Firm ignored risks to workers’ safety for years – HSE Report 30th March 2011

An international packing company put the lives of its workers at risk over several years at its West Yorkshire site, a court has been told.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered a long-term and systemic failure to ensure the safety of employees during the construction of wooden packing crates at the Holmfirth base of Neal Brothers Ltd, when it launched an investigation last year.

It resulted from a visit by an HSE Inspector to the site in Bent Ley Road, Meltham, Holmfirth. During the visit, he saw an employee working on the top of a large wooden crate, more than four metres high, with no safety measures to prevent falls.

Huddersfield Magistrates' Court heard that the company had been served with an enforcement notice back in 2004 demanding safety improvements for activities that required working at heights over two metres.

The firm had then introduced harnesses for employees when at high levels but the investigation showed their use had been short lived and the firm reverted to previous unsafe practices.

The HSE Inspector served a further enforcement notice on the company repeating the requirement to improve its system of working at height and began inquiries into its apparent history of safety failings. His evidence, gathered from staff and witnesses, showed harnesses had not been used since at least 2006.

Neal Brothers (Leicester) Ltd of Hastings Road, Leicester, admitted a charge of failing to ensure the safety of employees at its site in Holmfirth, over a four year period from April 2006. The company was fined