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CONSULTANT PROSECUTED FOR NOT SPOTTING DEFECTS

Client and health and safety adviser both fined over lack of safeguards

Porvair Filtration Group Ltd and health safety consultant John Whiffin have been prosecuted for safety failings after two workers were injured in similar incidents just weeks apart, when the ends of their fingers were sheared off while operating inadequately guarded guillotine machines in April and May 2011.

The incidents were investigated by HSE which prohibited work on three guillotines and required the firm to access competent health and safety advice.

Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court heard (26 Oct) that external safety adviser, John Whiffin, produced risk assessments for the firm concluding that safety guards on the treadle-operated guillotines were acceptable. HSE found one guillotine was unguarded at the rear of the machine and the other was not properly guarded at the front or rear.

Mr Whiffin had prepared risk assessments for both machines in July 2010 and advised the firm that safety guards were present and acceptable.

Consultant should been familiar with machines and correctly identified risks

Porvair Filtration Group Ltd, of Fareham, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Regulation 11 (access to dangerous parts of machinery) for failing to take effective measures to prevent employees coming into contact with dangerous moving machine parts. The company was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay £20,358 in costs.

John Whiffin, of Eastleigh, admitted two charges under the same Regulations in that Porvair’s offences were due in part by his actions or default. He was fined a total of £700 with £4,000 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Joanna Woodcock, said:

“Standards for guarding non-powered treadle guillotines have been around for more than 35 years. Had the company guarded these machines properly, neither of its employees would have been injured.

Similarly advice on writing risk assessments is readily available and this process should have identified the inadequacy of the machines’ guarding. Had Mr Whiffin been familiar with these machines and correctly identified the risks, the incident could have been avoided.

It is important that companies ensure machines are guarded to a good standard and that any health and safety advice they need is provided by someone with the relevant competence, experience and expertise.”

The OSHCR (Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register), backed by HSE, provides an up-to-date list of health and safety advisers who have a qualification recognised by the professional bodies participating in the scheme.

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