Company failed to provide employees with running water
A North Devon decorating supplies company has appeared in court for failing to provide adequate washing facilities for employees who were at risk of contracting dermatitis.
Mike Wye and Associates Ltd, which produces natural building and decorating products, failed to provide hot water over a period of four years at its workshop in Buckland Filleigh, Devon. This was despite the fact that workers at the site were regularly handling hydrated lime, a well-known irritant to both skin and eyes that can cause dermatitis, to manufacture lime putty.
The HSE discovered the lack of provision of hot water during a routine visit in September 2010, when they also learned that the site had no running water during the winter months due to pipes freezing. In addition, inspectors found flammable chemicals at the site were not being stored in a fire-resistant container.
On 27 September 2010, the company was issued Improvement Notices, which required it to provide hot water in the changing rooms and toilets at the site, and to store chemicals in fire-resistant containers.
HSE inspector, Simon Jones, said: “The provision of hot running water is one of the most basic rights for workers, especially when they are dealing with materials that could cause skin disease.
“Although the company provided cold water and gel, this did not encourage workers to wash their hands.”
Mike Wye and Associates Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 21 (2)(a), (b) and (c) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, for failing to provide adequate washing facilities. It was fined £3500 and £588 in costs
Following the heariing a spokesman from the company said: “It’s inaccurate to say that the HSE learned that the site had no running water during the winter months due to pipes freezing. This is absurd as we couldn’t slake lime without running water so we’d be closed throughout the winter months. The fact is that our pipes occasionally froze in extreme weather conditions, particularly during the winter of 2009/10 when the daytime temperatures dropped to -11C
“The company bought the site in January 2007, and we subsequently rebuilt and replaced a number of the warehouse buildings which were in very poor condition. We were advised on a CIEH course that our arrangements for heating water, though basic, would comply with the regulations until we could complete the work to our washrooms, which necessitated installing a new sewage treatment plant.
“Following the HSE inspector’s visit we installed hot water and a shower in the washrooms. We also bought a portacabin with washing up facilities for the staff so that they didn’t have to take their breaks in the locker room.”
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