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The Health and Safety Executive are still busy tackling industry issues

Employees exposure to workplace noise, vibration, dusts and fumes are still significant issues being found by the HSE during their visits to metals sector businesses.  Besides these, there is the ubiquitous matter of machinery guarding.  All of these should have been addressed by industry by now, given that regulation has been in place for at least 15 years, but HSE reports indicate that this not the case.

  • Noise and Vibration – there are obligations under both the Noise at Work & Vibration at Work regulations to control both hazards as much as possible at source.  This includes actively trying to procure machinery or tools that are low in noise &/or vibration.  The default option, cannot be to go straight to personal protective equipment (PPE); PPE should be the last resort.
  • Dust and Fumes – LEV (local exhaust ventilation) should be in use in areas with hazardous dusts or fumes.  However, testing is first required to establish what is being emitted, otherwise the business cannot know if it something that is harmful and must then be controlled.  If something is hazardous there must be an assessment to determine what measures must be put in place to control it, ideally at source, noting that it is often easier to control at the point of emission.
  • Machinery – businesses continue to have unguarded machinery in use, capable of causing life-changing injuries, or worse.  This is still getting missed in site reviews, risk assessments & maintenance/repair plans.  Faulty or missing guards must be repaired/replaced so that employees are kept safe.

Despite everything thrown at them during 2020, the HSE has continued to investigate fatal RIDDORS and Covid-related deaths (in workplace settings).

In court during the last operational year (2019/20) the UK HSE report:

  • 355 court convictions with a success rate of over 95% in the cases bought;
  • Over 7000 enforcement notices issued to UK businesses;
  • More than 90% of duty holders who received a visit have taken at least one action as a result of the visit;
  • In excess of 32,000 concerns about workplace and activities were handled and addressed.

The figures above clearly demonstrate that there is still much to do to improve overall safety, and the metals sector is far from exempt in needing to resolve problems on site.

Dealing with the above issues and the plethora of others that arise in the metals sector can be a significant cost, but directors have a legal duty to ensure resources are made available to address any issues in business.  Failure to ensure that the risks to the physical safety and occupational health of employees and/or any other person who may be affected by a business’s operation which are not controlled, is a direct breach of well-established legislation in the UK, with some statutes in law dating back 30 years or more.  Safe systems of work, risk assessments, control measures and active management of health and safety are mandated.   Active management includes ensuring that suitable and sufficient training, information and instruction are provided, as well as competent supervision is in place and is active, every working day.  Failure to do so can lead to significant costs, in both time and money to deal with accidents, addressing HSE enforcement actions, preparation for possible prosecutions, not to mention paying civil claims.  These costs would be additional to the costs to physically correct what was found to be wanting, be it LEV, guarding, health surveillance etc.

The need to maintain a safe working environment started with the first true piece of health and safety legislation in 1802 with the UK leading the way.  This need will never go away, so businesses must ensure they tackle safety and occupational health, each and every working day.

For more information on joining the SHIFT initiative, which is open to all UK foundries, please contact the SHIFT administrator, Richard Heath [email protected]