Author: Mike Clough

Date Posted: Wednesday 29th April 2015

We recently were appointed by the Environment Agency to carry out removal of Giant Hogweed on a project in Manchester as part of the Agencies on-going commitment to flood alleviation. The surveyors were briefed on the project and all Health and Safety risk assessments were undertaken alongside preparation of a method statement and a detailed strategy of how the survey would be carried out safely.

Initial survey works found several thousand square metres of the plant including areas where the general public could have walked into areas of high risk. Signage was erected advising of the dangers of the plant and fencing was erected to ensure that access to areas of contamination would be restricted.

Once approval for the works had been received a further detailed method statement and risk assessment was carried out.

The teams were then issued with a copy of the method statement and were briefed as to the dangers to be aware of when working within areas of Giant Hogweed. The teams were told that the plant produces a dangerous toxin in its sap which would produce blistering if it comes into contact with skin. Teams were then issued with new, fully compliant Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The project was successfully carried out and the client was more than happy with the results.

However, during the works we had issues with one of the team removing his PPE during the works. The weather was warm and the suits are a little warm and uncomfortable so – even though he knew that it was dangerous he removed his helmet and visor and rolled down his protective suit.

Immediately upon noticing the breach of Health and Safety the senior foreman instructed the offending person to leave site unless full PPE was worn at all times.

Over the next 48 hours the offending person that had removed his PPE developed painful blisters and burns which required treatment at a casualty department. The injury was noted in the accident book along with the supporting evidence that he had removed his PPE and had been warned of the possibility of injury should he ignore best advice.

The person in question has since contacted ‘injury lawyers 4 U’ and is suing us for the injuries that he has received.

Whilst being interviewed by the legal advisers I asked … ‘how could we have avoided this scenario?’ – well they said… ‘what you should have done, is follow him at all times to ensure that he kept the PPE on…’

So I said… ‘so who follows and checks the person that’s following and checking the first person?’

The legal advisor then said ‘now you’re just being silly’…

So dear reader what we have here is a scenario where we at JKSL have done everything we can do to ensure that every health and safety aspect is covered – but – if the odd idiot decides to ignore all the advice and not wear the correct clothing that he has been issued with…


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Mike Clough

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