If you have machinery in your workplace you really should take steps to ensure all risks have been properly assessed because all over the UK there are examples of failures leading to HSE prosecutions. Generally, the prosecutions identify a lack of or unsuitable guarding; in this case the guard failed to fully enclose the dangerous moving parts.
The HSE investigation found that Mainetti (UK) Ltd had fitted a guard to the conveyor but it was inadequate; additionally there was no emergency stop button on the conveyor which could have lessened the impact of the incident.
Once again the business had failed in its risk assessment to identify the dangers of entanglement in conveyors, and there was poor enforcement of the need to keep hair and loose clothing secure when near the machinery. Unfortunately, too many businesses fall into the trap of trying to undertake risk assessments on equipment where they don`t have the expertise to identify what risks exist and how they should be safely controlled.
For Mainetti (UK) Ltd this has resulted in a fine of £60,000 after a young worker was severely injured when her hair was ripped out by poorly guarded machinery.
She had been sorting clothes hangers on a conveyor when her scarf and hair became caught in the chain and sprocket drive of the belt as she bent over to remove accumulated hangers. She sustained serious throat injuries, lost a substantial part of her hair and fractured a finger in the incident and has since needed a number of operations and was in hospital for three months.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching three regulations under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and one breach under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health at Safety at Work Regulations 1999. As well as the £60,000 fine it was ordered to pay costs of £21,668.
As the HSE Inspector commented, these horrific, life-changing injuries sustained by the young lady could easily have been avoided if the right safeguarding measures had been taken by Mainetti (UK) Ltd.
For those of us in the health & safety industry that have experience of machinery, the risks associated with working with conveyor belts are well-known. Had a full PUWER assessment been undertaken then the risks would have been fully assessed and guarding provided to prevent access to moving parts.
Once done, the PUWER assessment findings should be briefed to the employees and management to ensure that workers are properly monitored, supervised and trained when working with machinery.