Two recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutions – both involving injuries suffered by agency workers – have illustrated the need to ensure that temporary and contract workers receive the same level of workplace training as permanent employees.
In the first case, bread makers, Warburtons Ltd were fined almost £2 million after a worker suffered an injury to his arm when it became trapped in a running conveyor belt.
Nottingham Crown Court heard how the agency worker had been cleaning parts of the bread line at the time and the incident left him with severe friction burns which required skin grafts.
Following an investigation by the HSE, it was discovered that the accident could have been avoided if the machine had been fitted with localised guarding to prevent access between the conveyors.
Warburtons Ltd pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches and were fined £1.9 million plus costs of more than £21,000.
Speaking after the case HSE inspector Edward Walker said: “Employers should ensure that all equipment used by agency and their own workers alike are sufficiently guarded and take appropriate measures if any deficiencies are found.”
In a second prosecution, a Yorkshire engineering firm was also fined for safety failings after an agency worker suffered injuries to his hand.
Sheffield Magistrates were told how a worker, who was only on his fourth day with Hallamshire Engineering Service Ltd when the incident happened, had been polishing a metal shaft on a lathe using emery cloth while wearing gloves.
The glove appeared to snag and dragged his hand towards the rotating shaft, causing him to suffer a dislocated wrist and a wound to his hand which required stitches.
A HSE investigation found that insufficient assessments had been carried out to determine control measures for polishing. There were no clear guidelines for employees and others, such as agency workers, on safe ways to polish.
Hallamshire Engineering Service Ltd pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches and were fined £5,000 with costs of more than £2,700.
Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor and health and safety legal expert with Palmers said: “Both of the incidents appear to show that there were insufficient measures in place to ensure safe working.
“Agency and temporary workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace accidents if insufficient time has been set aside to ensure they receive comprehensive training.
“The cases serve as important reminders to ensure that all employees are provided with guidance on safe methods of working. Such guidance, in tandem with a comprehensive risk assessment, should be documented and provided to all employees, including and new or agency workers.”
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