Fines

Dust Exposure Fines: 4 Recent Examples

Dust inhalation in the workplace poses a serious risk not only to employee health and safety, but also to the business premises in the case of combustible dusts.

Failure by bosses to control harmful dust can sentence employees to incurable lung diseases and may even cause fatalities, so it’s just not worth taking any chances.

Fines

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The Health and Safety Executive manages the workplace rules in the UK under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Despite repeated warnings that companies must adhere to the law, sadly there are still serious breaches.

Companies who fail to manage dust control effectively by using a high quality dust extraction system can be subject to large HSE fines for breaking the law.

Recent fines issued to companies in the past six months could maybe serve as a warning to other businesses to adhere to the legislation?

 

Stables manufacturer fined £15,000

Timber stables manufacturer Billy Davidson NV Stables Limited, of Wingate, Durham, has been fined £15,000 by the HSE for exposing its workforce to wood dust and for non-compliance with improvement notices.

Inspectors from the HSE visited the premises on 17th June 2022 and consequently served notices on the firm. One was for failure to control employee exposure to wood dust caused by a circular table saw and the second was a requirement to examine the local exhaust ventilation system of a chop saw.

However, on 24th January 2024, at a hearing at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court, the manufacturer was fined £15,000, with additional costs of £4,500, after failing to act on the HSE notices.

The court heard that on 12th January 2023, when the inspectors returned to the premises, the circular saw was still in use. The company also failed to provide evidence that the chop saw, and LEV had been examined to ensure the LEV was controlling the wood dust exposure adequately.

The stables manufacturer was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the COSHH Regulations 2002.

 

Woodwork company fined £40,000

Woodwork company Turners and Moore Limited, of Hurricane Way, Norwich, was fined £40,000 for exposing employees to hazardous wood dust. The company director, John Risby, 33, was also given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, when he appeared before Norwich Magistrates’ Court in January 2024.

Wood dust is known to cause significant and potentially life-changing health issues, including asthma and cancer. Employers are legally obligated to provide an adequate dust extraction system to protect employee health.

An HSE inspection in November 2017 identified failings in the company’s efforts to control employee exposure to the dust. After taking enforcement action, in August 2022, a further inspection revealed the company hadn’t maintained standards.

Enforcement action was taken a second time and consequently, Turners and Moore Limited was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Risby was also ordered to pay costs of £1,100 for a breach of Section 37 of the Act.

HSE inspector Natalie Prince commented after the hearing that the outcome sent a “strong message out” to everyone responsible for protecting employees.

 

Furniture manufacturer fined £16,000

Pineland Furniture Ltd, of Witton Street, Northwich, has been fined £16,000 for multiple wood dust failings. HSE inspectors visited the town centre site twice over a two-year period and identified identical breaches on each occasion.

Appearing at Chester Magistrates’ Court on 11th October 2023, Pineland Furniture Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching COSHH regulations. As well as the £16,000 fine, the company must pay £3,008 costs.

The court heard that an HSE inspection in December 2019 discovered “significant breaches” of the COSHH regulations. This resulted in the HSE serving six improvement notices.

The company was required by law to examine its wood dust extraction systems and must complete face-fit testing of employees wearing tight-fitting face masks.

The HSE visited the premises again in November 2023 and discovered identical breaches had occurred. Inspectors served further improvement notices as part of the HSE’s ongoing safety campaign to target woodworking companies.

A continued failure to address the control of employee exposure to wood dust led to the prosecution.

 

Joinery company fined £25,000

The Joinery Yard Limited, a woodworking business on Sweet Briar Road industrial estate in Norwich, was fined £25,000 at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on 4th October 2023 for failure to control employee exposure to wood dust.

HSE inspectors had visited the premises in November 2019, identifying a failure to protect the workers from wood dust, which could cause serious health effects, such as occupational asthma.

Enforcement action was taken, but a further inspection in July 2022 revealed the company had not maintained standards. The HSE took further enforcement action after finding “ongoing failings” in the Joinery Yard’s dust control measures.

The company pleaded guilty to breaking the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and bosses also had to pay costs of £2,681.

 

Dust Kills: Wood Dust campaign

All the hefty dust fines were imposed as part of the HSE’s Dust Kills: Wood Dust campaign, which was launched nationwide to encourage companies in the woodworking sector to adhere to health and safety laws.

The campaign is still ongoing and HSE inspector Natalie Prince has pledged that they will “not hesitate to take action” against errant companies who fail to protect their employees.

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