Health and Safety inspectors are undertaking in excess of 70 surprise visits to businesses in Sheffield and Rotherham after a sharp increase in the number of serious and fatal incidents within the last five years.
There were 12 worker deaths reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – under the “RIDDOR” regulations – in Sheffield and Rotherham between 2014 and 2021 and a further 594 serious injuries reported over the same period. Inspection teams will primarily focus on conducting inspections on businesses where workers regularly undertake welding and use metalworking fluids, a high proportion of which are based in the area.
From Monday 10 January 2022, 22 inspectors from HSE’s Yorkshire and North East field operations teams will visit more than 70 local business, identified by HSE’s targeting and intelligence team as operating in a high risk sector or performing poorly. The businesses span a wide range of sectors including metal fabrication, engineering, general manufacturing, waste and recycling. The operation will last for a week.
In 2020 around 12,000 people in the UK died from lung diseases likely to be linked to past exposure from work. There is scientific evidence to suggest that exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and exposure to metalworking fluids can cause a range of lung diseases.
Andrew Denison, Acting Head of Operations said: “It is estimated that each year 12,000 workers die in Britain from occupational lung disease and 17,000 new cases report suffering work-related breathing and lung problems. This part of South Yorkshire has a fine tradition in metal fabrication and manufacturing; we just need to ensure that the innovation continues to extend to safe working practice.
“Local inspectors have witnessed an alarming rise in the number of fatalities and injuries in the Sheffield and Rotherham area in the last five years. This initiative will ensure that inspectors are able to visit sites and speak with duty holders to ensure the appropriate controls are in place to protect their workers’ health and safety, particularly in relation to the risks from occupational lung disease.”
During the visits the companies will need to demonstrate that they have measures in place to manage risks to protect the health and well-being of their workers including health conditions such as occupational lung disease.
If an HSE inspector identifies any other areas of concern during an inspection, they will take the necessary enforcement action which in some cases may lead to an Enforcement Notice being served or, in the case of serious breaches, a prosecution.