A Hampshire glazing company has been fined for safety breaches after a worker lost part of a finger in a woodworking machine at its factory in Aldershot.
The workers little finger on his right hand was drawn into a cutting block rotating at 7,000 rpm as he worked on reducing the thickness of lengths of timber at the Total Installations Ltd factory last year. The rotating blades of the cutting block shaved down his finger resulting in it being amputated just below the first joint.
The company was prosecuted at Aldershot Magistrates’ Court after an investigation by the HSE found it had failed to ensure adequate safeguards were in place to prevent workers from coming in contact with dangerous parts of machinery.
The court was told that the man was using a planer-thicknesser to work on three-metre lengths of timber. The machine had been set up by an untrained operative resulting in wood shavings blocking the revolving knife block. At the time of the incident he was sweeping shavings from the table with his hand and his glove was drawn into the rotating block.
Total Installations Ltd, of Aldershot, pleaded guilty to two breaches of health and safety legislation. It was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,791.50 in costs.
The HSE inspector later commented that the dangerous parts of these machines must be properly guarded at all times – guidance about this has been in existence for many years. The company failed in its duty of care to its employees by not considering the risks involved and acting to ensure there were safeguards in place to protect workers against accessing dangerous parts. This should have included the necessary training for the use of this machine.
It appears that the company had not carried out an adequate risk assessment of the work, something that we find is a common factor in accidents involving work equipment. If the company had looked at the machinery risk and considered the requirements of PUWER it would have identified the need for suitable guarding, safe systems of working and training of employees as critical elements of controlling the risks.