MWF Mist Exposure Leads to Fines


The United Kingdoms Health and Safety Executive fined a bearings manufacturer 20,000 ($33,000) for exposing its workers to metalworking fluid mist over a six month period during 2007 and 2008.

Koyo Bearings (Europe) Ltd. of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, on Nov. 30 pled guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, the agency said. In addition to the fine, Koyo was ordered to pay costs of 15,280 ($25,000) at Barnsley Magistrates Court. The court further ordered Koyo Bearings to pay a separate 15 ($25) victim surcharge, with the proceeds to be spent on services for victims and witnesses.

The agency said the court heard that between Dec. 12, 2007, and May 8, 2008, employees at Koyo were exposed to a metalworking fluid mist that was emitted from more than 100 machines.

The company had used water-based chemicals during the manufacturing of bearings for the automotive industry. HSE noted that the process involves spraying metalworking fluid onto fast-rotating tool pieces at high pressure. The process created a mist, which was potentially breathed by employees. There was nothing in place to contain or extract the mist away from workers, the agency stated.

Exposure to metalworking fluid mist can cause occupational asthma and extrinisic allergic alveolitis. Called hypersensitivity pneumonitis in the United States, it is the result of immune reactions to the repeated inhalation or ingestion of various antigens. The HSE pointed out that since 2005, 15 reported cases of such illnesses by employees occurred at Koyo Bearings, the second largest exposure of its kind in the U.K. at a single company.

HSE inspector Mark Welsh said the courts verdict shows that working practices at Koyo Bearings (Europe) Ltd. were inadequate and dangerous.

We found that a combination of employees breathing in metalworking fluid mist, along with no filter system and inadequate training, resulted in the entire workforce being put at risk, Welsh continued. Research shows that exposure to metalworking fluids in this way can cause serious respiratory conditions, and the large number of cases of illness of this type at the company is shocking. I would like to remind employers working with metalworking fluids that it is vital that they take the correct steps to prevent a similar situation.

The HSE is a national regulatory body responsible for promoting better health and safety at work in the U.K.

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