SAFETY failures at a Lymington engineering firm which caused a young female apprentice to suffer skin problems have been punished with a £20,000 fine.
Three employees complained of being exposed to the substance while working on equipment such as lathes and milling machines at the firm’s Marsh Lane base, it was said in court.
Known as metal working fluid (MWF), it is classed as hazardous to health and exposure can lead to dermatitis and asthma, with serious, life-changing health effects.
Handing down a judgement in court, district judge Peter Greenfield explained the Marsh Lane firm trialled the MWF – which was used in a 7-10% diluted form – between September and November 2016 before using it in the workshop.
Just under 100 employees came into contact with it in this form, he said. In December 2018 a young female apprentice complained of experiencing skin problems, including dermatitis.
She pointed out the protective overall supplied by LPE was far too big, and two other employees also complained of suffering skin problems, the court heard.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to ensure adequate measures were in place for the control of exposure to MWFs.
A report on the complainants’ injuries found they had no history of skin problems and the issues were not due to allergies, district judge Greenfield highlighted.
LPE Co Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge of contravening a health and safety regulation under a Schedule 3A of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 between October 1st 2017 and 24th January 2019.
District judge Greenfield said it was apparent LPE did not have “appropriate safety measures in place”.
At the time the company should have noted guidance from the MWF manufacturer and HSE that warned it could cause serious damage and people using it should be protected, the judge said.
However, he added that there were mitigating features, and the company had since brought in safety measures, including risk assessment procedures and signing a deal with an independent monitoring company to review its MWF practices. It had also made changes to its complaints process.
Taking into account the “robust measures” the company now had in place, district judge Greenfield said a “fair fine” was £20,000. LPE must also pay the £4,447 prosecution costs and a £170 surcharge.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Nicola Pinckney said: “This case could so easily have been avoided by simply implementing correct control measures and appropriate working practices.
“Appropriate controls could include provision and use of well-fitting overalls, use of gloves in contact with contaminated work pieces, avoidance of the use of airlines for cleaning activities, and the provision of an effective skin care regime.”
She added: “Control of exposure to hazardous substances is a legal requirement on employers and HSE provides guidance on how control can be achieved.”
LPE, which employs more than 180 staff, is owned by Senior PLC, and operates within its Flexonics division.
In a statement, Senior PLC, based in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, said: “LPE takes its obligations towards health and safety very seriously.
“The safety of employees and visitors to our premises is always our highest priority.
“LPE continues to work diligently and invests heavily on further enhancing the safety of its operation.”