Health and Safety Executive (UK)

Barnsley company fined after staff exposed to hazardous mist

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Source: Health and Safety Executive (UK)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning employers who work with metalworking fluids to ensure they take the correct safety precautions after an entire workforce at a Barnsley company were exposed to metalworking fluid mist.

Koyo Bearings (Europe) Ltd, today (30 November) pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £15,280 costs at Barnsley Magistrates Court.

The court heard that between 12 December 2007 and 8 May 2008, employees at the company were exposed to a metal working fluid mist, which was being emitted from more than 100 metal work machines.

The company had used water-based chemicals during the manufacture of bearings for the automotive industry. The process involved spraying the metalworking fluid onto fast rotating tool pieces at high pressure. This created a mist, which was potentially being breathed in by employees. There was nothing in place to contain or extract the mist away from workers.

Exposure to metal working fluid mist is a known cause of occupational asthma and extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA). Indeed, since 2005 there have been 15 reported cases of these illnesses by employees at Koyo Bearings - the second largest exposure of its kind in the UK at a single company.

HSE Inspector Mark Welsh said:

'Today's verdict shows that the working practices at Koyo Bearings (Europe) Ltd were inadequate and dangerous.  We found that a combination of employees breathing in metal working fluid mist, along with no filter system and inadequate training, resulted in the entire workforce at being put at risk.

'Research shows that exposure to metal working fluids in this way can cause serious respiratory conditions, and the large number of cases of illness of this type at the company is shocking.

'I would like to remind employers working with metal working fluids, that it is vital that they take the correct steps to prevent a similar situation. HSE has produced a lot of practical advice and guidance for employers about this issue, which can be found either by visiting our website or contacting our public information line.'

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