Risk assessments can seem to be an endless task but if you fail to have them in place there can be serious consequences.
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure all staff are aware of and understand the risks associated with their work as well as the environment they work in. A failure to do this can result in large fines and opens up the possibility of accidents in the work place.
Hull based engineering company, Redhall Engineering Services, failed to have the correct risk assessments in place for the decommissioning of gas cylinders and a lack of training led to two employees being seriously injured.
An employee was asked to dispose of several gas cylinders, that had previously contained oxygen. They were left outside with the main valves open to allow any remaining gas to escape. However, one of the valves became stuck and due to limited health and safety training two employees attempted striking the cylinder with a hammer in order to reopen the valve. This resulted in the cannister being propelled into the main workshop and injuring two other workers.
If the employees had received the correct training, they would have known that the cannister needed to be capped when not connected to a main supply as a sudden release of compressed gas can turn it into a lethal projectile, which is unfortunately what happened in this case.
The individuals who were struck by the cannister suffered serious injuries and spent several weeks in hospital following the incident. One broke major bones in both his right and left leg and the other suffered a broken leg as well as damage to nerves and muscle tissue. Even after multiple operations one of the two still hasn’t been able to return to work.
The company were prosecuted by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was found to have no procedures in place for the decommissioning of gas canisters or to have completed satisfactory risk assessments to help identify the dangers to staff and as a result received a £14,000 fine.
We believe the incident highlights the importance of conducting a full health and safety audit of your business to ensure both you and your staff are aware of the risks posed to them. If these checks aren’t carried out your business and employees could be at serious risk.