Case studies

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 textiles, footwear, leather, laundries and dry-cleaning manufacturing industries and include:

Manual handling/Musculoskeletal

Textiles - a presser needed physiotherapy and steroid injections to alleviate severe pain in her shoulder and arm brought on by repetitive vertical steaming of garments. The job involved lifting the iron repeatedly above shoulder height - the job was redesigned so that it could be done without lifting the iron so high.

Clothing - a left handed sewing machinist, attaching buttons on a machine designed for right-handed people, developed back and neck problems as a result of the awkward posture she had to adopt. After some thought and a bit of adjustment of the system of work, the machinist was able to sit comfortably at the machine.

Fabric warehouse - a warehouse worker suffered a back injury after manually handling an awkward roll of fabric weighing around 28Kg. Afterwards, the employer reduced the weight of rolls to 25Kg, provided training on lifting, and introduced new instructions on how to handle loose rolls.

Slips management

Dye works - a worker cleaning a dyeing machine with hot water and bleach slipped on the wet working platform and fell backwards, spilling the cleaning solution over himself. He suffered burns and blistering. The floor of the platform is now better drained and has had its slip resistance improved.

Carding - a maintenance engineer sustained head injuries and 3 crushed ribs after falling into an unguarded shallow concrete pit close to the machine. The risk had been pointed out before he started work, but no action had been taken to cover or guard the pit.

Falls from height

Fall from teagle opening - a man fell approximately 70 feet from the top floor of mill building whilst trying to free a pulley block which had become jammed in the transporter of a teagle hoist when it over-hoisted. An unsafe system of work was being employed: the access was not safe, there was no use of harnesses, and no thought had gone into how the task could be done safely. The man lost his balance, swung out over the open edge and fell. He landed on some bales which saved his life.

Installing new machine - a guard rail had to be removed to allow a new steam hood to be lifted into position above a carpet backing line. Whilst the hood was being manoeuvred, a manager fell through the gap and died from his injuries. This accident brings home the importance of having a lifting plan and a system of work to prevent approaching an unguarded edge.

Workplace transport

Fabric warehouse - a worker was reversing a pedestrian operated truck used to move rolls of fabric when he became trapped between the body of the truck and a wall. The emergency brake, designed to operate when the control handle was released failed to work because of a poorly adjusted brake linkage. The worker had also not had any training in how to use the truck.

Workplace transport accidents happen for 3 main reasons; an unsafe site, an unsafe vehicle or an unsafe driver. In this case, 2 causes contributed to make an accident inevitable.

Fatal fall from vehicle - a dyehouse worker was standing on the bed of a flatbed lorry helping a forklift truck driver to remove bales of yarn. He was manipulating the bales with double bale hooks when he fell and tumbled 1.5m to the ground. He broke his hip and died shortly afterwards from a blood clot.

Struck by something

A textile worker was opening a shutter door using a manually operated chain pulley. The pulley block came off the main shaft and fell 10m on to the worker's head, fracturing his skull.

The pulley had never been inspected or maintained so this was an accident waiting to happen.

Rag sorting - a worker was severely injured when he was struck by a 200Kg bale of rags which fell from an unstable stack.


Maintenance worker killed at textile baling press - an employee was carrying out maintenance work at a vertical textile baling press. He reached through an access door into a baling chamber to retrieve a tool that had fallen from his pocket. This action broke a light beam causing the ram to descend. He was trapped between the ram and the side of the baling chamber causing serious internal injuries. He later died in hospital. The press had not been isolated.

Occupational asthma

A dyer's job was to weigh and mix reactive dyes. He did the work in a proper ventilated booth but then tipped the powders into open dye kettles. The process generated a lot of fine dust and this is probably how he became sensitised. He started to get a runny nose and eyes and over a period of a few weeks developed a wheezy chest. These symptoms got worse and eventually he had a severe asthma attack. Now, his asthma means that he can no longer work in the dye house.


Hearing loss is irreversible- a case study of Paul Chamberlain, aged 50 years, a textile worker who has suffered noise induced hearing loss - for an 'Action on Noise' pack, contact the Textiles Sector Group in Leeds

Paul worked as a dyer in a dyehouse for 36 years. When he started, the old dyehouse had a wooden roof, which absorbed a lot of noise. Fifteen years ago the company moved into a new dyehouse with a higher roof and installed machinery, which operated on steam injection. It was much more noisy, but nobody took the problem very seriously.

At first Paul didn't notice he was losing his hearing - he just kept on turning the TV up. But when he went to hospital for hearing checks, they found out he had over 50% hearing loss in both ears. He was 37 years old.

Paul's hearing continued to deteriorate as he got older. Even with a hearing aid, he has lots of practical problems. He can't use the phone unless he uses an amplifier, and has difficulty hearing people at the door. He can't hear traffic until its right on top of him, and when he's driving, he often stays in 3rd gear too long because he doesn't hear the engine revving.

He doesn't use his hearing aid at work because there's too much background noise, so he feels very isolated. If he's made redundant - who's going to employ a 50-year-old deaf dyehouse worker?

Its hard on his wife because he's dependent on her to help him function socially. The money from his compensation claim won't get his hearing back. They're both frustrated at what they've lost and feel their lives have been ruined

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Updated 2021-05-11