Asbestos dust, dangerous workshop lathes and repetitive strain injury among issues prompting more than 20 Health and Safety Executive notices
More than 20 Health and Safety Executive (HSE) notices have been served to FE colleges in the last five years with issues ranging from dangerous workshop lathes to concerns over asbestos dust and repetitive strain injury, FE Week can reveal.
Three notices have given to colleges so far this calendar year, with a further nine in 2014, one in 2013, six in 2012 and three in 2011.
The most recent was a prohibition notice issued on April 24 against Totton College, in Southampton, which, an HSE spokesperson said, related to a dangerous vehicle lift in its motor vehicle repair centre.
A Totton spokesperson told FE Week: “The fault was found to be with the manufacturer and quickly rectified.”
The day before, an improvement notice was given to Amersham and Wycombe College (pictured) following the disturbance of asbestos dust that may have been breathed in by six people (see full report on incident below).
Lewisham Southwark College declined to comment on the improvement notice it was handed on February 23.
An HSE spokesperson said the South East London college failed to “ensure suitable and effective measures have been taken to prevent a person or object falling a distance likely to cause personal injury from the open edge of [a] water tank”.
Basingstoke College of Technology was hit with six improvement notices in just one day — July 9 last year — after the HSE found “inadequate guarding” on a number of engineering workshop lathes.
Inspectors said there had also been “insufficient” assessment of risks associated with metalwork coolant fluid.
A college spokesperson said “appropriate action was taken” in response to the notice.
Other notable cases included Rotherham College, which received two improvement notices on May 24, 2012, after a member of staff developed repetitive strain injury.
A college spokesperson said: “A member of staff was diagnosed with tenosynovitis of the right wrist (related to key board use).
“We worked with HSE to rewrite our [display screen equipment] policy.”
Meanwhile, Oaklands College received improvement notices on January 3, 2012, and March 14, 2011.
An HSE spokesperson said the 2012 notice was over failure to put “adequate [safety] arrangements in place” before a lighting cable was broken while a trench was being dug.
The 2011 notice demanded the replacement of corroded buried metallic liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) pipework.
A spokesperson for the Hertfordshire college said: “The pipe carrying the LPG supply was while not actually leaking, in corroded condition. It was replaced by a Gas-Safe certified engineer with a non- metallic pipe.”
With regard to the other notice, he said the college agreed with HSE that “the path of all future excavations would be cat-scanned in advance to ascertain if any services were present”.
See full reports on each of the HSE notices below:
A prohibition notice was issued against Totton College over a dangerous vehicle lift.
An HSE spokesperson said the notice was issued on April 24 because the college failed to ensure that a “vehicle lift has locking pins so that when it locks the vehicle does not fall” at the college’s motor vehicle repair centre.
A spokesperson for the Southampton college told FE Week: “The fault was found to be with the manufacturer and was quickly rectified and the notice was lifted within three working days.
“The college followed due process and cooperated fully with the HSE to make sure the equipment was repaired and working again. Their report confirmed that this incident was entirely due to a manufacturing failure and the college was in no way at fault.”
Amersham and Wycombe College was hit with an improvement notice on April 23 after five learners and a teacher were potentially subjected to asbestos dust.
An HSE spokesperson said it was issued because the college had “not provided information about the location and condition of asbestos within the college to every person liable to disturb that asbestos”.
A college spokesperson told FE Week that “a small amount of dust” in the ceiling void of a workroom had been disturbed “during the planned removal of an internal partition” on March 5.
“As the part of the building fabric includes asbestos sheeting — which was not damaged during this incident — as a precautionary measure, we sealed the room,” he added.
Subsequent HSE tests on the dust showed “small amounts of asbestos particles” which five learners and a teacher were subsequently warned they may have been exposed to, he said.
The college was given a three-month extension, from the notice’s original June compliance deadline, until September 25. It complied with this.
The HSE spokesperson said: “The college had [previously] undertaken full asbestos surveys for the site, but decided on a new full survey as part of the response to the notice, which does take some time and is why the notice was extended.”
An improvement notice was issued against Lewisham Southwark College on February 23 over safety concerns around a water tank.
An HSE spokesperson said that this was because it failed to implement suitable measures “to prevent a person or object falling a distance likely to cause personal injury from the open edge of the water tank located at the rear of the plant building on the Lewisham Way Campus”.
The college declined to comment.
It met with the notice’s February 23 compliance date.
Berkshire College of Agriculture was handed a notice of improvement on November 21 last year after a maintenance worker fell from a ladder.
An HSE spokesperson said that this was because it “failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks from gutter cleaning”.
A college spokesperson said: “In the course of the planned preventative maintenance at BCA College one of the in-house maintenance team fell approximately 500mm from a ladder while carrying out gutter cleaning.
“As a result of this fall the college was then inspected by the HSE. Despite finding many areas of good practice at BCA, they felt that we had failed to assess the full risks involved with this maintenance task.
“A full internal review of health and safety was brought forward and additional measures put in place including IOSH training for all managers.”
The college complied with the notice’s December 22, 2014, compliance date.
Basingstoke College of Technology was hit with six improvement notices on July 9 last year over workshop safety concerns.
A HSE inspection team found that there was “inadequate guarding” on a number of engineering workshop lathes and that there had been “insufficient” assessment of risk associated with metal working fluid.
A college spokespersons said that “lathes in our engineering workshops were judged to need improved guarding and there was a risk assessment required for metalwork (coolant) fluid.
“The appropriate action was taken prior to the start of the new term [that started in September last year].”
The college met the notice’s August 22 compliance date.
Carlisle College Corporation was given an improvement notice on June 17 last year relating to scaffolding.
An HSE spokesperson said this was issued over concerns about the “competency of staff within the college on dismantling tower scaffolds”.
Steve Salkeld, vice principal at the college, said: “In relation to the improvement notice regarding a specific incident involving a member of staff, we complied fully with the investigation and were proactive in satisfying the HSE that the necessary remedial actions were in place, such that no charges were pursued by the HSE in relation to the matter.”
The college met the notice’s August 18, 2014, compliance date.
Calderdale College was handed an improvement notice on May 15 last year over wood dust concerns in the construction crafts department.
An HSE spokesperson said this was issued because of failure “to ensure that employees who are liable to be exposed to wood dust, an asthmagen — a substance hazardous to health — are under suitable health surveillance”.
A spokesperson for the college, in West Yorkshire, said that it “contacted the HSE and submitted a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) which prompted a HSE visit.
“The college was not prosecuted and complied with, and implemented all the recommendations given by the HSE,” he added.
The college met the notice’s August 6, 2014, compliance date.
An improvement notice was issued against Askham Bryan College on April 14 last year requesting better washing facilities for its animal unit.
A HSE spokesperson said that “the control measures including the washing facilities provided at the animal unit of the college, which members of the public have access to on open days, are not sufficient to cater for the numbers and diversity of people who visit the college on open events.
“Adequate arrangements and washing facilities are required as a control measure against hand — mouth infection by pathogens.”
A spokesperson for the specialist land-based college, in York, said: “In Spring last year (2014), an improvement notice was received from the HSE.
“As a result of that, additional handwashing facilities were installed around the site and the flow of visitors to public events was amended. This was completed well within the compliance date and no further action was required.”
The college met the notice’s May 16, 2014, compliance date.
Bournemouth and Poole College received an improvement notice on April 25, 2013, over safety concerns with a milling machine.
A spokesperson for HSE said that this was due to the college not taking “effective measures to prevent access to the dangerous parts (namely the rotating spindle and cutters), or stop the movement of any dangerous parts before any person, or part of a person, enters the danger zone of your manual milling machine”.
A college spokesperson said: “Interlocking guards were fitted onto a milling machine, thereby fully complying with the notice”.
The college met the notice’s June 20, 2013, compliance date.
Aylesbury College was hit with an improvement notice on December 6, 2012, after staff had to work in the cold.
A spokesperson for HSE said that this was due to the college’s “failure to have systems in place to control the workplace temperature during work hours, specifically in the reception and security area of the building”.
A college spokesperson said: “Very cold and often windy weather led to low temperatures in the atrium area of the college, particularly around the reception and security desk.
“The college was built with the main entrance — double sets of sliding doors — facing in an easterly direction.
“The resultant low temperatures were impacting staff working in the area including the security team and the reception team.
“The college took a number of measures, including installing additional heaters, adjusting working patterns and relocating the reception desk, while a longer term solution was sought.
“Senior managers were in regular communication with affected staff. The college undertook significant construction work — replacing one set of sliding doors with revolving doors — at substantial cost in order to permanently resolve the issue.”
The college met the notice’s January 31, 2013, compliance deadline.
The Manchester College received an improvement notice on July 23, 2012, over “protective measures” failures.
A spokesperson for HSE said that this was because the college had “failed to make and give effect to such arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventive and protective measures”.
He added the failings applied, in particular, to “the assessment of contractor competency, including their methods of works and management of health and safety in relation to their work” on the college site.
A college spokesperson said: “We were issued with an improvement notice in relation to the health and safety practice of on-site contractors. We complied with the notice.”
The college met the notice’s October 8, 2012, compliance deadline.
Rotherham College received two improvement notices on May 24, 2012 after a member of staff developed repetitive strain injury from keyboard use.
A HSE spokesperson said that this was due to failure to carry out sufficient risk assessment and health and safety training to avoid injury at workstations.
A college spokesperson said “A member of staff was diagnosed with tenosynovitis of the right wrist (related to key board use). The injury was reported to HSE by ourselves. The HSE conducted a visit and found that our display screen equipment policy wasn’t robust enough.
“We worked with the HSE to re write the policy and HSE were happy with the improvements that we made with the on line training package for users, identification of who is a display screen user, and the workplace self-assessment form, to find any concerns staff has with their workstation”.
“She said that the college now also pays for the costs associated with eye tests and towards any corrective lens that are needed.
“Since this one incident, staff haven’t reported any further problems with regard to DSE that we haven’t been able to assist with through the advice, adjustments and support mentioned above.”
The college met the notice’s July 20, 2012, compliance deadline.
Westminster Kingsway College was issued with an improvement notice on March 13, 2012, over concerns that someone could be injured falling off a roof.
A spokesperson for HSE said: “The duty-holder failed to take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury, in accessible areas of the roof.”
A spokesperson for the London college said: “The college was undertaking construction work to the roof and windows of its Victoria Centre, in an area that is not normally accessible to staff or students.
“During that time an inspection by the HSE took place.
“They were satisfied with the college’s procedures but identified an unprotected roof edge above a drop of approximately 1.5 metres in a restricted access area accessible to approved contractors via a fixed ladder and locked steel trapdoor.
“An edge protection was installed as part of the construction work.”
The college met the notice’s June 14, 2012, compliance date.
Oaklands College received two improvement notices on March 14, 2011, and January 3, 2012, over a corroded gas pipe and a broken lighting cable.
A spokesperson for HSE explained that the first notice called for the “thorough examination/ replacement” of corroded buried metallic liquefied petroleum gas pipework.
The second was over failure to put “adequate [safety] arrangements in place to allow excavation work to be undertaken safely” before a lighting cable was broken while a trench was being dug.
A spokesperson for the Hertfordshire college said: “The metal pipe carrying the LPG supply from tank to House 14 was while not actually leaking, [but] in corroded condition. It was replaced by a Gas-Safe certified engineer with a non- metallic pipe.”
With regard to the second notice, he said that “a lighting cable was encountered and broken” while a trench was being dug.
But he added that the college agreed with HSE “that the path of all future excavations would be cat-scanned in advance of the works to ascertain if any services were present”.
The college met with the June 14, 2011, and March 2, 2012, compliance dates for the notices.
Petroc College was issued with a prohibition notice on July 28, 2011, over safety concerns surrounding roofing work.
A spokesperson for HSE said that this prohibited “construction where unsafe work at height was undertaken in the absence of competent site management”.
A spokesperson for the college in Tiverton, Devon, said: “In 2011 a registered roofing contractor was carrying out work on the roof of the sports hall at our Mid Devon Campus in Tiverton.
“A prohibition notice was served to the contractor by HSE for insufficient edge protection. However, as the contractor was working on our site, the notice was issued to Petroc.
“We can confirm that the issue was addressed immediately and work recommenced to finish the project.”
Hartpury College improvement notice November 17, 2011, over storage of propane gas.
A spokesperson for HSE said the notice was issued over “bulk storage and pipework”.
A spokesperson for the college in Gloucestershire said: “Following a request from the college for the HSE to review the amount of propane gas on site, the HSE issued an improvement notice as a result of the college having more stored propane gas than allowed.
“All the actions identified on the improvement notice were expedited and the notice subsequently lifted. There were no fines involved.”
The college met with the January 5, 2011, compliance date.