Jan 28 2014

Another Case Where Unsafe Practices and Electricity Was an Issue

A Leeds firm has been fined for safety failings after a trainee electrical test technician needed several skin grafts after receiving an electric shock while using what the The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) described as unsafe testing equipment.

The Bradford man (22), spent five days in hospital with injuries to his arms and chest after the incident at Wilson Power Solutions Ltd in Westland Square, Beeston, Leeds in February 2013.

Leeds Magistrates heard in January the trainee electrical test technician had to have skin grafts to both hands and has been unable to return to work since.

The HSE investigated and prosecuted Wilson Power Solutions after finding a series of safety failures both in the equipment being used or provided, and in the working practices at the firm.

The Leeds court was told the trainee was testing a transformer but the test equipment had exposed conductors at 415 volts. When he touched a connector he received an electric shock. The HSE found equipment at a safer low voltage could have been used but it was broken.

The HSE also identified he had been working inside a test enclosure where the interlocking mechanism had been defeated so power was not cut off when he entered. In addition emergency stop buttons were broken and unusable. Readers will recall the case of an electrician given a two year suspended prison sentence (Cork Circuit Criminal Court, November 2013) for deliberately looping out  a trip switch on a power washer. The judge putting emphasis on a trip switch being a matter of grave concern, said he would suspend the sentence on condition that he not work as a electrician for five years.

see, http://press.hse.gov.uk/2014/leeds-firm-in-court-after-trainees-electric-shock/


Jun 14 2013

Section 80 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

Section 80 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (hereafter ‘the Act’) is a standalone section of the above act which in itself is a signal by legislators that management must take responsibility where applicable. This runs parallel with the concept of the signed safety policy which states quite clearly, or should do, that management takes the safety of employees quite seriously. Section 80 is worded with great care so as to address any connivance or neglect by managers/directors of a business (private or public sector), of an act that constitutes an offence and that they may be charged/proceeded against along with the undertaking or business concerned.

The onus is on managers/directors to disprove any proceeding against them, otherwise it is presumed that they are guilty of such an offence of negligence for example, hence the need for senior managers and directors to be proactive in addressing safety and health in the workplace, i.e. this is not confined to safety management moreover it applies to those with decision making powers.

Section 2 of the Act, for the purpose of defining directors, encapsulates such persons as those not registered as directors of a business but on a day to day basis, but whose associates in such businesses take such advice and instruction from. Section 2 goes on to say that safety advisers do not become directors by virtue of advice given as the director must act in good faith in that they assess independently in their own minds, the advice given.

RiskA case that comes to mind is that of the case heard in Ennis Circuit Court in 2010. Clare County Council pleaded guilty to four charges (not section 80) of the Act. This case arose from an accident that occurred in May 2006. An employee of Clare County Council suffered serious injuries when a site dumper he was operating overturned. He subsequently died as a result of the injuries. The court heard that there were no protective measures in place to prevent overturning and the deceased was not wearing a seatbelt. Where section 80 comes in is that a Senior Executive Engineer pleaded guilty to two charges, i.e. one related to Section 80 of the Act, and another Regulation as related to Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 (Construction) Regulations 2001. The Council received monetary fines comprising of €50,000 whereas the Senior Executive Engineer received a 12 month suspended sentences (for 2 years).

In essence, the lessons are;

  • Have appropriate and effective safety management systems in place,
  • Perform your duties, you need to know what’s going on,
  • ‘Neglect’ in section 80 (1) is not qualified by the word ‘wilful’, hence it is a stand alone meaning.

*see http://www.hsa.ie/eng/enforcement/Prosecutions_/Prosecutions_2010/#clare 

 

Nothing on this blog is to be construed as legal advice, it is for discussion purposes only.