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Written by
on 04 October 2012


Oxfordshire Ales Ltd was provided with a written warning by the HSE in May 2010.  The warning came in the form of an improvement notice that detailed what action needed to be taken.  The HSE inspector was concerned with several issues found at the Marsh Gibbon production plant.  The improvements were required for the manual handling processes, especially how the hoppers were filled as well as taking steps to prevent unsafe work at height.

Problems with Working at Height and Manual Handling

The inspectors found that during the filling of the hoppers the employees were manually lifting heavy sacks full of malt and barley.  The sacks weigh up to 25kg and required the employees to work in very awkward situations.  Therefore the firm was told that they needed to assess the system, discover the risks involved with the manual handling and take some action that could reduce the risks that were discovered.  The HSE handed out a second improvement notice in 2011 relating to another problem was associated with the mezzanine floor that could only be accessed by steps that were not at all suitable.

On two visits after the initial notice was handed to the Oxfordshire Ales plants the HSE inspectors found that very little had been done to improve the problems.  Therefore the brewery was fined £6,000 for breaching Section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Work at Height Regulations.  The firm who had previously pleaded guilty to the charges were also ordered to pay £8,623 in court costs.

Disappointing Reaction to Warnings

The HSE Inspector Stephen Manley told the press that it was very disappointing to see that Oxfordshire Ales had done very little to comply with the Health and Safety Regulations and the improvement notices.  Notices are provided to give firms a chance to avoid prosecution.  They can help you to be more aware of what is required from you.  If you are provided with a notice you must take action else you will be prosecuted, even if there have been no accidents recorded.

The health and safety services can be used to help you comply with the notice and the regulation you are not fully complying with.  With the help of the various services you can carry out a complete risk assessment that will help you to be aware of how your employees and possibly the public are being put at risk.  From there you can discover how to take the necessary steps to reduce those risks and put them into practice.  It may involve bringing in new equipment, providing protective gear or training to your employees.

The health and safety consultants will work with you and ensure you avoid prosecution.  There are many ways of making use of the services.  It is even possible to continue the relationship to ensure no other problems arise in the future.  You can easily contact the consultants whether you have been provided with a notice from the HSE or not. Simply call 0800 1488 677 and take the first steps to implementing the highest standard of health and safety possible.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.