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Fabrication company fined for PPE and RPE breach

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Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), it is a legal requirement that employers put measures in place to limit exposure to substances that are hazardous to health.

Failure to do so could lead to a hefty fine, work-related ill-health and even employee death.

Depending on the substances involved, workers should have access to properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) in order to minimise the risk and keep them safe. If you are unsure about the substances you deal with at work, speak with one of our experts today.

A fabrication company in Dorset has been fined after four employees were exposed to hazardous substances that caused significant ill health and time off work as a result.

Poole Magistrates’ Court heard how, on the 9 October 2017, between 150 and 200 litres of a chemical preparation, that included hydrofluoric acid, spilled across a large area of the factory floor. Four workers were involved in the clean-up that took several hours.

They were provided with inadequate PPE and RPE to undertake clear up, for which they had no training. Some of them suffered ill health following the incident, which included an asthma attack, a severe headache, nausea, sore eyes and throat.

One of the workers, whose symptoms persisted, was referred to by his doctor to a specialist for treatment.

Photo Courtesy of HSE

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was significant non-compliance regarding management of substances hazardous to health. The company had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment and had not prepared for this emergency situation.

One of the failings was that the RPE (face masks) provided did not have the correct type of filter for protecting against hydrofluoric acid gas.

Additionally, the type of RPE provided to workers relied on a good seal against the face in order to protect workers and no face fit test had been undertaken to ensure the masks fitted the workers’ faces.

Furthermore, workers were unshaven meaning their beards or stubble prevented an effective seal of the RPE to their faces.

The fabrication company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work 1974 Act and were fined £13,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,551.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Berenice Ray said: “This incident could have so easily been avoided had the company firstly undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and then implemented the necessary controls, including emergency arrangements for dealing with a chemical spill and the provision of instruction and supervision to ensure safe working practices are followed.

“Companies should be aware that the HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

Full Support has a wide range of RPE solutions including products, compliance software and training, ensuring your staff are safe, confident and compliant.

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