The high street chocolate chain, Thornton’s, was fined £20,000 + £7,600 costs following an incident where a worker broke her finger while operating a wrapping machine. The lady had been working at the company’s Somercotes plant on a foil wrapping machine, where chocolates were wrapped in foil and dispensed down a chute into a tray.
It was found that during a short break in production, while the machine was still running, she attempted to clean the inside of the output chute which had become covered in caramel. However, the cloth she was using became tangled in rotating parts which gripped the chocolates and her right hand was dragged into the machine. Her middle finger was fractured and cut, and she was off work for 10 weeks following the incident.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the machine had guarding installed but it was inadequate. This was followed up by a subsequent audit of other machines in the factory which found safety improvements were necessary to a range of machines, including preventing access to dangerous parts or repairs to existing safeguards.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
So why did such a large company allow its machinery guarding to fall below the legal safety standards. As the HSE put it “it was effectively asking its employees to work on machines that put them at risk of injury”.
It seems that many companies fail to understand the risks from machinery and are either unaware or ignorant of the full requirements of PUWER; you only have to look at the number of recent prosecutions on the HSE website to see this. What this means is that entirely foreseeable accidents occur due to the inadequate guarding or the poor working practices that are in place.
So why is it that so many companies fail to carry out an adequate risk assessment of its machinery? Our work with companies across the U.K. to improve machinery safety standards has shown us that all too often they have attempted to assess the risks as part of a general risk assessment. The problem with this is that these assessments really don`t assess the full risks from working with machinery and often fail to identify suitable control mechanisms.
So why not take a look at your machinery or work equipment assessments? Will your assessments keep your workers safe and your business protected from the HSE?