I look weekly at the HSE website to see news of safety failings and prosecutions, and continue to see many cases where businesses have failed to manage machine safety risks. June proved no exception, with seven prosecutions posted with fines up to £50k being issued.
Below are excerpts from some of the prosecutions:
- A Rochdale bedding manufacturer has been fined £50,000 after a health and safety inspection found the majority of its machines were unsafe to use. One of the machines at the factory had been wrapped with pieces of cardboard as the only way of protecting workers from the dangerous moving parts inside. Inspectors from the HSE had to return to Sartex Quilts and Textiles Ltd for a second day after finding dozens of missing or inadequate guards on machines.
The company, which owns the Maison Le Vie and Night Comfort brands, and employs 80 people at its plant on Queensway, was prosecuted and the company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £14,614 in prosecution costs.
The HSE commented that the company put production before health and safety and put the lives of its employees in danger as a result. Common sense should have meant they didn’t use cardboard to cover dangerous moving parts, but that’s exactly what was found on one machine.
- A tin can factory worker had his ring finger ripped off by unguarded machinery while feeding metal sheets onto a conveyor. The worker has suffered continuing pain and discomfort and is unable to grip properly with one hand since the incident at Ardagh Metal Packaging of Merthyr Tydfil.
Both his employer and the company that supplied the machinery, Crabtree of Gateshead, were prosecuted by the HSE. The HSE investigation found that Crabtree had designed the machine with an automatic feeder and not intended it to be fed by hand. Their risk assessment had not foreseen hand feeding and identified the conveyor area as medium rather than high risk. As a result they supplied the machine without a suitable guard which allowed the worker to access dangerous moving parts.
Ardagh failed to identify the risks to workers from the unguarded conveyor, and an Improvement Notice was served requiring the company to make the machine safe.
Ardagh Metal Packaging (UK) Ltd, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £11,754 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
- A Herefordshire sawmill has been fined for safety breaches after an employee suffered severe crush injuries when his arm was dragged into the rollers of a poorly-guarded conveyor belt. The saw operator at Pontrilas Sawmills Ltd was attempting to remove a piece of wood from the idling end roller of the conveyor as it was interfering with the operation of the machine.
As he went to take hold of the piece of wood, his hand and then his arm got drawn in and trapped between the conveyor belt and the roller. His co-workers rushed to help and one pressed an emergency stop button. The conveyor belt then had to be cut to release his arm. The man has not yet been able to return to work since the incident in January 2012.
The HSE investigation found that on the day of the incident the conveyor was affected by a fault which the company had been aware of for at least three weeks. The fault allowed an increasing amount of wood debris to accumulate at the idle roller end of the conveyor belt, making it more likely that the machine would trip out.
The court was told the Pontrilas Sawmills Ltd failed to carry out a proper assessment of the risks associated with the conveyor belt. As a result there were no suitable controls in place, such as fixed guarding or interlocks.
Pontrilas Sawmills Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching various health and safety regulations and the judge said the company had fallen substantially below expected standards and fined it a total of £40,000. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £17,756.
The HSE commented that this could have had fatal consequences yet was easily preventable had there been an adequate risk assessment of their equipment and properly supervised employees.
All of these cases, as with the others posted by the HSE, show that simple failures to consider and manage risks with machinery can have serious impact on people’s lives and their businesses. Isn`t it time to reflect on how well you control machinery risks and ensure that you have proper risk assessments and safe working controls?
If you need help to determine your PUWER risks and want to receive the best assessments available then why not contact the MESH team; we guarantee that you’ll be impressed.