise, and apparently received a handsome $34m salary for his efforts.

The Health and Safety Executive has announced it will be prosecuting Foodles Production (UK) Ltd for breaching health and safety regulations. The company, which is based in Hammersmith, London, was the main production company behind the The Force Awakens, according to BBC.

A spokesperson for HSE said: “By law, employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers – this is as true on a film set as a factory floor.”

The new Star Wars film was released in cinemas worldwide in December and became the highest-grossing film of 2015, making more than $2bn at box office. The sequel, Episode VIII, is already in production and finds Ford again reprising his famous role. There are no reports to suggest that the actor is suing the production company himself.

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