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March 4, 2010

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Corus admits to new safety breach

A steel manufacturer with several previous safety convictions has ended

up in the dock again after a worker suffered leg injuries.

The incident took place on 24 May 2008 at Corus UK Ltd’s factory in Skinningrove, East Cleveland. Team leader David Harrison, 41, was working on the mill floor where steel is rolled into long beams. He was trying to clear a blockage on the production line where a dolly and skids are used to move red-hot steel beams across the factory floor.

He was attempting to free a dolly that had become jammed, with the help of an operator who was activating the machine’s controls from a gantry above the mill floor. As the operator was unable to see Mr Harrison, instructions were relayed via a third man using a combination of hand signals and verbal commands.

The production line had not been isolated, so when the operator moved the controls, the dolly released and struck Mr Harrison’s right ankle. He suffered a fractured tibia and fibula and was unable to return to work for more than four months.

HSE inspector Bruno Porter said: “This incident could have easily been avoided but, instead, has left Mr Harrison with a badly injured leg, for which he still needs medical help.

“Our investigations found that relaying instructions through another person was common practice on the mill floor, as radios were not always available and the noise in the factory made them hard to use.

“Despite the fact that clearing jams in machinery was a common operation, there was no record of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for this activity and no recorded safe system of work in place.”

The firm appeared at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on 1 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg. 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay full costs of £5074.

In mitigation, the company said it had entered an early plea and cooperated with the HSE’s investigation. Following the accident it carried out a fresh risk assessment and brought forward a planned programme to introduced a key-lock isolation system.

Inspector Porter added: “While Corus was aware of the hazards and had implemented safe operating procedures to deal with some of the risks, it failed to install a full safe isolation system, which had been identified as necessary prior to the incident.”

Corus has 13 previous safety convictions over the last 10 years, including a £1.3 million fine following the death of three steel workers in a massive blast furnace explosion at it’s Port Talbot site.

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