Failures to comply with PUWER have led a Bristol based company to be fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,632 in costs. At Bristol Magistrates Court, Mil Tu Fit Engineering Ltd of Bristol was found guilty of breaching Regulation 11(1)(a) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
The prosecution related to the company failing to adequately guard dangerous parts of machinery, resulting in a worker suffering serious head and chest injuries. The court heard that the man sustained a compressed skull fracture, which had partly shattered and concaved his skull, leaving fragments resting on his brain. He also suffered wide gashes to his chest, a dislodged breast plate, broken wrist, and several other smaller wounds on his body. He returned to work nine months after the incident but continues to suffer from severe headaches, chest, back and joint pains, as well as dizziness and flashbacks. At this point, his work future is uncertain.
The HSE investigation identified that the company had two CNC lathes on site, one intended for machining short parts only and another with a bar feed attachment and guard designed for machining longer parts. Because the machine for longer parts was already in use, the man was instructed to use the lathe without the bar feed attachment to machine long metal bars at roughly 2.5 metres in length. It was found that he was instructed to place a barrier of empty drums at the end of the machine in order to fence off the rotating bar from passers-by – a method that Mil Tu Fit Engineering had apparently used in the past. However, as the machine was operating, the bar became unstable and began to bend under its own weight. As the man turned to see what was happening, he was struck by the bar which threw him to the ground and knocked him unconscious.
Clearly the company had failed to properly consider the risks and the advice he received did not consider the operators safety; only that of other employees who were prevented from accessing the machine from the sides.
Unfortunately this case once again shows how poorly prepared many companies are when they decide they need to resort to plan B. The HSE investigating inspector commented that if the company had used the appropriate equipment which was available on site, this incident could have been avoided and this man would not have suffered these terrible injuries.
However the reality is that this need to adapt to changing priorities happens in companies across the country frequently. What this case shows is how important it is to understand the risks and to make sure that thorough PUWER assessments are undertaken to protect the workforce and the company.