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Bristol woodworking firm fails to comply with enforcement

A Bristol joinery and staircase specialist took insufficient action to improve a ventilation unit used to control exposure to wood dust, city magistrates’ heard.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd, at Unit 14, Satellite Business Park, Blackswarth Road, Netham, Bristol, on 9 February 2011 and found that an Improvement Notice issued on 7 October 2010 had been insufficiently complied with.

The inspector found that the Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) plant, used to control exposure to wood dust was not working in an efficient state and maintained in good repair. LEV is a ventilation system takes harmful substances, such as dust and fumes, out of the air so that they can’t be breathed in. But it must be properly designed and maintained in order to do this effectively.

Bristol Magistrates’ Court heard that Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd, an architectural and traditional joiners who use hard and soft wood, had been given until 13 January 2011 to make the necessary improvements after the initial visit in October. But, on returning to the business unit in early February the Inspector found that action had not been taken to comply with the Improvement Notice and HSE were forced to prosecute.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector, Christine Haberfield, said:

“Woodworking dusts can be potentially harmful to health. They can cause asthma and dermatitis and some are linked to cancer.It is imperative that where local exhaust ventilation is provided to prevent employees breathing in the dust, it is maintained and examined to ensure that it is working properly.

“Any company that does not take these steps will face enforcement action by HSE. Companies need to be aware that Improvement Notices are a last chance to get their house in order and we will normally prosecute if they have not been complied with by the set date.”

Blackstone Developments (South West) Ltd of The Old Schoolhouse, 75a Jacobs Wells Road, Bristol, pleaded guilty to contravening the requirements of an Improvement Notice served under Section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is an offence under Section 33 (1) (g) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The firm were fined £3,750 and ordered to pay £836.50 in costs.

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