HSE Prosecutions Update

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Yorkshire Council has been prosecuted after a pupil needed a finger amputated after it got tangled in a lathe during a design and technology lesson at school. 

The pupil was using a polishing cloth by hand on a work piece as it rotated on a manual metal lathe. His hand became entangled around the work piece and severed part of his finger. After an unsuccessful operation to reattach the finger, the pupil needed to undergo surgery to amputate the finger as well as physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions. 

The HSE investigated the incident and brought the prosecution after finding the Council had failed to identify that the practice of hand-polishing on metal lathes was unsafe despite it being used for years at the school. The Council’s assessment of potential risks of using of the lathes had failed to consider all the tasks undertaken on the machine and so had not identified the unsafe system being used by pupils. As such, pupils were routinely put at risk of injury.

Incidents like this can be prevented by following the HSE guidelines outlined below:
  • Carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of potential risks involved with the lathe, considering all the tasks which are undertaken on the machine
  • Alternative machines or tools can easily be used to carry out polishing of work pieces, significantly reducing the risk of entanglement. If the finish being sought is cosmetic, the component may be held in one hand and polished by emery cloth held in the other. Alternatively a linishing belt or machine may be used. A sizing operation can be successfully performed either by turning or by further operations in a dedicated polishing, linishing or grinding machine
  • If the required tolerance is only achievable by the use of emery cloth against a rotating component, then the emery cloth should be applied using either: backing board of good quality wood; a tool post onto which the emery cloth may be placed. Alternatively, a ‘nutcracker’ can be used consisting of two backing boards which are lined with emery cloth and joined at one end and shaped so that they may encompass the surface to be linished or a hand-held, abrasive-impregnated wire brush.
Roofing Contractors 

A Yorkshire roofing firm and its Director have been prosecuted after a brick-layer fell to his death though a fragile roof-light while refurbishing the flat roof of a school.

The framework contractor for the Yorkshire Council and one of its Directors had engaged the employee to carry out necessary brickwork on the roof, as part of a scheme to add insulation and re-felt it. He had been kneeling on the roof working when the incident happened. When he stood up he fell backwards through a roof-light and into the toilet two metres below. He died later on in hospital from his injuries.The Court heard that a HSE investigation found the Company had prepared a construction phase plan which stated that before work was carried out, the plastic domes of all roof-lights needed to be removed and the apertures boarded over to prevent falls, but when roofers accessed the roof it was found that the domes could not be easily removed.

The court also heard the Company’s Director visited the site on the first day to check it had been set up correctly, and the difficulties with removing the roof-lights were discussed with the workforce. It was decided that works could progress without any covering of the roof-lights.This death was entirely preventable. The risks of falling through fragile materials are well known in industry and yet they remain an all-too-common occurrence.

Incidents like this underline the importance of managing contractors; 
  • Ensure a suitable Managing Contractors policy is in place and enforced in your school 
  • Suitable and sufficient risk assessments must be in place for all work at height and work near fragile roof surfaces 
  • Control measures must be strictly adhered to at all times. Control measures are often simple and cheap to install and companies must ensure they are put in place before workers are put at risk. For example, ensure all fragile materials 2m or closer to people who may be at risk are securely covered and a warning notice in place. Alternatively, provide continuous physical barriers with warning notices around or along the fragile material to prevent access to it

Two Scottish councils were fined after an incident in which a child was found at the bottom of a local swimming pool during an educational excursion. 
The court was told that the party of 23 pupils, the teacher and a teaching assistant arrived on the day of the excursion but no formal booking had been made. However, the pupils were allowed to swim in the pool which water depth ranges from 0.8 metres to 2.2 metres at the deep end.
During the visit the pupil became submerged under water and was recovered unconscious from the bottom of the pool by a member of the public.
The alarm was raised and lifeguards were alerted. CPR was successfully administered by lifeguards and the pupil has since made a full recovery.
The HSE investigation found issues with staffing levels and lifeguard positioning at the pool, and the effective management of educational excursions at the school. 
Incidents such as this can easily be prevented:
  • Those organising and approving educational visits (i.e. P.E. department, EVC etc.) must ensure that suitable and sufficient risk assessments are in place and that steps are taken to reduce identified risks
  • These proceedings should not deter those who organise or participate in such activities. Managed properly, swimming pools provide a safe place for fun and exercise.

"A fresh approach to school improvement which celebrates success and provides practical improvement steps for any school, at any stage of its journey. I have experienced outstanding professional development in three schools from the Judicium School Improvement team. Recent Ofsted judgements reflect this positive support.” Yvonne Brown, Headteacher, Tyldesley and Head of Teaching Schools North West

Sign up to our newsletter