Adrian Farrow prosecutes for HSE

October 24, 2014

Acting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Adrian Farrow from Exchange Chambers has prosecuted a Darwen-based scrap metal firm that has been fined for health and safety failings after workers suffered from lead poisoning.

One 48-year-old man from Darwen, who has asked not to be named, was admitted to hospital after blood tests revealed he had seven times the normal amount of lead in his body, putting him at risk of nerve, brain and kidney damage, and infertility.

Frank Barnes (Darwen) Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found employees had been regularly exposed to lead fumes and dust for a number of months.

Preston Crown Court heard on 20th October 2014, that the firm had been contracted to dismantle metal structures and machinery by a lead battery manufacturer in 2009.  This involved work at the battery factory in Over Hulton as well as at Frank Barnes’ own site at Albert and Hope Mills on Cross Street in Darwen.  The owners of the battery firm provided an induction on working with lead, and regularly monitored each employee for exposure.

On 24 November 2009, the 48-year-old employee was found to have high levels of lead in his blood and was suspended from working with lead at the battery factory, as is required by law. Frank Barnes was also told the employee should not work with lead materials at the Cross Street site, but this advice was ignored. The warning was repeated in January 2010 when another blood test revealed the lead levels in his blood were still high but, again, this was ignored.

HSE was alerted in early February by the GP of another employee whose blood also had high levels of lead.  A HSE medical inspector made it clear to the firm that any workers with high blood readings should be taken off that type of work until their levels had reduced.

Despite this, again no action was taken and employees continued to be exposed to lead fumes and dust, leading to the 48-year-old employee being admitted to hospital later that month. When HSE visited the site in March 2010 they found two other workers, who should have been suspended from lead work, had been allowed to continue working with material that may have contained lead and had not been given suitable protective equipment.

Frank Barnes (Darwen) Ltd was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £29,639.65 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.