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May 6, 2009

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Print workers exposed to hazardous chemical

Three firms have been prosecuted for failing to protect workers from hazardous substances at a print works in Rotherham.

An investigation was launched after a number of workers contracted dermatitis from coming into contact with UV curable lacquers, which were being used to apply a glossy finish to magazine covers.

Garnett Dickinson Print Ltd, owner of the print works, reported the outbreak of dermatitis under RIDDOR regulations in January 2007. Two months later HSE investigators visited the site and discovered spillages of lacquer coming from the UV coating machine. Workers had not been issued with protective gloves and had become ill after clearing the spillages.

The supplier of the lacquer, Pulse Printing Products Ltd, was also prosecuted for failing to provide the print works with a safety data sheet. This information would have highlighted the type of protective gloves required to handle the substance, and helped Garnett Dickinson carry out a proper risk assessment.

Both companies appeared at Rotherham Magistrates’ Court on 29 April. Garnett Dickinson pleaded guilty to breaching reg.7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, for failing to prevent employees from coming into contact with hazardous substances. It was fined £1330 and ordered to pay £2520 towards the HSE’s costs.

Pulse Printing Products pleaded guilty to reg.5(1) of the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002, for failure to provide a safety data sheet. The firm was fined £340 and ordered to pay £830 in costs.

The HSE also felt it was necessary to prosecute a third company, Scheffer Inc, which had manufactured the UV coating machine, even though it was based in the US. A summons was issued in relation to an alleged breach of reg.11(1) of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992, for failing to supply safety instructions on how to clean the device. However when the company failed to turn up at court the summons was subsequently withdrawn as there were no practicable means of forcing the company to attend a hearing.

In mitigation, Garnett Dickinson said that it has now issued employees with protective gloves and offers training to ensure staff are aware of the dangers of handling hazardous substances. It also carried out improvement works to the machine to stop the leaks, which caused significant downtime production.

Pulse Printing Products said that it was a simple oversight that the print works had not been issued with a safety data sheet and the relevant documentation has now been issued.

HSE inspector, Steve Kay, told SHP: “Because of some basic flaws in Garnett Dickinson’s management of the situation, workers’ health was put at risk by repeated exposure to this irritant substance.

“There was a lack of suitable protective equipment, such as gloves, and training should have been in place to make employees aware of the risks of coming into contact with the lacquer. They should also have been shown how to safely clear up any spillages.

“Furthermore, the manufacturer of the machine, Scheffer Inc, failed to supply instructions for filling or cleaning the machine. Although the machine had a CE mark, indicating that it conformed to European legislation, a conformity assessment did not appear to have been carried out.”

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