Swindon-based Honda UK has been fined after an employee lost two fingers while polishing a piece of equipment at the plant in South Marston.
Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard that a 55-year-old man, from Swindon, had been using an emery cloth to polish a metal component as it rotated on a manual lathe when the incident occurred.
The HSE investigation found that he was in the last stages of polishing the component when the glove on his right hand became entangled in the equipment, severing two fingers. The court was told he was being observed by a group of supervisors and management, and was distracted by being asked how much longer he would be.
He was off work for six weeks following the incident before returning to build up to normal duties, but still requires the assistance of colleagues at times.
It was found that the company did not provide a safe system of work and failed to assess the dangers involved in the work the man was requested to carry out. The company did have a glove policy which indicated gloves should not be worn whilst using machinery; clearly with management in attendance this was not enforced. It never fails to amaze me that companies document policies and then fail to inform, educate and enforce these policies. Something that is clear is that if you say you are going to do something then you must do it or face the consequences when in court.
Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd, Swindon, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,959 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The HSE Inspector commented that this incident could have easily been prevented had there been a safe system of work in place, and the company’s glove policy had been enforced. If an emery cloth is held by hand and wrapped round a work piece, there is a high risk of it becoming entangled. Wearing gloves also increases the risk of entanglement and for these reasons hand application of emery cloth should be avoided. In this case, a tool holder could have been used or the component could have been taken off the lathe and polished by hand.
HSE stats show that every year, there are several serious incidents reported involving the use of emery cloths on metalworking lathes, resulting in injuries such as broken bones, amputations, and occasionally death.
If you have processes that involve working in close proximity to moving parts then we advise that you revisit your risk assessment.