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WOOD DUST AND ISOCYANTE PRODUCT CAUSED HEALTH RISK

Decking business prosecuted after failing to act on ill-health incident

Millbrook Furnishing Industries Limited, based in Southampton, has been ordered to pay over £50,000 in fines and prosecution costs after failing to control the risks of exposure to wood dust and adhesives.

The company was prosecuted for failing to control or assess substances which are known to cause ill health and severe allergic reactions between August 2006 and April 2008. The firm build hot tub deckings using Western Red Cedar wood, bonded with isocyanate-based glue.

Southampton Crown Court heard how HSE investigated after an employee suffered anaphylactic shock in February 2007 and reported the incident to HSE months later. The 45-year-old worker was taken to hospital with severe breathing difficulties after using an adhesive and being exposed to wood dust while sanding frames.

Millbrook failed to investigate the cause of the employee’s ill-health and continued to use the same materials without first assessing the risk and taking the necessary preventative measures.

The company failed to identify materials likely to cause allergic reactions and provided no health surveillance. The local exhaust ventilation was inadequate to control exposure to the harmful wood dust and glue vapours. Protective face masks were provided on the site, however these were not always worn.

The work continued to place employees at risk until HSE was approached in October 2007 and enforcement notices were then served. See video showing on-gun extraction fitted prior to incident which was not working effectively.

Properly planned and effective safe system were needed

Millbrook Furnishing Industries Limited of Nutsey Lane, Calmore Industrial Estate, Totton, Southampton, pleaded guilty to breaching to section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined a total of £27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000

HSE Inspector Dennis MacWilliam said:

Joint being prepared for gluing and later sanding which gave rise to dust etc

“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.

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.”

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