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August 16, 2013

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Hazardous-dyes firm stopped health surveillance after buy-out

A textile company from Suffolk has been fined for serious safety failings after an employee suffered three years of ill health and was left disabled following exposure to chemicals and dyes.

Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company Ltd, based in Sudbury, was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on 14 August after the HSE uncovered several safety offences.

The court heard that the 57-year-old worker, who was employed as the firm’s dye-house manager from 1993 up until being dismissed last year, and who doesn’t wish to be named, had been suffering from breathing difficulties since 2008. He had been hospitalised on a couple of occasions as a result.

The man found that his symptoms improved markedly after he left the firm and stopped working with the chemicals and dyes.

The HSE found that the company had failed to assess the health risks that arise from working with hazardous reactive dyes. In 2004, following a management buy-out, a health-surveillance programme was stopped which, had it been operating, could have helped prevent his ill health.

The firm also failed to provide staff with adequate training, or equipment to safeguard their health when working with substances. A lack of suitable ventilation for weighing and mixing the dyes contributed to the employer’s respiratory problems.

In addition, the HSE found that the company had failed to provide health surveillance for exposure to noise after 2007.

Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching regs.6(1), 7, 11 and 12 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and reg.9(1) of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. The penalty was £20,000, with £10,000 in costs to be paid over three years.

Following the hearing, HSE inspector Martin Kneebone said: “Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company fell well short of its responsibilities over a protracted time period. It neglected to assess the very real risks involved and take the measures necessary to minimise those risks.”

The firm has since reinstated the health-surveillance programme.

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10 years ago

If the management team have sufficient money to buy out the company, why the low fine being paid at only £10,000 a year.

This seems a case where cuts have been made to bolster profits.