Company in Court over Wood Dust
Millbrook Furnishings Limited was fined £27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000 at Southampton Crown Court, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states that every employer must ensure, "so far as is reasonably practicable," the health, safety and welfare of all his employees.
Between 2006 and 2008, Millbrook Industries Limited failed control workers' exposure to adhesives and wood dust at its plant in Totton. According to the Health and Safety Executive, the firm, which constructs deckings for hot tubs, used an isocyanate-based glue to bond Red Cedar wood.
In February 2007, a 45-year-old employee suffered anaphylactic shock after sanding wooden frames at the Totton plant. The worker was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties shortly after using the isocyanate adhesive. Despite the worker's sudden and serious health condition, Millbrook Industries Limited chose not to investigate the cause of the illness. Instead, the firm continued its operations as if nothing had happened.
Personal injury claims are often brought against firms in the manufacturing industry, with many such accident at work claims involving incidents with defective or dangerous machinery. In the present case, workers were exposed to unnecessary harm because their employer failed to adequately assess the risks associated with isocyanate-based adhesives. Ventilation at the plant was said to be inadequate and face masks were not always worn by workers.
Speaking after the court hearing, Dennis MacWilliam, an inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, said: "In this case, a lack of understanding regarding the hazards associated with adhesives and wood dust, plus a clear failure to control exposure, meant Millbrook Industries failed in it duty to its employees.
"Not conducting a risk assessment meant the firm did not identify which employees were exposed to these substances and in turn employees were not told about the risks of working with such substances."
Mr MacWilliam continued: "Staff had access to overalls, gloves and masks on site, but unbelievably there was no training, guidance or rules provided regarding their use. Work of this nature must be properly planned and an effective and safe system needs to be in place to protect workers when exposing them to isocyanates and wood dust. Had this been done then employees' health would not have been put at risk."