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Four receive suspended jail sentences in Wales for health and safety failings in woodworking factory

22 November 2016

The director of a Port Talbot furniture factory and three of its managers have received suspended prison sentences for ongoing health and safety failings. Swansea Crown Court heard how the factory at Margam Hall Upholstery Limited in Henshaw Street, Port Talbot was included in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of visits to woodworking premises.

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These are considered a high risk industry because of dangerous machines and hazardous substances including wood dust and glues.

The visit highlighted a number of health and safety concerns at the factory in early 2015 including poor control of wood dust, no maintenance of work equipment including fume and dust extraction and noisy conditions. There were inadequate toilet and washing facilities. Ten Improvement Notices were served on the company in February 2015, and despite ongoing intervention by the HSE, there was little progress and conditions remained poor. Seven of the Improvement Notices were not complied with.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Helen Turner said: “We always try to work with dutyholders to help them understand their responsibilities and improve conditions but there is no excuse for people running a business not to know what health and safety standards apply to their work.
“When directors or managers who have the power to make the improvements blatantly disregard their workers’ health and safety we have no option but to prosecute.”

Judge Geraint Walters said: ““The operation the four of you were engaged in was nothing short of a ticking time bomb in relation to the health and safety of employees.”

The four defendants were previously in charge of Celtic-Leather and Fabric Upholstery Ltd at the same factory premises. This company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive in 2015 for similar health and safety breaches.

Director Brian Baggs, of Mount View Terrace, Port Talbot pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was given a 10 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years and ordered to pay costs of £2,500. He was also disqualified from acting as a company Director for 5 years.

David Lewis, a shareholder and manager, of Manor Way, Briton Ferry pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was given a 10 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years and ordered to pay costs of £2,500. Although not a current director, he was also disqualified from acting as a company Director for 5 years.

His brother Matthew Lewis, also a shareholder and manager, of Ford Road, Velindre, Port Talbot, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was given a 10 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years and ordered to pay costs of £2,500. Although not a current director, he was also disqualified from acting as a company Director for 5 years.

Michael Ball, a shareholder and manager, of High Street, Ogmore Vale, Bridgend, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was given a 10 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years and ordered to pay costs of £2,500. Although not a current director, he was also disqualified from acting as a company Director for 5 years.
 


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