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Rochdale firm fined over multiple health and safety warnings

by Redmans Solicitors on June 13, 2013

A Rochdale bedding firm has been heavily fined by the Manchester Crown Court after a health and safety investigation found that a number of the machines in its factory were not safe to use.

Sartex Quilts and Textiles Ltd was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) last year on 27 and 28 October 2012 in a routine investigation. The HSE found that there were dozens of guards missing from machines and that a number of the guards that were there were simply not fit for purpose. The inspectors also found that one machine – which contained dangerous moving parts – had been wrapped in cardboard to prevent workers having access to these parts – a fact which was condemned as “inadequate” by the Health and Safety Executive.

The HSE investigation resulted in a recommendation that the company be prosecuted for a breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 – that the company had failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees.

The health and safety failings were doubly serious for Sartex Quilts as they could also have been exposing themselves to a claim for personal injury from any worker that was potentially injured.

The case came before the Manchester Crown Court on 12 June 2013. The court heard that the HSE had issue three Prohibition Notices – which order that some work must be stopped immediately – and twelve Improvement Notices which ordered that certain changes be made to equipment or working practices.

The Manchester Crown Court found the company guilty of the a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after the company admitted such. The court fined the company a total of £50,000 and ordered it to pay £14,614 towards the costs of the prosecution.

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case that “judging by the comments of the HSE inspector in this case, this was a particularly serious breach of health and safety laws. Thankfully no-one was hurt but things could have turned out very differently if there had been an accident at work because of a lack of the necessary guards.

An HSE inspector, Ms Helen Mansfield, gave the following statement after the case: “This was one of the worst cases of missing or inadequate guards I or my colleagues have ever seen. Every corner we turned, we found another issue. The company put production before health and safety and put the lives of its employees in danger as a result. Common sense should have meant they didn’t use cardboard to cover dangerous moving parts, but that’s exactly what we found on one machine”.

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