A textile company has been fined £20,000 after a worker suffered three years of ill health due to exposure to chemicals.
The 57-year-old, who does not wish to be named, was employed at the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company Ltd in Sudbury, Suffolk, as the dye house manager from 1993 to 2012.
He had been suffering from chronic breathing difficulties since 2008 and was hospitalised on two occasions. He was on a cocktail of drugs to suppress his symptoms, which improved markedly after he left the company and stopped working with chemicals.
Chemical injury risks
The employee’s ill health was reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found that the company had failed to assess the health risks of working with hazardous reactive dyes, despite the risks of long-term chemical injury being well known in the industry.
The firm also failed to provide staff with adequate training or equipment to safeguard their health when working with the substances.
Ipswich Crown Court heard that a health surveillance programme for the workforce was stopped in 2004. Had it still been operating, it could have helped to prevent the man’s long period of ill health.
The investigation also found that the company had failed to provide health surveillance for exposure to noise after 2007, even though there is a legal requirement to do so where employees are likely to suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
Along with the fine, the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company was also ordered to pay costs of £10,000 after admitting safety breaches.
HSE inspector Martin Kneebone said: “The company should have installed suitable ventilation equipment for weighing and mixing the dyes. They should also have provided proper information, instruction, training and health surveillance for their employees. The lack of these left workers at a significant risk of contracting respiratory illnesses by their exposure to these chemicals.”
Anyone who thinks they may have a claim for industrial injury can contact Accident Advice Helpline for more information.
Source: Strategic Safety Systems