AM Online

Autotrade: Health and safety

The number of prosecutions against employers for negligence in health and safety rose by 8% last year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Its figures show motor vehicle repair has higher accident rates than companies in the manufacturing sector.

Between 2001 and 2003, 5,500 injuries were reported. Some cases involved the public.

HSE believes the total number of injuries to be higher because of under reporting.

Health and safety is core to every business, but the risks within motor vehicle repair make it imperative that staff understand how to keep themselves free from injury.

The main causes of injury are poorly handled heavy objects, slips and trips, staff falling from height or being struck by vehicles or objects.

These accounted for 75% of all injuries during the HSE study period.

Long-term exposure to noise, chemicals and gases can also cause serious health problems.

These are not difficult to avoid, and the investment in training and equipment to protect staff is much less costly than the alternative.

Not doing so carries heavy penalties, not to mention public naming and shaming.

Recent cases, such as the death of vehicle technician Biagio Malacaria who died three weeks after catching fire while draining a fuel tank, have made headlines.

The workshop, Alexanders of Twickenham, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £16,905 costs for not providing adequate training and equipment for its employees.

Accountability is becoming easier to establish.

The Corporate Manslaughter Act, which came into force in April, is aimed at making employers directly responsible for safety within the workplace.

If, following the death of an employee, a company is unable to prove it was operating safely, it can now face fines up to 10% of turnover and be forced to publicise the circumstances which led to the accident.

Senior management are held responsible for breaches.

Yet, according to a recent study by Norwich Union Risk Services, of 130 companies surveyed, 42% could not prove their appointed health and safety manager had completed suitable recognised qualifications for the role.

Ray Hurst, president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), says health and safety needs to remain high on companies’ agendas, regardless of tighter finances.

“We recognise it may be tempting for firms to cut corners on health and safety to save money, but that choice will not only result in human tragedy but also have a major impact on the business’s bottom line.”

  • Read this story in full in the 8 August issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.
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