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May 26, 2004

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Lack of protective footwear led to concrete burns

LACK OF care and failure to reduce manual handling risks landed a Sunderland manufacturing firm with fines totalling £2000 after an employee was burned by concrete at its premises.



Sunderland magistrates were told on 20 April that in June 2002, David Miller, an employee of Willowcrete Manufacturing, had been called in to help lay a new floor in one of the company’s welding shops. Mr Miller had been standing in concrete levelling off the floor. As a result he sustained severe burns, which caused ulcerations around the top of his right ankle, necessitating several weeks off work.


“He was just too deep in the concrete,” Michael Bone, the HSE inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case, told SHP. “The company had not ensured he was wearing suitable footwear.”


The court heard that Willowcrete had employed contracted labour to lay the new floor. On the day when the concrete was due to be delivered, too many vehicles carrying the concrete turned up at the same time. The contractors needed help and Mr Miller was brought in to give them a hand.

Willowcrete pleaded guilty to three health and safety breaches under:

• reg.7 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 1999 for not preventing exposure to materials hazardous to health;

• reg.4(1)(b)(i) of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 for not carrying out an assessment of manual handling operations; and

• reg.4(1)(b)(ii) of the same Regulations for failing to reduce the risk of injury associated with manual handling.


The company was fined £1000 under the first charge and £500 for each of the two manual handling breaches.

“Although there was no actual incident involving manual handling, we still brought the manual handling charges because the situation was so bad,” said Bone.


The HSE had previously issued improvement and prohibition notices on the company after visiting the site with ergonomists. Weights in excess of 220kg were habitually being lifted by workers without any mechanical aid.

Willowcrete said in mitigation that the contracting company should have provided sufficient labour so that the use of Willowcrete employees would not have been necessary. It said it had no history of back complaints or injuries from manual handling. It has now installed roller tables, which have reduced the amount of manual handling and provided training for employees.


Inspector Bone commented: “This company should have been aware of the risks associated with wet concrete. . . It was the responsibility of the management to ensure that employees were provided with suitable boots and overalls to prevent them from coming into contact with the wet cement.


“The weights of products, some in excess of 200kg, were some of the heaviest I have ever seen being lifted without the use of mechanical lifting aids. A manual handling assessment was clearly necessary, as the risks from lifting such weights should have been obvious.”


The company was ordered to pay the HSE’s full costs of £2210.

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