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June 29, 2009

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Fine for ignoring 19 enforcement notices

A small chemical company has been hit with a £55,000 penalty owing to “persistent failings” in health and safety.

T J & S Jenkinson, from Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, was served with 19 Improvement and Prohibition Notices between September 2004 and October 2008 for a catalogue of health and safety failings, but failed to make any significant progress in improving health and safety standards until after it was invited to

attend an interview with the HSE under caution, and advised to take legal advice.
According to Mark Burton, the HSE inspector who investigated the case, Jenkinson, which makes cleaning products for bakeries, failed to provide safe systems of work and safe working equipment over a prolonged period, putting the health and safety of employees at risk.

The HSE had first intervened following a complaint from an employee of the manufacturer in August 2004, after which five notices were served. At the end of 2006 a plethora of further notices were served, concerning hazardous substances, risk assessments, training, the use of work equipment, electricity, and noise control.

“Of particular concern was a ribbon powder mixer that had no controls at all,” inspector Burton told SHP. “On another occasion an employee was operating a machine in a cloud of powders, as the ventilation system wasn’t adequate. On yet another, we found a forklift truck with steering defects that had not been remedied.”

St Helens magistrates, sitting on 17 June, fined the firm £30,000 for breaching:

  • reg.7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 by failing to prevent or control employees’ exposure to hazardous substances — fine £5000;
  • reg.5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by not maintaining work equipment in good order — fine £5000; and
  • s33(1)(g) of HSWA 1974 by failing to comply with an enforcement notice — fine £20,000.

The district judge said he would not send the case to Crown Court because the company had entered early guilty pleas, but he would not reduce the fines because of this mitigating circumstance. He did not accept that just because no harm had been done, there was no potential for harm. He also ordered the company to pay full costs of £24,527.

 “Enforcement notices should act as a wake-up call for companies to improve their health and safety procedures,” noted the inspector. “Unfortunately, Jenkinson appears to have ignored the warnings and put production before safety.”

He concluded: “I hope this case will help remind companies that the HSE will not accept repeated failings in health and safety. We will prosecute in instances where there is a potential for harm, rather than waiting for someone to be badly injured. It is nice to see the courts taking this seriously.”

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