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January 17, 2013

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Consultant didn’t have the expertise to give chemicals advice

A scientific instrument company and a safety consultant have appeared in court after workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard that employees at Prior Scientific Instruments Ltd’s factory in Fulbourn were exposed to harmful substances between September 2002 and December 2009.

In November 2009, the partner of paint sprayer, Adam Coventon, contacted the HSE as she was concerned that he was becoming ill due to the nature of his work.

Mr Coventon’s job involved him painting small components for scientific instruments. He was also required to clean the metal before painting it by using a trichloroethylene, which acts as a powerful de-greaser. The chemical is a known irritant as it contains isocyanates.

The 36-year-old suffered irritation to his eyes, breathing difficulties, headaches, and lost the ability to concentrate. He is now unable to work, owing to his conditions.

The HSE visited the site and identified that workers who were using a solder were being exposed to a rosin called colophony, which is a respiratory irritant.

The investigation identified the company didn’t have suitable systems in place to remove the hazardous fumes from the workplace. It also failed to provide employees with health surveillance.

The company had contracted Keith Whiting, trading as KW Consultants, to act as its health and safety consultant. However, he didn’t provide suitable information and advice to enable the company to ensure the health and well-being of employees.

The HSE issued a Prohibition Notice to Prior Scientific Instruments, which required it to cease using the degreaser and the solder until a safe system of work was created. It also issued an Improvement Notice, requiring the company to review its health and safety management arrangements.

HSE inspector Robert Meardon said: “Prior Scientific Instruments failed to ensure the health of its employees because it employed the wrong person to give it health and safety advice.

“Mr Whiting’s background was in quality control and he did not have adequate knowledge of health and safety for the work going on in this company. He failed to make them aware of the dangers regarding the use of hazardous chemicals.”

Prior Scientific Instruments appeared in court on 10 January and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £9000 and ordered to pay full costs of £2852.€

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11 years ago

How many members of IOSH are there and how many are on the OSHCR?
How many individuals are on the OSHCR and what proportion are IOSH members?

You may be unpleasantly surprised at both answers.

11 years ago

Oh! And I was amused at the article’s implication that had the advisor been registered (OSHCR), circumstances might have prevailed that would mitigate such accident. My experience of IOSH and similar representative bodies does not offer any support for that specious notion.

11 years ago

I thought ignorence was no defence in law?

He had enough competence to produce an invoice though.

Having spent 34 yrs in my industry I would not attempt to give advice on anything I was unaware of.

Others are not so selective. And that includes many on varied approved lists.

He calims his advice was ignored? Where was the recorded evidence of this advice? and if it was presented, it clearly was insufficient to obsolve him of being incompetent? hence he got nicked. And rightly so.

11 years ago

One of the reasons why this company may not have known about OSHCR is that following its inception two years ago, very little has been done to further market the OSHC register. When I speak to people, even at senior managment level, very few have ever heard of this resource and that it’s available to industry as whole. Whether this is the best way to promote competent health & safety advice is yet to be concluded, the fact is, very few business are aware of the register and its benefits.

11 years ago

A very damming statement based entirely upon Mr Parker’s experience? The corporate members of IOSH only get to be such by having demonstrated both underpinning knowledge of the subject and ongoing continuing professional development. A competent advisor would have made it clear to a client that measures were inadequate and what controls were needed. If Mr Parker has evidence that some IOSH members are incompetent he should draw it to the attention of IOSH.

11 years ago

Benefits? These are . . . ?
The company were apparently quite content to take H&S advice from someone who’s website makes to pretence to offering H&S advice – it is a quality / security firm. So they hadn’t made any attempt to get any kind of competency, let alone IOSH or, OSHCR even assuming this offers anything beyond IOSH. I sympathise with the ‘consultant’ who probably was ‘ignorant of his own ignorance’. Not being H&S qualified, how would he know what he didn’t know?