Company and Director Fined For Putting Workers at Risk

A West Midlands engineering company and its managing director have received fines for their failure to protect their workers from welding fumes.

Associated Metalmasters Limited and their managing director, Darren Spittle, were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an inspection of the company’s former site at Woodside Industrial Estate, Pedmore Road, Dudley, in October 2021.

HSE inspectors discovered that the company had not implemented appropriate precautions to control the exposure of mild steel welding fumes resulting from metal inert gas (MIG) welding conducted at the site.

Inhaling welding fumes can lead to health issues such as asthma, pneumonia, and lung cancer. You can find HSE guidance on this matter here: Welding fume: protect your workers – Overview – HSE

A subsequent HSE investigation revealed that Associated Metalmasters Limited initially complied with two Improvement Notices issued by the workplace regulator in 2016 and 2019. These notices required the company to make improvements to its MIG welding process.

However, the company failed to maintain compliance with these notices, resulting in inadequate control of exposure to welding fumes. Darren Spittle, the managing director, was responsible for overseeing the MIG welding process and was aware of the Improvement Notices.

To sustain compliance with the notices, the company could have ensured that industry-standard controls for welding were provided and maintained on-site. These controls likely included local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Associated Metalmasters Limited, located at Grazebrook Industrial Park, Peartree Lane, Dudley, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £3,896.30 in costs at Dudley Magistrates’ Court on 13th September 2023.

Darren James Spittle, residing on Bright Street, Wollaston, Stourbridge, West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. He was fined £2,000 at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court on 13th September 2023.

HSE inspector Heather Campbell commented: “There are clear dangers associated with welding fumes, and maintaining compliance with the law is not something that can wane over time. This case illustrates that prosecution will be considered if such compliance is not upheld.”

This prosecution received support from HSE enforcement lawyer Gemma Zakrzewski.