A garden centre was recently fined £100,000 by Colchester Borough Council for failing to adequately protect employees from hazardous substances.
The prosecution followed an incident in which an employee had trouble breathing after cleaning up a spill of gardening chemicals in April 2017. The worker complained about the issue to environmental health officers in September 2017.
During the hearing it was discovered that the company, Perrywood Garden Centre, did have a health and safety policy, but they had not implemented recommendations made by their own review of health and safety procedures. One recommendation was to review their control of hazardous substances and conduct COSHH assessments for the chemical products on sale.
The garden centre pleaded guilty to all charges and was ordered to pay £104,000 in fines, costs of £3700 and a £170 victim surcharge. In sentencing, magistrates took into consideration the firm's turnover, lack of previous convictions and their efforts to make amends following their health and safety failure. Their fines were reduced by a third because the company readily accepted their guilt.
Alan Bourne, the garden centre's MD, said: "We take the health and safety of our team and customers extremely seriously and have a number of policies and procedures in order to safeguard everyone at the garden centre. Unfortunately, an incident did occur in 2017 concerning a current member of staff. Since then we have put additional policies and training in place to ensure that an incident like this does not occur again."
Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) requires an assessment of every workplace to ensure it is free of risks and that dangerous substances are properly stored and treated, and that employees understand the risks and how to minimise them.
A COSHH assessment typically involves:
- Visual assessment. What potential is there for exposure to hazardous substances? This might include dust, vapours, fumes, gases or liquids. Some substances have workplace exposure limits (WELs), but some will not.
- Task analysis. How does the work affect exposure to hazardous substances? Which substances are employees using regularly? How is the work controlled and made safe?
- Information gathering. Collect data sheets and browse the Health and Safety Executive pages for your industry to learn more about specific risks.
- Review past accidents. Check your accident book and speak to colleagues.
COSHH training from DeltaNet
Employers have a legal obligation to give employees training on hazards in the workplace, including hazardous substances and how to manage them safely. Our Hazardous Substances eLearning course makes it easy to deliver this essential training to all employees, including contractors and temporary workers.