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April 19, 2010

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Five-year ban for director for “gross dereliction” of duty

A Worcestershire company and its managing director have been fined a total of £87,000 for a raft of safety failures that saw workers exposed to risks of lead poisoning, falls from height, and being crushed by falling objects.

Brian Nixon was criticised by the HSE for his “flagrant lack of attention” to the safety of employees at the Stratford-upon-Avon premises of fuel-tank manufacturer, Transtore (UK) Ltd.

A HSE investigation was launched after a tip-off from a concerned employee, which resulted in the issue of four Prohibition and four Improvement Notices. Workers at the plant were found to be spray-painting fuel tanks without any safety equipment provided, even though the paint contained toxic lead chromate.

Specialist HSE inspectors took air, blood and urine samples to assess the workers’ exposure to lead, and five of them were found to have higher levels than the UK average.
The workers were also expected to stand beneath the half-tonne vessels they were painting, with nothing to prevent them from being crushed if the lifting equipment, which had not been maintained or checked properly, had failed.

To paint the tops of the tanks, which were two metres above the concrete floor, the workers simply stood on them, with no equipment to stop them from falling. Nixon ignored the Prohibition Notice issued in relation to this unsafe practice and continued to instruct his employees to work on top of the tanks.

Said HSE inspector, Peter Snelgrove: “Mr Nixon deliberately flouted health and safety laws and paid scant regard to the safety of his employees. I agree with what the district judge said in court about it being a lamentable situation, and it was very fortunate that there were no injuries before our investigation.”

At Stratford Magistrates’ Court on 19 April, Transtore (UK) Ltd  pleaded guilty to breaching:

  • reg.6(1)(c) of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002;
  • reg.4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) 2005;
  • reg.8(1)(c) of LOLER 1998;
  • reg.21(1) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992;
  • reg.13(2) of the MHSWR 1999.

It was also found guilty of contravening Prohibition Notices on three occasions. As a result, it was fined a total of £70,000 and ordered to pay £27,507 in costs. Transtore is now in administration.

Brian Nixon was fined £17,000 with £9169 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching reg.4(1) of the WAHR 2005 and s33(1)(g) of the HSWA 1974. He was banned from directing any company for five years under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.

Concluded inspector Snelgrove: “Companies and their managing directors have a legal responsibility to protect their employees. No one should be expected to work in the conditions found at Transtore, and it is quite right that an employee contacted HSE to complain. Failure to properly manage health and safety can have catastrophic results.”


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