Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company fined over safety breaches

Stack of colourful fabric (stockshot)
Image caption Workers had "a significant risk of contracting respiratory illnesses", said the HSE

A textile company has been fined £20,000 for "serious safety failings" after a chemical exposure left a worker in Suffolk with breathing problems, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

The 57-year-old, who does not wish to be named, was employed as a dye house manager at the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company Ltd in Sudbury.

The HSE found the company had failed to assess the risks from "hazardous" dyes.

Gainsborough admitted five breaches of health and safety regulations.

It was also ordered to pay £10,000 towards costs over three years.

The man had worked as a dye house manager at the company from 1993 to 2012.

He had been suffering from chronic breathing difficulties since 2008 and had been hospitalised on a couple of occasions as a result.

Ipswich Crown Court heard the man's symptoms had "improved markedly" after he left the company and stopped working with chemicals.

The HSE told the court the company had failed to assess the health risks arising from working with hazardous reactive dyes, despite the dangers of respiratory damage being well known in the industry.

The court also heard the firm "had failed to provide their staff with adequate training or equipment to safeguard their health when working with the substances".

Neglected 'health risks'

A health surveillance programme for the firm's workforce was stopped in 2004. The programme, had it been operating, could have helped to prevent the worker's long period of ill health, the HSE said.

In addition, its investigation found the company had failed to provide health surveillance for exposure to noise after 2007, despite a legal requirement to do so where employees are likely to suffer from noise induced hearing loss.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Martin Kneebone said the textile company had fallen "well short of their responsibilities over a protracted time period. They neglected to assess the very real health risks involved and take the measures necessary to minimise those risks."

He added: "The company should have installed suitable ventilation equipment for weighing and mixing the dyes. They should also have provided proper information, instruction, training and health surveillance for their employees.

"The lack of these left workers at a significant risk of contracting respiratory illnesses by their exposure to these chemicals."

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