We need to talk about safety standards

FEA underlines critical importance of developing a culture of safety throughout the care sector.

FEA is underlining the importance of standards of safety around electric appliances following the finalisation  of a court case brought against three companies in relation to the fatal electrocution of an engineer working in a hospital kitchen in 2017.  The verdicts followed an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

Craig Stocker died while working on a macerator at Bishops Wood Hospital in Middlesex. The HSE investigation uncovered flaws with both the design and installation of the macerator, which was not fitted with a Residual Current Device (RCD), despite the requirement being stated in manufacturer's instructions.  The lack of an RCD was not identified by the hospital's operating company and meant that the development of a fault with this unit, resulted in the equipment becoming permanently live as it lacked adequate earth fault protection.

"The result of this case demonstrates that the responsibility for maintaining high standards of safety for employees is spread between all stakeholders: manufacturers, dealers and suppliers as well as their customers," says Andy Threlfall, technical and policy director for FEA. "It also demonstrates the tragic consequences that can occur when these standards are not met.

“Our thoughts are with all the family, friends, work colleagues, and the people on site, all of  whom have all been affected by this incident.

The manufacturer needs to ensure its designs are fit for purpose, with a particular focus on potential safety issues caused by component failures. They also need to make sure maintenance and repair of their products can be carried out in a reasonable time and practicable manner.

Meanwhile, site owners must ensure the installation instructions have been carried out by the contractor, confirming the requirements of the manufacturer have been met. As the macerator was installed in 2013, the lack of RCD protection was not identified throughout multiple maintenance visits before the accident.

Installation instructions should always be checked by technicians for specific requirements, even if the equipment is familiar to them. Manufacturers often make running changes to their products during production, and it's important not to assume that a unit can be installed in the way they may have done previously. In this specific case, while the IET standards applicable at the time did not indicate that earth fault protection was required, the manufacturer had specified it and it should have been applied to this installation.

"FEA has been focusing on the importance of increasing awareness of safety standards of foodservice equipment for some time," continues Andy. "The conclusion of this case demonstrates the vital importance of this work, and we will continue to find ways to support our membership through advice and training to ensure that anyone working with this equipment is doing so in a safe environment."

FEA is working with other organisations to develop additional training initiatives and resources covering electrical safety and other areas. 

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