The HSE were successful last week in prosecuting Sartex Quilts and Textiles Ltd at Manchester Crown Court, following an inspection in October 2011 in which multiple breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 were found. The firm, which employs 80 people at its Rochdale plant, admitted a breach by failing to ensure the safety of its employees. Alongside the fine, the firm was ordered to pay £14,614 in prosecution costs.
At the inspection, three prohibition notices were issued stopping some work immediately, and 12 improvement notices requiring changes to be made following the discovery that dozens of guards were missing or inadequate on machinery. One machine, which was used to compact bales of quilt, had cardboard wrapped around moving machinery parts in a attempt to protect employees from harm.
HSE Inspector Helen Mansfield said following the hearing "The company put production before health and safety and put the lives of its employees in danger as a result. Hundreds of injuries are reported every year across Great Britain caused by poor or missing guards, and its only luck that no one has actually been seriously injured or even killed at Sartex..."
Although the manufacturing industry accounts for only 10% of the British workforce, a quarter of all workplace deaths occurred in the manufacturing industry in 2011/2012. During this period more than 17,000 injuries were reported, and 31 people died.
Although some will see the introduction of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act as a "dumbing down" of the rules that employers currently have to follow to ensure their worker's welfare, I hope that they don't put "profits before safety", and that people can go to work safe in their knowledge that they won't be putting their lives in jeopardy.
By personal injury team member, Pauline Smith