The microbrewery was sentenced for failing to take sufficient action to prevent unsafe work at height and improve manual handling at its Marsh Gibbon production plant in Oxfordshire.
The brewer was warned in May 2010 that it needed to introduce changes after the HSE served an improvement notice. The notice required action to protect workers transferring materials from racking to processing machinery.
It followed a visit by an HSE inspector who raised concerns about manual handling operations – mainly the filling of hoppers with malt and barley. This involved employees lifting heavy sacks, weighing up to 25kg, in awkward circumstances.
The notice required the company to carry out a thorough assessment of the handling risks and to take appropriate action.
But Aylesbury Magistrates' Court heard this week (October 1) that little had changed at the brewery when HSE inspectors revisited the brewery on November 8 2010 and again on February 8 last year.
The inspectors also identified additional concerns about a mezzanine floor that was accessible via inadequate steps. A second improvement notice was served in March 2011 to prompt the introduction of safety measures before improvements were belatedly made, said the HSE.
‘Disappointing to say the least’
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Stephen Manley said: "The response of Oxfordshire Ales to the original improvement notice was disappointing to say the least. The improvements were necessary in order to protect workers from injury and prevent falls, yet the company took far too long to take appropriate action.”
He added: "Thankfully, no employees were hurt, but there were clear risks that could easily have been remedied a lot sooner."
Oxfordshire Ales, of Peartree Industrial Units, Bichester Road, Marsh Gibbon, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £8,623 in costs for breaching Section 21 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
The company pleaded guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing.
For more information about HSE improvement notices, click here .