Week Commencing 16/10/2023 – In The News

Northwich furniture company fined over multiple wood dust failures

A Northwich furniture company has been fined £16,000 after it repeatedly failed to protect its employees from exposure to wood dust.

Pineland Furniture Ltd, based on Witton Street in the Cheshire town, was inspected by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on two separate occasions over a two-year period – with both identifying identical breaches.

Nathan Cook, HSE senior enforcement lawyer, told Chester Magistrates Court, how a visit in December 2019 found significant breaches of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) – resulting in six improvement notices being served. These included requirements for the company to undertake statutory examinations of its wood dust extraction systems and to undertake face fit testing for those employees required to wear tight fitting face masks.

However, another visit to the same premises in November 2021 found identical breaches and again improvement notices were served.

This inspection came as part of HSE’s national campaign targeting woodworking businesses. The significant occupational health risks associated with wood dust and the continued failure to ensure control of exposure to wood dust resulted in HSE prosecuting the company.

Read more on the HSE website.

Two-thirds of workers won’t disclose neurodiversity to bosses

Businesses must do more to create a culture where employees feel they can openly disclose they are neurodiverse, according to IOSH.

It comes as survey results reveal that more than two-thirds of neurodiverse workers haven’t told their current employer about their condition. Meanwhile less than a third said they would declare it on a job application.

Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Policy at IOSH, the global membership body for health and safety professionals, said it is “unacceptable” that people don’t feel able to comfortably discuss their conditions at work.

She said: “The results of our survey are incredibly concerning. Though we don’t know the root causes, the headline data shows people feel they have to keep their neurodiverse conditions hidden.”

It is estimated that as many as one in seven people are neurodiverse, with conditions including ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia.

October features a number of awareness initiatives around neurodiversity. Dyslexia Awareness Week took from 2-8 October and Dyspraxia Awareness Week was 9-15 October. Meanwhile ADHD Awareness Month takes place throughout the whole of October.

IOSH ran two polls on LinkedIn to gauge whether people are comfortable discussing their neurodiverse conditions at work. It found that 70 per cent hadn’t told their employer about their condition. Seventy-two per cent said they would either not declare it on a job application or were unsure if they would do so.

For more on the survey, visit the IOSH website.

Construction Company fined after serious injury to 16-year-old on work experience

A 16-year-old boy suffered serious injuries after becoming trapped under a tractor while on paid work experience.

Tom Cutler was gaining experience of vehicle repair work at Earlcoate Construction & Plant Hire Limited, Folds Farm, in the New Forest, ahead of hopefully starting a vehicle maintenance course at Sparsholt College.

On August 3, 2021, the teenager from the New Forest was driving a tractor down an incline when it came off the track and overturned.  He was alone and the tractor did not have a seat belt fitted.  Tom was thrown out of his seat and his upper leg was trapped under the roof of the tractor – fortunately he was found in time by passers-by who were able to call for assistance. Emergency services attended and he was taken to hospital for treatment.

Tom’s dad, David Cutler, said: “Tom was only 16 when this incident happened, and it’s changed his life forever.

“Had it not been for his own bravery and the amazing work by the emergency services we could have lost him.

“Tom acted quickly and used his belt as a tourniquet to stem bleeding; he punched out the cab window to check his leg and managed to break off a wing mirror to enable him to turn off the tractor and prevent a fire from fuel that was escaping.

“He spent a month in hospital and has undergone seven different operations but can’t do the things he used to do. He was a keen mountain biker and cricket player but that has all stopped.

“He doesn’t sleep properly and is more anxious; he had to put his education on hold for a year and we as a whole family have found it extremely tough.”

Read more about the incident on the HSE website.

Welsh Water admits illegally spilling sewage for years

Welsh Water has admitted illegally spilling untreated sewage at dozens of treatment plants for years.

The admission came after the BBC presented the water company with analysis of its own data.

One of their worst performing plants is in Cardigan in west Wales.

The company has been spilling untreated sewage there into an environmentally protected area near a rare dolphin habitat for at least a decade.

Welsh Water says it is working to tackle the problems and does not dispute the analysis, which was shared with BBC News by mathematician and former University College London professor Peter Hammond from campaign group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP).

Most of the UK has a combined sewerage system, meaning that both rainwater and wastewater – from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens – are carried in the same pipes. Usually, all the waste is carried to a sewage treatment works.

During heavy rain, to prevent a plant becoming overwhelmed, it is allowed to discharge untreated sewage. But releasing any before a plant reaches the overflow level stipulated on its permit is an illegal breach.

Learn more on the BBC website.

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