Failure by a Royal Mail depot to carry out a risk assessment led to an employee suffering severe burns when cleaning a goods delivery vehicle.
The employee, who had been working outside in the rain, suffered severe chemical burns to his leg caused by a concentrated, caustic cleaning chemical as it spilled out from a faulty dispensing pump.
Following an investigation by Environmental Health Officers at the Royal Mail Hemel Hempstead site, it was revealed that a risk assessment had not been carried out in advance to ensure the pump was in safe working order. It was also found that the employee had not been provided with protective clothing /equipment to safeguard against the safety risk of using a chemical detergent.
As result of the chemical burns, the employee needed immediate hospital treatment to receive skin grafts and a further eight months off work to fully recover.
The Royal Mail pleaded guilty to two offences 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc 1974 and Regulation 6(1) of The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, and was fined the maximum of £40,000 plus £4,000 inc. costs. Compensation is also being claimed for the injury caused to the employee.
Commenting on the failure of a company to provide a duty of care to their employees, the Borough council said that “it is important that all businesses take Health And Safety seriously and ensure that risks in the workplace are effectively controlled.”
According to Communication Workers Union (CWU) the case was a “damning example of what can happen when managers fail to manage and monitor the health and safety of the workforce through careful attention to the law” adding that procedures had now been changed and the Royal Mail operates “a safer vehicle cleaning operation at the office concerned.”