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November 30, 2009

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HPA to face prosecution over E.coli spill

The Health and Safety Executive is prosecuting a leading public-health

advisory body, headed up by the regulator’s former deputy chief

executive, over a health and safety breach.

The Health Protection Agency, whose chief executive Justin McCracken joined from the HSE last year, has been charged with breaching s2 of the HSWA 1974. It follows an incident in October 2007 at the Centre for Infections in Colindale, north London, the Agency’s base for communicable-disease surveillance and specialist microbiology.

The incident exposed three workers to the risk of infection from E.coli O157, after some material contaminated with the bacteria was spilt on the floor at the centre’s waste-discard facility during the disposal process. None of the employees fell ill as a result of the spill.

E.coli is a species of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. The O157 strain can infect humans when they consume food or water that has become contaminated by faeces from infected animals.

An initial court hearing has been set for 5 February 2010 at the City of London Magistrates’ Court.

Meanwhile, an executive environmental protection agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has accepted a Crown Censure for health and safety breaches.
In the same month as the HPA incident, the HSE carried out investigations at a laboratory of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Inspectors identified failings in the assessment and control of substances hazardous to health for known carcinogenic substances, including a failure to maintain control measures.
It was also found that Cefas had failed to provide sufficient health surveillance between 2005 and 2006.
These failings breached regulations 6, 7(5)(c), 9 and 11 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. A Crown Censure — the equivalent of a prosecution for a government body — was accepted on the basis that, while the investigation identified failings in the management and control of hazardous substances, there was no evidence of harm to any employee, or of a defined, identified risk.
HSE inspector Steven Gill said: “This case highlights the need for employers to properly manage hazardous substances and the need to protect the workforce through assessment, control and appropriate health surveillance for these substances. This applies to government agencies like Cefas as much as it does to any other employer.”

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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