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HSE criticises factory for putting profit above safety

Health & Safety
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A manufacturing company has been fined £18,000 for health and safety failings at its factory in Uxbridge.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that skip manufacturer Skyways Shopfitters Ltd received nine Improvement Notices and a Prohibition Notice for safety failings at its premises between September 2010 and March 2011.  

Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Saif Deen told the court that the HSE had been carrying out a programme to examine various designs of skips, when it identified a fault with some of the units created by Skyways Shopfitters. The inspector visited the firm’s factory in September 2010 and found a number of safety failings.  

During the visit Deen discovered the organisation did not have examination certificates for lifting equipment at the factory, which meant the equipment had not been inspected/ or tested. He also discovered that staff were operating forklift trucks and mobile cranes without any training. Improvement Notices were issued for both failings.  

Deen subsequently visited the factory on three separate occasions and during each visit discovered other safety breaches, including flammable substances being stored outside, rather than inside a fire-resistant unit, inadequate systems to ventilate harmful gases, which were created on the production line, and staff not issued with adequate respiratory protection. Other dangers included an unguarded saw, and the factory’s electric wiring was in such a bad condition that workers were at risk of coming into contact with exposed electrical wires.  

The HSE’s final visit took place in March 2011, when he found the company had only taken enough action to be minimally compliant with each of the notices, and had not addressed all the hazards identified. The HSE said they believed Skyways Shopfitters had prioritised profit over the safety of its employees and, as a result, the HSE decided to bring charges against the company. 

“Employers have a duty to protect their workers,” said Deen. “This company carried out several high-risk activities, such as lifting operations, paint spraying and storing flammable liquids, with an almost total disregard for health and safety.”  

“The seriousness of these breaches was reflected in the number of enforcement notices that were issued. HSE will not hesitate to take action against employers who shirk their responsibilities in this way.” 

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and has subsequently complied with all the enforcement notices by heavily investing in remedial work. It has also appointed a consultant to manage health and safety at the factory.  

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