Nine workers at a ceramic tile factory in North Wales had levels of lead in their blood above national safety limits putting them at risk of serious health problems, a court has been told.
The employees of specialist firm Craig Bragdy Design, of Denbigh, were tested after the issue came to light in February 2012 following a routine visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The company, which uses colour glazes containing lead in its tiling work, was today (Thursday 10 April 2014) prosecuted by HSE at Llandudno Magistrates’ court after an investigation disclosed serious safety failings.
The court heard that HSE’s routine inspection raised serious concerns about how Craig Bragdy Design handled the control of lead during its manufacturing process.
Tests carried out on staff following HSE’s inspection found three female workers had blood levels at or above the suspension limit – one of them significantly higher. The suspension limit is activated by law and means they should be withdrawn from working with lead until the concentration in their blood reduces naturally.
In addition, five women and one man working at the site were found to be above the action level which alerts employers that a worker is approaching the suspension level. At this point the employer should investigate why this is happening and review its control measures.
Magistrates were told long term exposure to lead can cause serious health effects, including spontaneous abortion, still births and low birth weight before or during pregnancy. Other effects include anaemia, fatigue, headache, convulsions and paralysis.
HSE’s investigations found the company failed to control its workers’ exposure to lead and carry out a proper risk assessment for the work. It also did not measure the concentration of lead in the air to which employees were exposed.
The firm also failed to provide medical surveillance for the workers and did not provide them with sufficient information and training.
Craig Bragdy Design Ltd of Colomendy Industrial Estate, Denbigh, pleaded guilty to five breaches of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 and was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay costs of £23,271.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Katherine Walker, said:
“The effects of high levels of lead in the blood can be very damaging, especially for pregnant women or those planning to have babies.
“Craig Bragdy Design could easily have avoided exposing its workforce to this chronic toxin by following the regulations, having a proper risk assessment and making sure staff were monitored for lead in their blood on a regular basis.
“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health for their jobs and this is why it’s vital that employers act on the regulations.”
Further information on working with lead can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/lead/
Notes to Editors
The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
Regulation 5(1) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 states: An employer shall not carry out work which is liable to expose any employees to lead unless he has made a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk created by that work to the health of those employees and the steps that need to be taken to meet the requirements of these Regulations and implemented those steps.
Regulation 6(1) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 states:Every employer shall ensure that the exposure of his employees to lead is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.
Regulation 9(1) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 states: Where the risk assessment indicates that any of his employees are liable to receive significant exposure to lead, the employer shall ensure that the concentration of lead in air to which his employees are exposed is measured in accordance with a suitable procedure.
Regulation 10(1) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 states: Every employer shall ensure that each of his employees who is or is liable to be exposed to lead is under suitable medical surveillance by a relevant doctor.
Regulation 11(1) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 states: Every employer who undertakes work which is liable to expose an employee to lead shall provide that employee with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.
HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.