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HSE warning after company fined for back injuries

A car component manufacturer has been sentenced after six workers experienced back injuries from repeatedly lifting heavy car engine parts by hand.

MAHLE Powertrain Limited (MAHLE) manufactures engine parts for Audi and Jaguar Landrover cars which are no longer in large scale production.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that between 1 November 2013 and 7 January 2015, the HSE received six reports of workers who had injured their backs and been off work for more than seven days. One worker was in hospital for seven days and off work for more than nine weeks.  More workers suffered back problems but were not off work for the seven days required for the incidents to be reportable.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that workers who were based on two of the company’s production lines were expected to manually lift engine components weighing between 14 and 21kgs, hundreds of times during a shift. Mechanical lifting aids were either not provided, not suitable, or no training had been received by workers in how to operate them. There were no suitable or sufficient manual handling assessments in place for the tasks involved.

MAHLE Powertrain Limited of Costin House, St James Mill Road, Northampton, admitted breaching Regulation 4(1)(b) of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. It was fined £183,340 and ordered to pay £21,277.10 costs.

HSE Inspector Elizabeth Hornsby said: “Companies need to recognise that manual handling as a high risk activity. It is equally important to get health issues right, as well as safety. An Office of National Statistics report on Sickness Absence in the Labour Market stated that 30.6 million days were lost in 2013 due to musculoskeletal problems. This itself should highlight the need for employers to get health issues right.”

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