I bet you’re thinking “this can’t really happen can it?” That’s the problem I see when looking at how machinery is guarded; or very often not guarded. Those working with the machinery (and their managers too) often fail to recognise what could go wrong and what the implications might be.
In a recent prosecution by the HSE a Shropshire steel engineering company has been fined after a worker got the sleeve of his overalls caught in an unguarded drill bit, causing serious neck and arm injuries.
The man had been working with a twin pillar drill when the incident happened. While drilling holes into a metal box section, the sleeve on his overalls became entangled in the running drill spindle, which was unguarded.
He was pulled into the rotating spindle and as it continued to run, his arm and upper body were dragged into the machining area, resulting in him being pinned to the machine bed. Unable to reach the stop button, he shouted for help and was eventually freed by a colleague.
Just think how traumatic that must have been; being drawn into a machine and not being able to free himself.
I remember talking to another man who had been trapped by an unguarded press machine and he had to make a decision to try to save his arm or to let it be cut off and then go for help; he chose the latter as he couldn`t stand the pain anymore. He carries that memory vividly every day of his life and yet the accident could have been easily prevented.
In this unguarded drill case the man suffered three fractures in his neck and serious cuts and burns on his right forearm. He was in hospital for seven weeks, went through ten weeks of physiotherapy and was in a neck brace for six months. The left side of his body has been weakened by his injuries.
The HSE investigation found CRF (UK) Ltd had not provided any guards to prevent access to the rotating spindles and no formal systems of work were in place. It was left to operator experience and discretion how work should be set up and performed and there were no formal systems of supervision or training.
This once again shows the importance of undertaking a thorough risk assessment as a detailed PUWER assessment undertaken by a competent person would have identified how unacceptable these practices were.
The Court heard that CRF (UK) Ltd failed to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the equipment at its premises. The business was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £7,871 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Don`t wait to question could such an accident happen in your workplace; make sure you have suitable controls in place and if you need help then please seek out professional support.