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Suspended jail sentences for health and safety ‘ticking time bomb’

hse-prosecution-photoA judge in Swansea has told a company’s director and three managers that their company was “a ticking time bomb in relation to the health and safety employees”.

The defendants were handed down suspended jail sentences for ongoing health and safety failings at their furniture factory in Port Talbot.

Swansea Crown Court heard that the factory at Margam Hall Upholstery Limited was visited by the Health and Safety Executive in early 2015 in a planned programme of visits to woodworking premises.

Dangerous machines and hazardous substances, like wood dust and glue make woodworking a high risk industry.

A number of health and safety concerns were highlighted during the HSE’s visit including:

  • poor control of wood dust;
  • no maintenance of work equipment including fume and dust extraction;
  • noisy conditions
  • inadequate toilet and washing facilities

Ten improvement notices were served to the company in February 2015, but despite ongoing intervention by the HSE, there was little progress and condition remained poor – seven of the improvement notices were not complied with.

Helen Turner, inspector for the HSE, said: “We always try to work with dutyholders to help them understand their responsibilities and improve conditions, but there is no excuse for people running a business not to know what health and safety standards apply to their work.

“When directors or managers who have the power to make the improvements blatantly disregard their workers’ health and safety we have no option but to prosecute.”

Judge Geraint Walters said: “The operation the four you were engaged in was nothing short of a ticking time bomb in relation to the health and safety of employees.”

The defendants were previously in charge of a factory at the same premises called Celtic-Leather and Fabric Upholstery Ltd.

The company was prosecuted by the HSE in 2015 for similar health and safety breaches.

Director Brian Baggs, Port Talbot, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was given a 10 month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay costs of £2,500. He was disqualified from acting as a company director for five years.

David Lewis, his brother Matthew Lewis and Michael Ball, all shareholders and managers, pleaded guilty to the same breach of the HSWA. They were each given a 10 month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay costs of £2,500. Although not current directors, they were also disqualified from acting as a company director for five years.

 

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