Whirlpool Fined

Safety advice notice: 51
April 2017

Brian Parker, our Business Development Manager, Technical Support, is the sub group Chairman of IPAF's 'Spread the Load' working group, which is working under the direction of the IPAF UKCC (UK Country Council).

He has now been tasked with updating the IPAF guidance to bring clarity and standardisation to the industry.

His work will also involve ensuring that the guidance also considers wheeled and tracked MEWPs.

Whirlpool Fined

Whirlpool UK Appliances has been fined £700,000 after an operator man died at one of its plants on 21 March 2015 when his platform overturned.

The operator, a self-employed electrician, had been working on a MEWP at a height of nearly five metres, installing revised fire detection equipment at the Whirlpool-Indesit plant in Yate, near Bristol.

At the same time, Whirlpool maintenance staff started an overhead conveyor unaware that the contractor was working nearby. The conveyer collided with the MEWP causing it to overturn. The operator fell to the floor and died from his injuries a few days later.

A Health & Safety Executive investigation found there was no effective control or supervision in place to prevent the conflicting work tasks from being undertaken at the same time. Whirlpool pleaded guilty and was fined £700,000 plus costs of £11,466.

This fatality and subsequent conviction of the company further highlights the duty of care placed upon companies to ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner. All employers, the self-employed and any other person who controls the work of others should be fully up to date with all relevant legislation. This includes site managers, contract managers, contractors and even the building owner who contracts others to work at height.

The following are the six most common reasons for falls from height:

  1. Failure to recognise a problem: A risk assessment should identify the potential risks of operating powered access close to machinery

  2. Failure to ensure that safe systems of work are followed: How often do over-zealous workers take a shortcut despite being provided with the necessary tools and training?

  3. Failure to provide safe systems of work: Often employees will risk injury because the job ‘will only take a few minutes’

  4. Inadequate information, instruction, training or supervision provided: Don’t take for granted that everyone has the requisite knowledge to complete a job. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee has been trained, not the other way round. The IPAF MEWPs for Managers course covers what managers need to know about using MEWPs on site, from planning the job and completing a risk assessment, to selecting the right equipment and mitigating risks

  5. Failure to use appropriate equipment: We have all seen pictures of personnel standing on the forks of a telehandler or standing on the top rung of a ladder

  6. Failure to provide safe plant/equipment: The PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) and LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998) are designed to ensure that all equipment complies with Health & Safety Legislation and that it is serviced and regularly maintained.

Employers should particularly note two key areas in the Work at Height Regulations:

Regulation 4 - covers organisation and planning. Every employer shall ensure that work at height is:

Properly planned
You should carry out a risk assessment and have a written system of work. This will only prevent accidents if it is passed on to the employees

Appropriately supervised
What experience do your employees have? Are your apprentices competent?

Carried out in a manner which is reasonably practicable and safe. What is reasonably practicable? Common sense has to be used here – cost or history will never be an acceptable excuse.

Regulation 6 – avoidance of risks from work at height – ensures that the areas above are complied with. It states:

“In identifying the measures required by this regulation, every employer shall take account of a risk assessment under regulation three of the Management Regulations. Every employer shall ensure that work is not carried out at height where it is reasonably practicable to carry out the work safely otherwise than at height.”

It is essential to ensure that you take time in the planning and conformity of future works to avoid the type of tragedy outlined in this article.

Key points:
  • Ensure risk assessments are carried out prior to every job
  • It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that staff are trained
  • Employers should note Regulations 4 & 6 of the Work at Height Regulations
  • Should have a written system of work in place when working at height
  • Ensure that all staff are appropriately supervised
  • Avoid accidents by taking your time in the planning and conformity of future works to avoid accidents