Health & Safety: Why Risk Assessments are essential

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Recycling company sentenced to pay £144,000 after failing to implement safe systems of work

A recycling company has been fined after a worker suffered from a back injury after manually moving gantry steps.

Preston Crown Court heard how on, 10 September 2016, an employee of Suez Recycling and Recovery Limited helped to manually move steps weighting in excess of 950kg at a site in Duckworth Clough, Haslingden, after repair works had taken place. As a result of this work, the employee sustained a back injury.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found manually moving and realigning steps was a regular occurrence and that employees would use a scaffold pole under the steps to move them back into position. Senior staff knew how the steps were moved and that employees had concerns, as it had been reported, yet no suitable assessment had been carried out, or safe system of work implemented, to avoid hazardous handling. No equipment or handling aids had been considered to help employees manoeuvre the gantry steps.

Suez Recycling and Recovery Limited of Grenfell Road, Maidenhead, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety and Work Act 1974 and has been fined £144,000 and ordered to pay costs of £32,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sharon Butler said: “Incorrect manual handling is one of the most common causes of injury at work. Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary equipment, information, instruction and training to their workers. If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”

A spokesperson for Suez said “We have learned from this incident and, although Suez no longer operates the specific site in question, we have reviewed our procedures across the business to ensure similar incidents do not occur elsewhere”.

But what does this mean for your business?

A health and safety risk assessment is an exercise in considering how ill health or accidents could be triggered in a workplace. In doing this you will evaluate how likely something is to happen, and how serious the consequences would be if it did. You then need to decide upon adequate measures to control the risks and to eliminate or mitigate them.

As an employer you have a legal duty to protect your employees, customers and members of the public on your premises; failure to take the right precautions can prove dangerous, causing injuries, permanent health damage, even disability or death. Remember, that unlike HR and employment tribunals, a health and safety breach is a matter for the criminal courts and can carry harsh sentences.

Subscribe to one of our health and safety advice services and you have access to work flow information on how to conduct a risk assessment, up to date relevant documentation to support your procedures as well as an expert adviser available to discuss any issues further. If you’re already a customer, log onto your Knowledge Portal for more information or for any further questions contact the team.


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