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Latest Prosecutions of UK Foundries by the HSE

There have been three prosecutions to date this year of UK foundries, the details of which are shared below.  It is important to remember that the press releases from the HSE will never speak of any good actions taken by the businesses but will only refer to the matters of individual failings that have resulted in court action being taken.  Furthermore, it is important to appreciate that any journalists from local newspapers can attend court hearings and therefore further details may emerge in local press or media.  Therefore this can have a direct influence on how the wider public and other interested stakeholders interpret what is read.  The information is being shared by SHIFT to help members and all UK non-member foundries review what they currently do, as part of any internal reviews or gap analysis work to help improve our industry as a whole.

Company fined for putting workers at risk of exposure to radiation – relevance = Preventing exposure to radiation at work, management of radiation, safe access/egress to work processes.

A foundry has been fined after putting its employees at risk of exposure to ionising radiation over a ten-year period.

The foundry’s external Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) identified failings in the access controls and warning systems at the site.  In the ten years following, the company received further RPA visits, reports and advice, yet remedial action was not taken.  The company’s failure to address these issues continued until the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an unannounced inspection of the foundry in February 2019.

A HSE investigation found the door to the company’s industrial radiography enclosure did not have adequate interlocks nor was there a suitable trapped key system to prevent access. There were also no pre-exposure warning systems or automatic and failsafe warning lights in place. Employees at the site were put at risk of exposure to high dose rates of ionising radiation by the company’s reliance on administrative controls, rather than installing industry standard engineering controls.

The foundry pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017, and Regulation 8(1) of the preceding Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999.  The company was fined £33,750 and ordered to pay costs of £47,601 at Crown Court on 14 April 2023.

A HSE Specialist Inspector of Radiation, said: “This situation could so easily have been avoided by acting on the advice received from their RPA and installing appropriate control measures.  All companies carrying out industrial radiography must ensure they have appropriate access controls and warning systems for their enclosures. Only then can they be confident that any exposure to ionising radiation is kept as low as reasonably practicable and the risks of accidental exposure are minimised.  Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

With reference to the above, note that no employee has suffered from unintentional exposure to radiation at the site.  The prosecution has occurred due to the risk of harm to employees.

Further to this, the HSE is implementing a new IRR17 consent system this year.   It will be very important to ensure foundries who have IRR17 certification follow closely any recommendations from their RPA.  Existing certified businesses will be getting HSE inspections under the new system and will undergo far more rigorous Safety Assessments (SA).  The HSE timeline for this going forward is ;

  • The new IT system to capture the data will in place by 23 July 2023
  • The new HSE consent process will start from October 2023 (but could be earlier)
  • New consents (under new system) will have a 3 month turnaround.
  • Over the next 5 years, existing consent holders will need to submit a SA for review (this will include an inspection). This will be via ‘invitation’ so might imply that HSE have a campaign to target certain sectors on a rolling programme.

By now all RPAs should be informing clients of the as part of their work and the work duty holders will need to do to comply with these changes.

Manufacturer fined after failing to manage workers’ exposure to vibration – relevance = Occupational ill-health prevention, management, health surveillance.

A manufacturer has been fined £120,000 for failing to adequately assess and control the risks to its employees from exposure to vibration when using vibrating tools.

An investigation by the HSE found that prior to June 2019, the foundry, a manufacturer of turbocharger wheels for the automotive industry, had failed to assess the health risks to employees using vibrating equipment.  The company failed to take steps to control employees’ exposure to vibration and did not provide suitable information, instructions and training to its employees regarding the risks they were exposed to.  The investigation also found the company failed to put in place an adequate health surveillance programme to monitor its workers’ health.

The foundry pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  The company was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £12,204.06 in costs at Magistrates’ Court on 15 March 2023.

The HSE inspector said: “Where employees are at risk from vibration exposure, companies have a duty to first assess the work and then consider where they might be able to eliminate vibration entirely.  Where this is not possible, employers should put in place controls to reduce exposure, such as selecting low vibration tools and introducing employee rotas to limit exposure times.  Information and training is key to establishing a knowledgeable workforce who use equipment correctly and safely and are aware of the potential health consequences of their work.  A health surveillance programme is vital for monitoring the health of anyone who is identified as being at risk of HAVS so an employer can act promptly, should symptoms be identified.”

Company fined after worker breaks rib falling into pit – relevance = safe work at height practices, welfare on site, safe access and egress.

A company has been fined after a worker fell into a moulding pit and suffered a broken rib.

The employee had opened up the company’s site on 27 August 2021.  The lights inside the company’s casting room were currently off and the worker had to walk from one side to the other in order to turn them on.  While doing this, the worker lost their bearings and fell into one of the company’s pits, suffering a broken rib.

An investigation by the HSE found the company had not properly assessed the risk created by the pits, and that suitable edge protection or covers for the pits had not been provided.

Following a visit by a HSE inspector in 2018, the foundry had been served with an Notification of Contravention, requiring the company to provide improved protection around the moulding pit.  The company had installed edge protection but this was later removed as larger moulds began to be used by the firm.  Prior to the incident in August 2021, there had been a previous incident when an employee fell into one of the company’s pits, though there were no significant injuries on that occasion.

The foundry pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. They were fined £26,666 and ordered to pay £4,105 in costs at Magistrates’ Court on 24 January 2023.

The HSE inspector “The company failed to take suitable measures to prevent employees falling into its moulding pits.  This was a clear and obvious hazard that was known to the company.  There had been a previous incident and HSE had already taken enforcement action in relation to this particular risk in 2018.  It should be immediately foreseeable that harm is likely to result from a system whereby employees are required to walk past unprotected fall edges in the dark in order to open up a site.”

It must be remembered that if working on the shop floor next to pits, employees are actually working at height.  Therefore measures to prevent any person falling any distance capable of resulting in injury needs to be taken and in place at all times.