The company, Hayles Pressings Ltd, pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, by not providing adequate training to employees, not checking guards were in place, and not preventing access to dangerous parts of the machine. The company was fined £2,500 + costs of £2,500.
The case was brought by the HSE following an incident where a worker lost four fingers on his left hand when they were crushed in machinery. The man had been using a power press to cut electrical components from a thin strip of steel when his hand became caught between the unguarded cutting tools.
The HSE found the machine guards had been disconnected and tied back several days before the incident to allow easy access. This meant that operators could put their hands under the tools to remove components without the power first being cut. It may sound like an obvious risk but not one this company had recognised in its risk assessment or a risk it felt worth taking to make the job easier!!
It appears that the incident occurred as the man leant forwards and accidently leant on the foot pedal which operated the press, with his hand under the cutting tool. It was found that he was not given any formal training on how to use the machine and the firm ignored its legal duty to carry out daily checks to make sure the guards were in place.
Clearly, guards are on machines for the purpose of preventing contact with dangerous moving parts; so why is it that so many employers overlook whether they are being used correctly? We regularly ask this question when auditing companies and it’s often a lack of appreciation of the risks from both management and employees. The employees will comment that the guards just get in the way and that its easier without them; they also regularly make the comment that they have not had an accident in 10 years or more so “what’s the point?”.
However as the many cases being prosecuted by the HSE across the UK show, failure to use guards as they are designed will lead to accidents that could have been easily prevented and will lead to a court appearance and a stain on the company reputation.