A Lincolnshire firm which makes disposable paper products has been ordered to pay more than £116,000 in fines and costs after three workers suffered hand injuries using unguarded machines.
The HSE prosecuted Staples Disposables Ltd at Lincoln Crown Court today after investigating all three incidents at its Fulbeck Heath factory.
- One worker had to have his left thumb amputated after getting it crushed in unguarded machinery on a production line in 2011 and was off work for several months but has now returned to the company to work on other duties.
- A month later an agency worker cut her finger on the blade of a napkin folding machine and did not return to work at the company.
- Twelve months later another worker lost all four fingers of his right hand after it was caught between unguarded rollers. It is not known whether he will be able to return to work.
Lincoln Crown Court heard how in the first incident the man was operating a new production line. He accessed the machine to clear a blockage, which was normal practice, but his hand was drawn into the rollers. As well as crushing his thumb, he also fractured his palm.
The HSE found that the manufacturers had over-ridden interlocked guards on the enclosure surrounding the equipment during commissioning, so engineers could access the machine. Staple Disposables’ management knew about the missing guards but failed to take any action to reinstate the interlocks.
The investigation into the second incident found an electrically-interlocked guard had been removed. The company had installed the guard on the napkin folding machine after a similar accident in 2007, for which it had been prosecuted by HSE, but had instigated a process to remove them for specific production runs within a matter of weeks.
The investigation into the third accident found that it was normal practice to lock operators within an enclosure designed to keep them away from the dangerous parts of a toilet roll manufacturing line. Supervisors and management had failed to identify and stop this highly dangerous practice.
Staples Disposables Ltd, of Fulbeck Heath, near Grantham, pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching Sections 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and one of breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act. The company was fined a total of £85,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,380.
This business clearly failed to manage its health and safety properly and was quite rightly prosecuted for persistent failures to manage its factory operations. Had they carried out proper risk assessments, ensured the correct guards were in place, and that work was properly supervised these three incidents could have been avoided.
It does seem strange though that at the time of these incidents that the business could win an award as Large Employer of the Year Award at the Grimsby Institute Train to Gain and Workforce Development Awards 2011. As a business it clearly wants to develop good business news but these failures to look after its employees will most likely undo the hard work as Google loves a bad news story and these are now linked to the business name.
The sad part of it was that the company was well aware that machines had dangerous moving parts that should have been guarded, yet it continued to put workers at risk over a prolonged period.