A Rochdale fabric firm has been fined £10,000 after an employee fell into a vat of bleach and suffered severe chemical burns over most of his body.
PW Greenhalgh and Co Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation into the incident at its factory at Newhey Bleach Works found there was not a safe system in place for using the bleaching equipment.
Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard today (21 November 2014) that the 47-year-old worker from Shaw, who has asked not to be named, had climbed onto the container on 3 June 2014 to try and free some cloth which had become entangled between mangle rollers.
As he did this, he slipped and fell into an open container of the corrosive solution used to bleach fabric. He suffered serious chemical burns to his lips, arms, chest, groin and legs as well as a large cut to his eyebrow and the bridge of his nose.
The worker was airlifted to Wythenshawe Burns Unit and he was off work for more than three months due to the extent of his injuries.
The HSE investigation found that PW Greenhalgh had not carried out a risk assessment for using the bleaching equipment. It was common practice for employees to climb onto the containers, which did not have lids, when the machine became jammed. Staff had also not received any specific training on working with hazardous substances.
Following a visit to the factory, HSE issued four enforcement notices relating to unsafe working practices. The company has since carried out suitable risk assessments and implemented safe systems of work, using lids, handrails and fitting permanent stepladders to all the bleach containers.
PW Greenhalgh and Co Ltd, of Newhey Bleach Works in Newhey, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £718 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emily Osborne said:
“An employee has suffered severe chemical burns because PW Greenhalgh and Co’s safety procedures weren’t good enough.
“Workers were expected to climb onto vats of bleach to clear blockages from the bleaching equipment as a safe system of work had not been devised. The company knew employees were working with hazardous substances but it failed to take any action to tackle the risks.
“If the measures the company implemented following the incident, such as installing fixed stepladders and lids on the containers, had been there at the time then the employee’s injuries could easily have been avoided.”
Information on working safely with hazardous substances is available at www.hse.gov.uk/coshh.
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.
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.”
HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk.