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September 3, 2008

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Firm hit with GBP 24K penalty after inspectors uncover responsibility vacuum

A Lincolnshire manufacturer has been fined a total of £19,400 after an oven assembler sustained severe injuries to his groin when lifting pizza ovens each weighing 96kg.

Lincoln magistrates heard on 27 August that Rolf Cinavas and his supervisor had been in the process of moving five of the ovens, which measured about two feet cubed, from a waist-high assembly bench to five separate pallets on the floor of a narrow assembly bay at the Lincoln premises of catering equipment manufacturer, Lincat, in November 2006. The worker’s injury was so severe he was off work for 46 days.

HSE inspector Dr Ian James Ellison, who investigated and prosecuted the case in court, told SHP that what really worried him was that the worker’s supervisor had asked him to lift the ovens with him. “Normally a supervisor would try to stop workers doing that,” he remarked. “Everybody assumed everyone else had responsibility, but in reality, no-one was in charge of health and safety. There was no named person responsible,” he added.

In mitigation, the firm said it now had a safe system of work to part-assemble the pizza ovens before they were moved onto the floor. It now has a full-time health and safety officer.

Lincat pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(1)(b)(i) of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 by not making a sufficient assessment of the risks to employees from manual handling, and to a breach of reg.4(1(b)(iii) of the same Regulations by not informing employees of the weight of the ovens.

It also pleaded guilty to contravening s2(3) of HSWA by not having a proper written health and safety policy. It was fined £3000 on each of the first two charges, and £13,400 on the third. Full costs of £4830 were awarded to the HSE.

“The large fines show that the courts are recognising management failures as the true root cause of accidents like this,” the inspector asserted. “The manual handling incident was merely a symptom of systemic management failure.”

Inspector Ellison concluded: “Employers must ensure that this sort of work is properly planned to take account of health and safety risks, and that employees are made fully aware of the risks associated with manually handling objects. This includes knowing the weight of the load, considering any postural constraints of the lift, and what equipment to use accordingly. These men were unaware that the weight of this product was more than 15 stone.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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