§ SELF-OPERATED LAUNDRIES
- '(1) For the purposes of this section premises shall be deemed to be used as a self-operated laundry when facilities are provided to the public on those premises on payment for washing or dry cleaning clothes or other articles by machines operated primarily by the customer.
- (a) The occupier of premises in a district used either partly or wholly as a self-operated laundry shall, in order to ensure that the plant, and machinery installed in the premises for the purpose of the business are so fitted and maintained as to avoid risk of explosion, leakage of fluids or vapour and danger to the persons operating or in the vicinity of the plant and machinery, cause such plant and machinery to be inspected at least once in every fourteen months after the appointed day by a competent engineer appointed or approved by an insurance company or agreed between the occupier and the local authority and the occupier of the premises shall send to the local authority a certificate (hereinafter called "a certificate of inspection") by an insurance company or by such an engineer certifying the result of the inspection.
- (i) before the expiration of fourteen months and fourteen days from:—
- (a) the appointed day, or
- (b) in the case of premises which are not used as a self-operated laundry before the appointed day the date on which the premises are first used as a self-operated laundry, or
- (c) (except in the case of the first certificate of inspection to be made in respect of premises) the date on which the last certificate of inspection was sent by the occupier of the premises to the local authority; the occupier of the premises fails to send a certificate of inspection to the local authority, or
- (ii) a certificate of inspection sent to the local authority
- fails to show that the plant and machinery upon the premises are so fitted and maintained as aforesaid;
- the local authority may make application by way of complaint to a magistrates' court who may order the closing of the premises to the public until a certificate of inspection is received by the local authority showing that the plant and machinery are so fitted and maintained as aforesaid.
- (c) Any person who contravenes an order made by a court under paragraph (b) of this subsection shall be liable to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds and to a daily fine not exceeding twenty pounds.
- (a) As from the appointed day if in the opinion of the local authority any substance is used on the premises in connection with any dry-cleaning process which is likely to be dangerous the occupier shall, if so required by the local authority, display such precautionary notices as may be agreed between the local authority and such bodies as appear to them to represent the trade or business of self-operated laundries or as failing such agreement may be reasonably required for the purpose of warning the public.
- (3)(a) As from the appointed day if in the opinion of the local authority any substance is used on the premises in connection with any dry-cleaning process which is likely to be dangerous the occupier shall, if so required by the local authority, display such precautionary notices as may be agreed between the local authority and such bodies as appear to them to represent the trade or business of self-operated laundries or as failing such agreement may be reasonably required for the purpose of warning the public.
- (b) Any person who contravenes any provisions of this subsection shall be liable to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds and to a daily fine not exceeding
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The clause stems from the view of the local authority associations that control over the maintenance of machinery in self-operated laundries is inadequate, and they have provided me with evidence of accidents in these laundries, which are invariably left unattended by their owners.
In June 1969 in Brixton a child aged 8 had her arm ripped off in a spin dryer. In January 1972 in Salford a child aged 8 caught her right arm in a spin dryer and 432 suffered severe injuries. The length of her right arm was shortened. In October 1973 a child was pushed into a machine. In that same month a child aged 9 was overcome by fumes after its head became trapped in a self-operated dry cleaning machine. In August 1974 a child had its right arm ripped off by a washing machine. In June 1976 a child had an arm ripped off in a spin dryer. In August 1976 a child aged 13 has her arm ripped off in a spin dryer. In March 1977 a machine failed to operate, leaving a woman and her husband unconscious from the fumes. A child died. Two years ago another child lost an arm. A great many such cases have been recorded, and it is clear that the 1974 Act is inadequate in its provision for supervision.
There are precedents for the new clause in the Manchester Corporation (General Powers) Act 1971 and the Salford Corporation Act 1973. Last July the Greater Manchester Bill was enacted, but the promoters failed to obtain the powers that had existed in Manchester under the previous local legislation. Obviously, Manchester has a particular interest in seeing the new clause become law. It will cover all local authorities that feel that they have a special problem.
No doubt the Minister will suggest that the 1974 Act is adequate to deal with the problem. The safeguards under that Act are inadequate, however, and I understand that the Health and Safety Executive has recently modified its stance on the matter. The issue is clearly one of balance. The Act places upon occupiers of premises a responsibility to ensure that persons using the premises and the facilities provided are not subjected to health and safety risks. Whilst routine visits or inspections after a complaint are made under the Act, it is felt that they would be unlikely to reveal all defects that are likely to arise.
The former local Act powers would impose on the occupier an obligation to have his plant and machinery inspected at least every 14 months by a competent engineer and to supply a certificate of inspection to the local authority. In the event of hazards existing or potential dangers to health being indicated on the certificate, the local authority would be empowered to apply to the local magistrates' court for a closing order to apply until conditions were improved sufficiently to allow a satisfactory certificate to be issued.
That position applied in Manchester before the Greater Manchester Bill became law last year. We are trying tc. reestablish those powers with the new clause. I hope hat the Minister will respond by accepting that there is a need for the powers on the basis of the Manchester experience, and perhaps say that he is willing to accept the clause.
§ Mr. Raison
I understand the concern that has been aroused by the accidents that the hon. Gentleman described, but he must accept that accidents will persist whatever the legislation. Legislation in this area is essential, as has long been acknowledged, but no legislation will automatically prevent accidents from ever happening.
The advice I have is that local authorities have sufficient powers under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority) Regulations 1977 (SI 1977/746), as amended, to ensure that self-operated laundries are safe and without risks to health. The regulations enable local authorities to enforce the 1974 Act in respect of self-operated laundries and coin-operated dry cleaning units in launderettes and similar premises.
433 Among other things, launderette operators have a duty under the 1974 Act to maintain the plant, machinery and installation in a safe condition, and local authorities have more appropriate and effective powers in the form of improvement and prohibition notices under sections 21 and 22 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to deal with problems than an application to a magistrates court for a closure.
Recently, in relation to some local Acts, the inclusion of certain limited provisions—for example, for periodic inspection of premises—has not been opposed where they could be shown to complement or at least stand side by side with national health and safety regulations. I am not convinced, however that such regulations provisions are necessary or that what it is desired to achieve cannot be achieved through the use of the powers given to local authorities under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
We have always, when talking of legislation, to see whether there is a real gain in whatever it is proposed should be added to the statute book, and whether there are costs which would be incurred by local authorities, would in operating schemes, incur costs without a commensurate result in avoiding accidents.
For those reasons, I believe that it would be inappropriate to make this provision for self-operated laundries.
§ Mr. Pitt
I accept that there are regulations which would appear to cover self-operated laundries, but does the Minister agree that with self-operated laundries and self-operating dry cleaning facilities there are considerable additional and specific hazards because they are operated not in the usual place of work, but by unqualified people, coming in and going out? The use of perchloroethylene, a highly toxic gas, in the cleaning machines is a very dangerous method of cleaning.
I am surprised that the Minister cannot see the reason for the new clause. It would be an important addition to the Bill, in that it would make it a specific duty for the local authority to pay attention to a situation which does not arise at a place of work and cannot be controlled on a day-to-day basis. The machines are used by unqualified people who come and go, and special legislation is required.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I am worried by the fact that the Minister rejects the new clause, because the local authority associations have made representations to him which are grossly at variance with the case that he put to the House tonight and suggests that they do not have a problem. They have a problem, and Manchester corporation would not have been as vigorous as it has been in trying to re-establish a legislative right that it had prior to last year if that legislation had not been important to it. Manchester corporation believes that it has lost something, and I have come to the House to try to restore to it a right that it thought was important, and also to show that that right exists for every local authority in Britain.
I should have thought that the costs to the local authority were minimal. The costs to the NHS arising in the event of an accident would be far more substantial. Although I accept that my suggested provision would not end accidents, it would ensure that machinery was 434 adequately inspected and certificated on a 12 to 14-months basis, and thus ensure better standards of maintenance of machinery in the premises concerned.
I thought that the Minister might have responded more favourably.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn