Ikea fined after worker loses fingers

Ikea Ltd has been fined £100,000 after a maintenance engineer was injured while fixing a roof fan.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws following the incident, which occurred at its Bristol branch on 21 November 2016. The worker suffered amputation of parts of two fingers while checking a fault to a fan on the roof of the building.

Investigating, Bristol City Council found that:

  • The fan and eight others on the roof were not guarded;
  • There was no adequate risk assessment in place for fault-finding or maintenance work of this nature;
  • The engineer had received no health and safety training from Ikea for this work.

Senior managers from Ikea were in court and a letter from a board member was read out which expressed remorse for this incident and said that lessons taken from this case had been shared throughout their business.

Councillor Kye Dudd, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste and Regulatory Services, said: “The health and safety of employees should be a top priority for every employer. We take reports of breaches very seriously and where appropriate we will investigate claims of poor practice.”

Builder fined after 17-year-old employee suffered life-changing injuries

A builder has been sentenced after one of his employees suffered life-changing hand injuries whilst operating a handheld circular saw.

Bodmin Magistrates’ Court was told how David Avent, trading as David Avent Building Services, undertook a barn refurbishment in Callington during February 2017.

On 7 February, a worker, 17, was using a circular saw to cut wooden flooring sheets when the saw blade made contact with his hand. It caused serious, life-changing injuries after cutting fully through his index finger, three quarters through his middle finger and half way through his ring finger.

The HSE's investigation found Avent had no record of any information, instruction and training that he had provided to his employee in the safe use of the circular saw nor had he ensured that safe working practices were followed when cutting the flooring sheet. The investigation also found that the circular saw blade had not been properly adjusted for the size of material being cut at the time of the incident and the flooring sheet was not appropriately supported whilst being cut.

David Avent of Callington, Cornwall pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was fined £1,120 and ordered to pay costs of £8,489.48.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Dr Jo-Anne Michael said: “This injury was easily preventable and the risk associated with the task should have been identified.

“Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from contact with dangerous parts of machinery to ensure that the risks are given careful attention to ensure they are properly controlled.”

In our experience, what may be obvious and second nature to one person may not be to another and this is why communcation within the workplace is essential. We are not saying that this was a contributing factor in this instance but the hazard perception of individuals can be very different. If you are interested in hearing how you can better involve your workers in workplace safety, give us a call now on 01462 892 021.

Asbestos: 23% of construction workers exposed

Nearly one in four British construction workers believe they have been exposed to asbestos fibres, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

The survey, published yesterday by IOSH to coincide with the launch of its latest No Time To Lose occupational cancer campaign, revealed nearly a quarter (23%) of building workers believe they have been exposed to the toxic material.

Asbestos risks

The survey also found 59% of workers said they have been informed about the risks of working with asbestos, and this been reinforced regularly with training, although 15% said they have never been informed.

Around a third of construction workers have never checked the asbestos register before starting work on a new site.

And just under one in five (18%) said if they found asbestos they would be unsure or have no idea of what to do.

Asbestos exposure – unacceptable

The president of IOSH, Craig Foyle, said the survey results, published on 9 April, show that not enough is being done to protect construction workers.

“Asbestos is banned in the UK and other countries for a good reason: it is dangers. It is staggering to see how many people die from exposure to asbestos every year,” said Mr Foyle.

“It is unacceptable, therefore, for anyone in any workplace to be exposed to asbestos. Clearly, though, people are being exposed to it. In the decades to come, it is likely that these people and their families will still be suffering unless we all do something about it.

“We are calling on everyone, including employers, do to the right thing; to protect the people who work for them. IOSH has an array of resources designed to assist employers to put measures in place, which protect their workforce.”

Deeply worrying

The chair of the UK’s Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, Dr Lesley Rushton, added: “What these new survey results confirm is that, while people have heard of asbestos and know what the effects of being exposed to it are, they’re not sure how to check if it’s present and they may now know what to do if they find asbestos.

“Uncertainty and ignorance surrounding how to prevent workers from breathing in the fibres is deeply worrying.”

Fire extinguishers: are they legally required and how many must you have?

Fire extinguishers: are they legally required, how many must you have and which ones should you use in a kitchen? 

We’re sticking with the subject of fire extinguisher related questions our engineers get asked by our clients. This month’s questions cover whether fire extinguishers are actually required by law, how many fire extinguishers are needed and whether there’s a particular requirement as to where they have yo be sited. Finally, we’ll look at which is the most suitable fire extinguisher for use in kitchens and specifically on cooking oil fires.

Are fire extinguishers required by law?

The major piece of legislation governing fire safety in England and Wales is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It requires any person who has some level of control in premises in relation to fire safety to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of fire and to make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire. The first step in fulfilling this legal obligation is the completion of fire risk assessments to identify and understand the risks then to take all necessary actions to remove or minimise those risks as far as possible. An essential part of that will involve identifying all the fire fighting equipment needed, including fire extinguishers.

How many fire extinguishers do you need – where do I have to put them?

There is some basic guidance available for calculating the number of extinguishers required in some instances.

Fire extinguishers are ‘rated’ based on their ability to extinguish test fires. A commonly installed extinguisher is the Class A (for flammable solids such as paper, wood and textiles) red 9-litre water fire extinguisher. It can extinguish 1.3m of the standard wooden crib test fire so is rated 13A and is indicated as such on the body of the fire extinguisher. The British Standard 5306 provides a formula for calculating the number of Class A fire extinguishers needed. At its simplest, it involves applying the rule of thumb that one 13A extinguisher covers 200 square metres of floor area. To work out how many 13A extinguishers are required, divide the floor area by 200 then round up the figure. There should be a minimum of two extinguishers per floor (giving a combined rating of at least 26A) unless the upper floor area is less than 100 square metres and is single occupancy. In that case, only a minimum rating of 13A is required on that upper floor.

It can be a useful guide to help you understand how many fire extinguishers you’re likely to need. But don’t forget that the number (and type) of fire extinguishers depends on the nature of your business and the risks involved. Once again, the starting point is the fire risk assessments as they will help you identify all the specific risks that exist, factor in any other systems already present like sprinklers or automatic suppression systems, then identify all the specialist fire fighting equipment and particular types of fire extinguishers that will be required. We’d always advise it’s worth considering having your premises professonally assessed and getting guidance about the right types and number of fire extinguishers needed.
As for where to site them? Well, as a fire extinguisher should only be used to aid an escape from a building should it be needed, by the final exit door may not be the obvious choice. In corridors, by fire doors or simply strategically placed.  As every building is different there is no hard ad fast rule, its generraly about looking at the building and its use, then making a decision as to wether or not certain locations are suitable.  This is where your fire risk assessment can assist you, look at the exit routes and place them where they will be of most use in aiding escape from the building.

What fire extinguisher should you use in a kitchen – and should you use a particular fire extinguisher for cooking oil?

Unsurprisingly kitchens, particularly commercial kitchens, are potentially hazardous places from a fire perspective. Factors like cooking at high temperatures and build-up of fat and oil on equipment and surfaces all contribute towards raising the risk of fire breaking out.

If oil or other fats ignite then come into contact with a substance such as water or foam, it’s very likely the oil would splatter and the fire would actually be aggravated, not extinguished. Wet chemical fire extinguishers are specifically designed to be used on cooking oil and fat (Class F) fires. They work by discharging a chemical spray that reacts with the oil and forms a heavy soap-like layer that prevents the fire from spreading, cools the oil and puts out the fire. A wet chemical fire extinguisher is distinguished by its yellow label as well as by the long lance attached to the hose on larger extinguishers designed to reduce the risk of the user having to get too close to the hot oil. As wet chemical extinguishers are also suitable for Class A fires (flammable solids) they are the best choice of extinguisher to have available to tackle a kitchen fire.

Do you need some help identifying the most suitable fire extinguishers to use?

We’d always advise getting a professional view that’s specific to your premises to help you make the correct choices about which and how many fire extinguishers to install. Please do feel free to contact us if you’d like an initial chat to find out more about how we can help you get the fire extinguisher provision right in your premises.