*UPDATE* Three workers succumbed to toxic gas in waste trailer
Monday 27th June 2016
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
As previously reported, on 23 April 2014, William James was tipping carcasses from a compartment in an enclosed animal waste trailer, the end of which was covered with a tarpaulin.
James climbed on to a gantry on the back of the trailer to roll back the tarpaulin with the intention of tipping out a second load, unaware that a pig carcass had become stuck between the compartments. He mounted the trailer and attempted to dislodge the carcass with a shovel.
He was overcome by hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas produced by decomposing animal waste, and a reduced oxygen atmosphere, losing consciousness and collapsing inside the container.
Concerned for James' whereabouts, his colleague Thomas Lawinski climbed the side of the trailer and into the rear compartment. He spotted James on the container floor but began to feel disorientated and went to climb back out. He was overcome by the gases, lost consciousness and fell from the trailer to the ground, a distance of approximately 3.5 m. He sustained bruising, spent five days in hospital and was off work for approximately five weeks.
A third employee responded to Lawinski's initial calls for help. He climbed into the trailer, but he too started to feel dizzy from the gases and tried to climb out of the compartment. While he was descending the built-in steps on the side of the vehicle he began to feel weak and was unable to disembark, so he hung on to the side. The vehicle was driven outside where he was able to recover and climb down. James was eventually pulled from the compartment. He suffered bruising and a head wound that required stitches.
Speaking to IOSH Magazine, HSE inspector David Brassington said: "Experiments conducted on behalf of JPS identified that tipping the animal waste trailer with the tarpaulin covering the waste compartments, gave rise in certain situations, to higher concentrations of toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide being measured. It would appear that in these situations, higher levels of hydrogen sulfide were retained in the trailer during the tipping processes, this included when one compartment had been tipped and the other compartment still contained the animal waste." He added that hydrogen sulfide settles in enclosed spaces.
Stafford Crown Court heard that the incident could have resulted in fatalities and that the company had been prosecuted twice before for deaths involving confined space entry.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which requires suitable and sufficient risk assessments, and Regulation 5(1) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997, which requires emergency rescue provision.
Applying the sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences Judge Michael Chambers described JPS's culpability as medium, the harm level as category A (reflecting the potential for death) and the likelihood harm of medium.
JPS's turnover was less than £50m, putting it in the medium organisation category. The category range for the fine was £100,000 to £600,000 with a £240,000 starting point.
Judge Chambers originally set the penalty at £375,000, but an early guilty plea by JPS meant that a one-third discount was applied, resulting in a £250,000 fine. Costs were set at £37,362.
Following the incident, the company has introduced a documented system of work, which includes maintenance and repair activities, for employees using its waste trailers. JPS has invested in what was described as a "bespoke trailer wash", costing £500,000. This cleaning equipment was identified to the court as a significant improvement, as it avoids the need for workers to enter trailers which have not been cleaned.
Matthew Hoare, a mobile tyre fitter for Watling Tyre Services (read previous story from earlier this month), was sent out alone to repair the puncture on a wheel of a loading shovel at brick maker Hammill Brick in Kent. He was carrying out a plug repair, when the 1.4 m-diameter tyre failed and exploded.
Mold Crown Court heard that, between 4 April 2014 and 28 August 2015, GHA Coaches did not arrange for its lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined within the required timescales. Thorough examinations ensure equipment is safe to operate and allow deterioration to be detected and remedied in good time.
Former Navy SEAL Joshua Brown, 40, died on 7 May after his autonomous car crashed into another vehicle in Williston, Florida. Cameras on the Tesla Model S sedan are believed to have failed to make a distinction between the white side of an articulated lorry and the bright sky. It did not automatically apply the brakes and crashed into the lorry as it turned left at a divided highway intersection.
This latest fatal injury rate is 7% lower than the five-year (2010-11 to 2014-15) average rate of 0.52 per 100,000 workers (155 deaths).These figures indicate that the downward trend of workplace deaths – which has more than halved over the last 20 years – is levelling off, the HSE said.The 2015-16 statistics, which cover the 12 months from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, are provisional and will be finalised in July next year. This means that the figure of 144 could change.
As we reported last month, reach trucks operated in close proximity to workers who were on foot sorting commercial leaflets at the bundling tables. Here, leaflets were weighed, packed together and put into cages which had to be rolled into storage lanes ready for collection by delivery vehicles.
On 20 December 2014, Muhammed Zohaib Yasin was observing another employee carrying out repair work on a Vauxhall Corsa.Yasin was at the front of the car adding antifreeze to the engine, when the mechanic he was working with opened the driver’s door and turned on the ignition. The vehicle shot forward trapping and crushing the 27-year-old.An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the car had no defects but it had been left in gear with the handbrake off.