Pressure systems – company fined for safety failings resulting in workers death

We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Company fined for safety failings resulting in workers death

A Midlands based construction equipment hire company has been fined £800,000 after a worker’s death.

Warwick Crown Court heard how the 49-year-old had only been working for the company for 16 days when the fatal incident happened. The court heard how he was testing a hydraulic cylinder when it cracked under pressure causing a piece of metal to strike him violently in the head.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to have adequate supervision in place for this task and they failed to inform the worker of the safe working pressure for the cylinder he was testing.

The investigation also found that the company also failed to have protective screens in place to prevent projectiles injuring staff. They also did not exclude other people from the test area.

The company pleaded guilty of breaching regulation 12 (1) of the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and regulation 3 (1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The company also pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector Neil Ward said: “This was a tragic incident that should never have occurred.

“It is a company’s obligation to provide a safe system of work for leak testing. This will include protecting people from flying fragments and high pressure oil leaks as well as providing thorough training in how to carry out the work safely.”

Pressure systems

Pressure systems can range from steam-generating commercial coffee machines to large boilers. When using pressure systems every employer or self-employed person has a duty to provide a safe workplace and safe work equipment. Designers, manufacturers, suppliers, installers, users and owners have additional health and safety duties.

About pressure systems

The main regulations covering pressure equipment and pressure systems are the Pressure Equipment Regulations 1999 (PER) and the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR).

Examples of pressure systems and equipment are:

  • boilers and steam heating systems
  • pressurised process plant and piping
  • compressed air systems (fixed and portable)
  • pressure cookers, autoclaves and retorts
  • heat exchangers and refrigeration plant
  • valves, steam traps and filters
  • pipework and hoses
  • pressure gauges and level indicators

Principal causes of pressure-related incidents are:

  • poor equipment and/or system design
  • poor installation
  • poor maintenance of equipment
  • inadequate repairs or modifications
  • an unsafe system of work
  • operator error, poor training/supervision

The main hazards from pressure are:

  • impact from the blast of an explosion or release of compressed liquid or gas
  • impact from parts of equipment that fail or any flying debris
  • contact with the released liquid or gas, such as steam
  • fire resulting from the escape of flammable liquids or gases

Are you a user of pressure systems?

A pressure system is one that contains or is likely to contain a relevant fluid over 0.5 bar.

The main legislation covering the duties of a user of pressure equipment is the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR).

HSE has produced a number of freely downloadable publications that provide general advice on the duties of the user of pressure equipment. See leaflet INDG261 Pressure systems: A brief guide to safety (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg261.htm) for more detail but, in general terms, the user must:

  • Provide safe and suitable equipment

eg are the right materials being used in the manufacturing process and are modifications/repairs being carried out properly?

  • Know the operating conditions

including the characteristics of the relevant fluid in the system and the safe operating limits of the equipment.

  • Fit suitable protective devices and ensure they function properly

eg devices such as safety valves, bursting discs and electronic appliances, and ensure they are adjusted to their correct settings and in good working order at all times.

  • Carry out suitable maintenance

including a whole-system maintenance programme that considers factors such as age, uses and the environment in which it is operated.

  • Make provision for appropriate training

so that anybody who operates, installs, maintains, repairs, inspects or tests pressure equipment has the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their job safely. Refresher training should be included.

  • Have the equipment examined

as required under PSSR, including production of a written scheme of examination (WSE), to be used by a competent person to carry out the examination – details in the PSSR Approved Code of Practice (L122).

  • Choose a competent person

ensuring they have the necessary knowledge, skills and, importantly, independence to undertake their role and responsibilities effectively.

For more information, visit the HSE web page: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pressure-systems/ or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 3RD DECEMBER 2015

REGISTER BELOW-LEFT TO RECEIVE OUR UPDATES BY EMAIL

IN THIS UPDATE

Introduction

Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease – coatings firm in court for legionella failings

Solder fume and you – an employee’s guide

3M SafeTea Break 2015 Campaign

Introduction

Legionnaires’ disease is, unfortunately, in the news regularly. Only last month a driving test centre in Kent had to be shut down after the bacteria – which can cause the potentially fatal lung infection – was found during a routine water test. One of the worst outbreaks in UK history was in 2002 in Barrow-in-Furness, the source of which was an arts centre air conditioning unit. 172 cases of the disease were reported, resulting in seven deaths. If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella, and take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to the bacteria, guidance on which we share below. Failure to do so recently resulted in an international engineering firm being fined at total of £110,000 plus £77,252 costs.

If you work in an electronics, metalwork or plumbing related industry, you’re probably familiar with soldering processes, and the fact that serious health problems can arise from rosin, which is contained in solder fluxes. This week we share the HSE’s recently revised guidance document ‘Solder fume and you’ (INDG248) which gives advice to employees on safe working whilst soldering with rosin (colophony) based solder fluxes.

And finally, we share details of 3M’s SafeTea Break 2015 campaign which encourages employers to deliver bite-size ‘tea break’ talks to engage their workforces in discussions about health and long latency occupational diseases.

We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease – coatings firm in court for legionella failings

An international engineering firm, which refurbishes turbine blades, was recently fined a total of £110,000 plus £77,252 costs for failing to manage the risk to public and employees to potentially fatal legionella bacteria.

The company, which has sites in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, failed to properly manage the risk of bacteria growing in their cooling towers for over a year, from May 2011.

Derby Crown Court heard that during a visit to one of the sites in May 2012, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector felt spray on his face, saw the yard’s surface was wet and that nearby cooling towers were corroded.

Corrosion can encourage the growth of legionella bacteria which is carried in water droplets. If water is inhaled which contains the bacteria, it can lead to a number of diseases, but most commonly legionnaire’s disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

The inspector extended his visit to the rest of the factory plus the company’s other site, and found significant failings in the company’s control, recording and management of legionella risks.

HSE issued four improvement notices in June 2012 requiring inlet screens to be placed on the cooling towers to stop debris falling in them which could encourage legionella growth, and for corroded items of plant to be replaced.

Two similar notices were served on the company in 2008 seeking improvements on rusting towers and a number of management failures. All the notices had been complied with.

The court was told a laboratory analysis of a water sample taken from one of the sites before the HSE investigation had found legionella bacteria levels to be so high that immediate action was required to clean the system.

As well as failing to maintain its infrastructure, the company did not keep biocides (chemicals which kill bacteria) at effective levels.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, as well as the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including:

  • people over 45 years of age
  • smokers and heavy drinkers
  • people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • diabetes, lung and heart disease
  • anyone with an impaired immune system

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools.

If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may grow increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease and it is therefore important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures outlined in Legionnaires’ disease – The Control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l8.htm).

What you must do

If you are an employer, or someone in control of premises, including landlords, you must understand the health risks associated with legionella. This section can help you to control any risks.

Duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) extend to risks from legionella bacteria, which may arise from work activities. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) provide a broad framework for controlling health and safety at work.  More specifically, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella and take suitable precautions.  The Approved Code of Practice: Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) contains practical guidance on how to manage and control the risks in your system.

As an employer, or a person in control of the premises, you are responsible for health and safety and need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to legionella. You must understand how to:

  • identify and assess sources of risk
  • manage any risks
  • prevent or control any risks
  • keep and maintain the correct records
  • carry out any other duties you may have

Identify and assess sources of risk

Carrying out a risk assessment is your responsibility. You may be competent to carry out the assessment yourself but, if not, you should call on help and advice from either within your own organisation or from outside sources, e.g. consultancies.

You or the person responsible for managing risks, need to understand your water systems, the equipment associated with the system such as pumps, heat exchangers, showers etc, and its constituent parts. Identify whether they are likely to create a risk from exposure to legionella, and whether:

  • the water temperature in all or some parts of the system is between 20–45 °C
  • water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system
  • there are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms
  • the conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply
  • it is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, whether they can be dispersed over a wide area, e.g. showers and aerosols from cooling towers
  • it is likely that any of your employees, residents, visitors etc are more susceptible to infection due to age, illness, a weakened immune system etc and whether they could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets

Your risk assessment should include:

  • management responsibilities, including the name of the competent person and a description of your system
  • competence and training of key personnel
  • any identified potential risk sources
  • any means of preventing the risk or controls in place to control risks
  • monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures
  • records of the monitoring results and inspection and checks carried out
  • arrangements to review the risk assessment regularly, particularly when there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid

If you conclude that there is no reasonably foreseeable risk or the risks are low and are being properly managed to comply with the law, your assessment is complete. You may not need to take any further action at this stage, but any existing controls must be maintained and the assessment reviewed regularly in case anything changes in your system.

Managing the risk

As an employer, or person in control of premises, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties and to take responsibility for controlling any identified risk from exposure to legionella bacteria. A competent person, often known as the responsible person, is someone with sufficient authority, competence, necessary skills, knowledge of the system, and experience. The appointed responsible person could be one, or a combination of:

  • yourself
  • one or more workers
  • someone from outside your business

If there are several people responsible for managing risks, e.g. because of shift-work patterns, you must make sure that everyone knows what they are responsible for and how they fit into the overall risk management of the system.

If you decide to employ contractors to carry out water treatment or other work, it is still the responsibility of the competent person to ensure that the treatment is carried out to the required standards. Remember, before you employ a contractor, you should be satisfied that they can do the work you want to the standard that you require. There are a number of external schemes to help you with this, for example, A Code of Conduct for service providers (http://www.legionellacontrol.org.uk/). The British Standards Institute have published a standard for legionella risk assessment (http://shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030200235)

Preventing or controlling the risk

You should first consider whether you can prevent the risk of legionella by looking at the type of water system you need, e.g. identify whether it is possible to replace a wet cooling tower with a dry air-cooled system. The key point is to design, maintain and operate your water services under conditions that prevent or adequately control the growth and multiplication of legionella.

If you identify a risk that you are unable to prevent, you must introduce a course of action ie a written control scheme, that will help you to manage the risk from legionella by implementing effective control measures, by describing:

  • your system, e.g. develop a schematic diagram
  • who is responsible for carrying out the assessment and managing its implementation
  • the safe and correct operation of your system
  • what control methods and other precautions you will be using
  • what checks will be carried out, and how often will they be carried out, to ensure the controls remain effective

You should:

  • ensure that the release of water spray is properly controlled
  • avoid water temperatures and conditions that favour the growth of legionella and other micro-organisms
  • ensure water cannot stagnate anywhere in the system by keeping pipe lengths as short as possible or removing redundant pipework
  • avoid materials that encourage the growth of legionella (The Water Fittings & Materials Directory (http://www.materialstesting.co.uk/materials_directory.htm) references fittings, materials, and appliances approved for use on the UK Water Supply System by the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme)
  • keep the system and the water in it clean
  • treat water to either control the growth of legionella (and other microorganisms) or limit their ability to grow
  • monitor any control measures applied
  • keep records of these and other actions taken, such as maintenance or repair work

Keeping records

If you have five or more employees you have to record any significant findings, including those  identified as being particularly at risk and the steps taken to prevent or control risks.  If you have less than five employees, you do not need to write anything down, although it is useful to keep a written record of what you have done.

Records should include details of the:

  • person or persons responsible for conducting the risk assessment, managing, and implementing the written scheme
  • significant findings of the risk assessment
  • written control scheme and details of its implementation
  • details of the state of operation of the system, i.e. in use/not in use
  • results of any monitoring inspection, test or check carried out, and the dates

These records should be retained throughout the period for which they remain current and for at least two years after that period. Records kept in accordance with (e) should be retained for at least five years.

Other duties

Under the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992, you must notify your local authority in writing, if you have a cooling tower or evaporative condenser on site, and include details about where it is located. You must also tell them if/when such devices are no longer in use. Notification forms are available from your local authority/environmental health department.

Although less common, other systems that do not rely solely on the principle of evaporation, are dry/wet coolers or condensers. Owing to their different principles of operation, these systems may not require notification under the Notification of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers Regulations 1992 (NCTEC) but it is important to assess the system against the notification requirements defined in NCTEC, eg where such systems spray water directly onto the surface of the heat exchanger.

In addition, under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), you must report any cases of legionellosis in an employee who has worked on cooling towers or hot and cold water systems that are likely to be contaminated with legionella.

Specific risk systems

You will also need to consider technical and further information on the following risk systems (click on the links):

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/index.htm?ebul=gd-welding&cr=12/Dec15 or contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help. We carry out Legionnella Risk Assessments of hot and cold water systems in commercial and residential property and can provide further information on request.

Solder fume and you – an employee’s guide

This guidance is aimed at people who solder using rosin, specifically colophony-based solder flux, which can cause asthma and dermatitis.

Be aware:

  • Working with rosin-based solder fluxes requires you to take action. You should take appropriate steps to prevent, control or reduce exposure to fumes, as they can cause serious health problems.
  • There are different types of solder flux. Find out from your manager what type of solder fume you are using.

Remember:

  • Serious health problems can occur when soldering.
  • Report symptoms of ill health to your manager. These can include: coughing; wheezing; runny eyes or nose; tight chest. These can all be symptoms of occupational asthma or serious illness.
  • If solder flux fume makes you ill, the effects will become worse if you carry on breathing in the fume.
  • Where it is necessary to have a health surveillance process in place to help protect the health of employees, your employer will ask you to co-operate.

To protect your health:

  • Keep your face out of the solder fume.
  • Use the correct control measure(s), such as: local exhaust ventilation (LEV); solder fume extraction; on-tip extraction; down-draught benches; enclosing hoods; moveable capturing hoods. Look at Controlling health risks from rosin (colophony)-based solder fluxes (see Further reading) for further information on which method you should use.
  • Use fume extraction when you are either: – soldering using rosin-based fluxes; or – using alternative fluxes for more than a few minutes a day.
  • You should check that the system works properly every time you use or move it.
  • Check for yourself to see how effective the LEV is where you work.

Further reading (click on the links)

For clarification or more information, contact us on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

3M SafeTea Break 2015 Campaign

3M in conjunction with Safety Groups UK have launched SafeTea Break 2015 Campaign. The campaign has an accompanying toolkit for bite-size ‘tea break’ talks to engage your workforce in discussions about health and long latency occupational diseases.

The kit provides open questions to present to the workforce in a breakout session that will generate debate across health topics, ultimately driving a useful action plan, and a better understanding of the health risks and consequences of non-compliance for the workforce.

Visit the website at http://safetynetwork.3m.com/blog/safetea/?WT.mc_id=www.3m.co.uk/SafeTea?ebul=gd-welding&cr=11/Dec15 where you can download the SafeTea Break pack for free.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence