Oxfordshire brewer stalled over HSE safety warnings03 October 2012
A brewery has appeared in court for failing to respond promptly to enforcement action relating to unsafe work at height and manual-handling deficiencies at its production plant.
In May 2010, the HSE visited Oxfordshire Ales Ltd’s plant in Marsh Gibbon, Oxfordshire and identified that workers were filling hoppers with malt and barley in an unsafe manner. Employees were lifting 25kg sacks in awkward circumstances and the HSE issued an Improvement Notice, requiring the company to carry out a risk assessment of the manual-handling risks and to take appropriate action.
The HSE revisited the site in November 2010 and February 2011 and found that on both occasions, significant improvements hadn’t been made. During these visits the inspector also noticed a mezzanine floor, which was only accessible via inadequate steps. A second Improvement Notice was served to the company, which required it to make the steps safe.
HSE inspector Stephen Manley explained that the company didn’t act quickly enough to comply with the enforcement notices. He said: “The response of Oxfordshire Ales to the original Improvement Notice was disappointing to say the least. The improvements were necessary in order to protect workers from injury and prevent falls, yet the company took far too long to take appropriate action.
Oxfordshire Ales appeared at Aylesbury Magistrates’ Court on 1 October and pleaded guilty to breaching s21 of the HSWA 1974 and reg.6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £6000 and ordered to pay £8623 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous safety convictions and entered a guilty plea. It also confirmed that is has now complied with the enforcement notices.
After the hearing, inspector Manley added: “Thankfully, no employees were hurt, but there were clear risks that could easily have been remedied a lot sooner.”
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