Health and safety officials stage 70 surprise inspections in Sheffield and Rotherham due to 'alarming' number of serious and fatal incidents

Health and safety inspectors are conducting more than 70 surprise visits to businesses in Sheffield and Rotherham due to an ‘alarming’ number of serious and fatal incidents.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 5:11 pm

The Health and Safety Executive says three workers died and 594 were injured in the year 2020-2021. In total, there were 12 fatalities in the five years to 2021.

Officers are targeting firms performing poorly or in high risk sectors. Those in breach could be hit with enforcement action or prosecution.

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The operation is focusing on firms where workers regularly undertake welding and use ‘metalworking fluids’ - oils and fluids for lubrication and cooling - which can be harmful on skin or when inhaled as a ‘mist’.

WHICH FIRMS ARE BEING TARGETED?

The operation - which lasts all week - is focusing on companies where workers do welding and use ‘metalworking fluids’ - oils and liquids for lubrication and cooling - which can be harmful on skin or when inhaled as a ‘mist’.

Scientific evidence suggests exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and exposure to metalworking fluids can cause lung diseases, the HSE says.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES OCCUPATIONAL LUNG DISEASE KILL EACH YEAR?

In 2020, some 12,000 people in the UK died from lung diseases likely to be linked to past exposure from work.

Andrew Denison, acting head of operations, said: “This part of South Yorkshire has a fine tradition in metal fabrication and manufacturing, we just need to ensure that the innovation continues to extend to safe working practice.

“It is estimated that each year 12,000 workers die in Britain from occupational lung disease and 17,000 new cases report suffering work-related breathing and lung problems."

“Local inspectors have witnessed an alarming rise in the number of fatalities and injuries in the Sheffield and Rotherham area in the last five years.

“This initiative will ensure that inspectors are able to visit sites and speak with duty holders to ensure the appropriate controls are in place to protect their workers’ health and safety, particularly in relation to the risks from occupational lung disease.”

WHAT POWERS DO HEALTH AND SAFETY INSPECTORS HAVE?

During visits the companies will need to demonstrate that they have measures to manage risks to protect the health and well-being of their workers including conditions such as occupational lung disease, he added.

The operation covers sectors including metal fabrication, engineering, general manufacturing, waste and recycling.

Mr Denison said: “If an HSE inspector identifies any other areas of concern during an inspection, they will take the necessary enforcement action, which in some cases may lead to an enforcement notice being served or, in the case of serious breaches, a prosecution.”

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