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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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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