How well are your maintenance activities risk assessed? We audit many businesses that carry out either in-house or contracted maintenance and find the risk assessments are often poorly covered or are not in place for all activities undertaken. When the maintenance managers are challenged the response is usually that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to expect to risk assess all maintenance activities; try telling that to a judge!
An example of this can be seen by a recent prosecution where a chemical company in East Yorkshire has been prosecuted after an employee lost the ends of three fingers in an unguarded part of a machine collecting calcium oxide dust.
The 51-year-old worker was attempting to adjust a bag that was capturing the chemical dust below a collection unit when his left hand slipped and came into contact with a shear point created by a rotating valve. The moving part severed the tips of his first, second and third fingers to the first joint. He has since recovered and been able to return to work.
The court was told that ductwork under the rotary valve had been dismantled so the fine oxide could be collected in bags underneath, which was an unusual method. The necks of the bags were placed under the valve but did not fit properly. When the worker noticed a build-up of powder on the outside of a bag, he had tried to adjust the fit and his hand caught the valve.
HSE’s investigation identified that Omya UK Ltd had totally failed to assess the risks involved with running the machine without the ductwork in place and so had also failed to make sure the dangerous parts were properly guarded.
Omya UK Ltd, Humber Plant, East Yorkshire, was fined a total of £28,000 and ordered to pay £1,813 in costs after admitting breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, and a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
This shows that just because a task is not routine that the risk should not be considered before the work commences; given that businesses have known they need to complete risk assessments since 1992 how can there be any defence!