Rolls-Royce fined over health and safety

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The Independent Online

Rolls-Royce was fined £120,000 today after health and safety failures left five agency workers exposed to hazardous fumes.

The manufacturer admitted a number of breaches in the decommissioning of a light alloy foundry at its plant in Osmaston Road, Derby, in 2005, including failures to properly assess the risk of the work and to provide adequate protective clothing.

The men were exposed to potassium fluorosilicate during hot metal cutting and oxides of sulphur, resulting in all suffering from skin rashes and two of them developing respiratory problems.

One of the men, Jason Hall, 27, from Chesterfield, remains off work with blurred vision and dizziness, Derby Crown Court was told.

Sentencing Rolls-Royce, Judge David Price said: "The company must have been aware that any agency workers working on the decommissioning of the light alloy foundry would be exposed to that chemical.

"Yet, despite that knowledge, the risk assessment was too generic and there was no real health and safety plan prepared for such a decommissioning project.

"There should have such a plan. As a result of there not being one, five agency workers suffered reasonably long-lasting ill health effects."

Rolls-Royce was also ordered to pay £12,122 in costs.

The men fell ill after being exposed to what the company said was an inexplicably high level of potassium fluorosilicate.

Mitigating, James Ageros said his client "does very much regret" the illness and injury caused to the workers and accepted that some of those effects were its fault.

But he told the court: "Rolls-Royce was acting responsibly with what they knew at the time and with what they would have reasonably anticipated at the time as well."

Speaking after the hearing, Health and Safety Executive Inspector for Derbyshire Noelle Walker said: "This incident could have been avoided if safe working practices had been put in place.

"Employers must ensure that decommissioning work is properly planned to take account of health and safety risks and that employees and agency workers are made fully aware of the risks associated with hazardous substances to prevent this sort of exposure, which has resulted in potentially long-term ill health for these men."