Company Prosecuted Over Sheet Metal Incident

Employee Injury Leads To HSE Action Against Steel Firm


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
A steelwork company in Herefordshire has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over an incident in which one of its staff suffered a serious injury from a piece of sheet metal that fell on his foot.

The 30-year-old, who has not been named, was working for Frank H Dale at its premises in Leominster in October 2012 when he was asked to move some metal sheets, each of which measured six metres in length, 35 cm in width and weighed 180 kg, using an overhead crane and a lifting magnet.

Although he managed to move the first two sheets, the third became detached from the magnet, bounced off a conveyor belt and fell on his foot, breaking three toes and keeping the employee off work for six weeks.

The HSE investigation found that the magnet was not suitable for lifting long and thin pieces of sheet metal and the manufacturer's instructions for its use had not been followed.

In the hearing at Hereford Magistrates' Court, Frank H Dale pleaded guilty to a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,631.40.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Tariq Khan remarked: "This incident could easily have been avoided had the company provided suitable training," noting that manufacturers supply clear instructions and often offer training as well.

He added: "It was nothing more than luck that the first two sheets were successfully moved and the injured employee was very fortunate that the 180 kg metal sheet fell on to a conveyor before landing on his foot. Had it landed on him directly then a more serious injury may have been inflicted."

HSE guidance on the use of lifting magnets notes that they are made in a variety of shapes to equip them for different tasks. Examples of this include flat pole magnets for handling sheet metals and bulk goods, while pole-plate magnets made in customised shapes are used for lifting round objects like pipes and steel bars.

Expert Opinion
Thankfully this incident was not as serious as it could have been, but it could have easily been avoided if the correct safety measures and training procedures were put in place.

"It is vital that employers carry out risk assessments and provide workers with the knowledge needed to operate heavy machinery. There are many risks to workers, but these can be minimised by companies following basic HSE guidelines.

"Health and safety should always be the number one priority for employers and lessons need to be learned from cases of this nature to ensure that such incidents can be prevented from occurring again in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner