A Nottinghamshire cold storage rental company has been fined for two separate health and safety failings after a worker was trapped underneath a falling section of cold store and others developed hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
An agency worker was struck by a section of portable cold store which toppled whilst being dismantled by Dawsonrentals Portable Cold Storage Ltd of Huthwaite on 26 October 2010.
Kevin Rodgers, 37, from Mansfield, was trapped under an L-shaped section of a cold store which was surplus to requirements, whilst cutting up smaller sections of the cold store walls, which had already been removed.
Nottingham Crown Court heard Mr Rodgers suffered four broken metatarsals in his right foot, and was off work for a number of months.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found the dismantling process had not been properly risk assessed by the company. There was inadequate training for workers carrying out this task, and insufficient supervision of their work.
A separate investigation into the company was conducted after several employees were reported to be suffering from various stages of Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) after working for Dawsonrentals Portable Cold Storage Ltd.
HAVS can develop from the over-use of hand-held power tools and is the cause of significant ill health. This can include painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.
One case was shown to be so severe that the worker was unable to do his job any longer.
HSE’s investigation identified that workers were using power tools for significant periods of time. The company failed to adequately assess the risk to employees’ health from the use of vibrating tools over a number of years. Although the issue of hand-arm vibration had been raised since 2005, it was not until the ill health was identified in November 2011 that they introduced adequate controls, including monitoring and restricting the use of specific tools.
Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage LTD of Export Drive, Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc act 1974 and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs.
After the hearing HSE Inspector Stuart Pilkington said:
“The accident is a case of non-routine work not being properly planned and risk assessed.
“Mr Rodgers was lucky not to suffer far more serious injuries and the incident shows the importance of training temporary workers and ensuring they are properly supervised.
“Hand-arm Vibration can have significant health impacts if workers’ use of power tools is not controlled correctly and the company have failed to protect their workers from a debilitating condition which they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives.”
Paul Straw said:
“I’d worked at Dawson Rental Portable Cold Storage for around 18 years – it’s all I knew.
“I was told by letter that I had Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome – something I didn’t understand at the time. It didn’t sink in at first that it could stop me from doing the job I love.
“Being out of work and having to claim benefits has been very difficult. I used to play snooker and go fishing with my sons but I can no longer do that as I have lost confidence because of my condition.
“Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome has made it very difficult for me to find employment and I really miss working. The thought of re-training for a new job at my time of life is very hard.”
Further information on Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome go to: http://www.hse.gov.uk/VIBRATION/hav/index.htm
Notes to editors
- Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
- Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”