Employees return to work after tribunal rules in favour of Arva Flour Mill

The historic Arva Flour Mill, just north of London, has been in operation since 1819. Google Maps

It’s back to business at the historic Arva Flour Mill following a ten-month battle with the Ministry of Labour.

Last spring, the mill was forced to cease operations after an inspector deemed it unsafe.

The mill’s owner, Mike Matthews, was allowed to work the mill alone under a stay of the order while the case went before the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal.

Matthews learned late Friday that the Tribunal had decided to overturn the original decision.

“Basically what that means is my employees can go back to work, I can get a little bit of sleep at night,” he joked.

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“There’s never been a danger here when it comes down to it. We’ve had a lot of employees over the last hundred years, I’m not even sure how many, and we haven’t had any injuries or anything like that.”

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While it’s back to business as usual in the interim, Matthews must have machine guards on rotating and moving parts that may pose a danger to employees in place by August 3.

“It’s a very good outcome for us. It could’ve went terribly when it comes down to it,” he said.

“It’s the guarding issue now that could arise to be a problem but we’ll just see. We’ve got a good engineer working on stuff for us and we’re working with the government and hopefully we can come to a compromise and develop some guards that will work for us and work for them.”

The Tribunal found that the original inspector did not physically observe the milling facility in person because she “did not want to put herself in a situation that she perceived to be a danger” but noted that she took two weeks to issue the direction, which is inconsistent with findings of an imminent threat to the life or health of the employees.

The Appeals Officer also found that inspector’s findings were “based on her own speculations that an employee could get caught up in the moving and rotating parts, rather than any objective facts”.

The Arva Flour Mill has been in operation since 1819.

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