HSE reminds employers of their legal duties to employees engaged in manual handl

Tuesday, 5th Feb '08 at 09:58

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is reminding companies of their legal duties relating to manual handling after an employee was injured when a 50kg sack of basmati rice fell on his neck.

East End Foods plc, on 22nd January 2008, pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of employees under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. East End Foods plc was fined £25,000 with £28,000 costs.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that during the course of an investigation in June 2006, into an incident where an employee had been injured by a 50kg sack of rice falling onto the back of his neck, it transpired that large consignments of 50kg sacks of basmati rice were routinely being manually offloaded from containers without the use of any mechanical aids.

Access to containers and retrieval of initial sacks of rice was also being carried out by employees being raised and lowered on a pallet placed on the forks of a forklift truck. The company had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for this activity, nor taken appropriate steps to reduce the risk to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable. HSE had issued an Improvement Notice in December 2002 on East End Foods plc in relation to not carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for manually unloading 45kg sacks from containers, which involves risk of injury, principally back injury, from repeated lifting.

The HSE investigation into the incident highlighted ongoing activities that posed a high risk of musculoskeletal injury to employees, and that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had not been carried out. In a typical six-month period, from January 2006 to June 2006, 1,700 tonnes or rice had been delivered that required manually offloading; therefore this was not an isolated incident. East End Foods plc had failed to heed advice given by both the HSE in 2002 and the company’s own health and safety consultant in 2005.

Speaking after the case, HSE’s inspector Judith Lloyd said:
“It is important that employers are aware of their legal duties to take reasonable care of the health and safety of employees. In the food and drink industry, 30 per cent of all acute injuries result from bad practice in manual handling.

“Stacking and de-stacking sacks, boxes and crates are amongst the top five causes of manual handling injuries in the food and drink industry. Studies have shown that three quarters of these injuries are preventable – that’s why the HSE is vigilant in ensuring employers follow the rules and regulations set out for their industry.”

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