From experience

The case studies in this section are real incidents with real consequences for those involved.

The case studies cover the main causes of injury and occupational ill health in the footwear and leather industries and include:

Manual handling/Musculoskeletal

A footwear company had over 60 work related upper limb disorder injuries in its accident book. Employees' tasks included manual handling of leather rolls, use of clicker and manual platen presses, stitching panels together using post sewing machines, gluing, inspection and seam sealing. Work involved long periods of forceful wrist movements with no rotation of activities. Problems highlighted: poor machinery design and workstation layout, a piece-work system which encouraged, work organisation, and poor seating design. No risk assessment had been carried out of manual handling or work related upper limb disorders despite all the evidence of a problem. The company were prosecuted and fined £3000 plus costs.

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Slips management

A tanning company had had several slip and trip accidents in the tanning area. The concrete floor had eroded in several areas and drain covers were missing. Leather waste was not regularly removed and presented a risk of slipping. To address the problem, repairs were made to the flooring and drains repaired, and time was allowed before lunch and at shift end to clean up waste.

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Falls from height

During a quiet spell at a factory manufacturing footwear, some employees were set on to painting various parts of the factory. There was no formal assessment of the jobs and no proper instructions were given. An employee fell several metres breaking his wrist and bruising his thigh. The grips on the footings of the ladder were worn. In response the company did risk assessments to identify unusual activities and nominated people to compile list of ladders, label and inspect them.

A leather packing company was served with improvement notices for the risk of fatal falls from the edge of an unprotected hoistway. Also there was no protection against falling packages, and no handrail on a stairway. Interlocks were fitted to the barriers around the hoistway, handholds were fitted and hooks were provided for employees to pull loads onto the landings.

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Workplace transport

A tanning company employee was hit by a forklift injuring his foot and causing him to be off work for a week. The forklift driver did not have a current licence and the wearing of safety footwear was not enforced. No thought had been given to segregating pedestrians from vehicles, and no maintenance checks were done on forklifts. In response the company made sure only trained drivers operated the forklifts. New road markings, more signs and corner barriers improved the safety of pedestrians in the yard. They also reviewed the safety of HGVs entering the site.

A footwear company machine operator was sitting at a workstation desk next to a gangway filling out some paperwork. A lift truck driver swerved to avoid a sample which had been left in the gangway and in doing so hit the desk at which operator was working and pinned him against a crash barrier. He suffered bruising and shock and ongoing back problems. As a result the company looked at all existing FLT routes and designated half as restricted routes and removed powered trucks in those areas. Pedestrians were segregated where possible and routes were clearly marked.

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Confined spaces

An operative was asphyxiated in a tanning effluent sump which he entered with the intention of sweeping sludge towards a tanker hose. Hydrogen sulphide was present. No risk assessment had been carried out, no formal training had been given, and there was no safe system of work for entry into confined spaces. There were also no emergency arrangements. The company were found guilty of breaches of the Confined Spaces Regulations and fined 6000.

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An operator injured her finger badly on a splitting machine whilst feeding leather into the machine. It was a brand new machine supplied with guard but the guard was removed permanently due to constant blocking problem. There were no procedures for reporting faults or checking machinery and no pro-active management of health and safety. The company were prosecuted and fined 1700 plus costs.

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A footwear firm had noise levels in excess of 90dB(A) at several workstations and employees were not wearing hearing protection. HSE advice had been ignored so improvement notices were served. Subsequently the notices were complied with and very high use of ear protection was achieved. A choice of types was available. Employees were trained and made aware of the effects of noise induced hearing loss and what they had to do to obtain/maintain ear protectors.

Updated 2021-01-15