A worker at a large paper mill in Devon was fatally injured whilst working for Arjo Wiggins at their mill in Ivybridge. The man had been trying to clear a significant blockage when the incident occurred.
The HSE investigation identified he had gained access to a set of large rollers on the production line by opening a gate which had been left unlocked. He was using a long handled tool to clear waste material and the tool became caught and he was pulled into the machine whilst the rollers were running at production speed. His colleagues pulled him out of the machine and tried to administer first aid but he died at the scene from crushing injuries.
Further details released have shown that the padlock on the gate was often unlocked and workers also gained access to other dangerous parts of the machine. The man had only been working in this section of the mill for 2 weeks and had only received limited training. The HSE inspector commented that if staff were properly trained then this tragic event could have been avoided.
Arjo Wiggins pleaded guilty to charges and was fined £200,000 + £60,000 in costs.
Arjo Wiggins operate in an industry that has historically had a bad safety record and much has been done over the last 15 years to improve this. The industry has worked closely with the HSE and the Unions to prevent access to what is inherently dangerous machinery and to educate those that work in the mills. So, we have to ask, why then did they not do more to prevent this accident?
We have extensive experience of this industry and it seems to us that there is still too much of “it’s been alright in the past” attitude from workers and management. It’s only through well thought out training delivered by persons with relevant experience that you can start to change this attitude. We have been working with another mill in the South-West and know that the industry still takes short cuts at times that could potentially lead to serious injury.
Clearly, guarding and prevention of access goes a long way to controlling risks but until management and the workers understand the consequences of bypassing these controls then guarding alone is not enough. Our experience though shows that training really can make a positive difference.