The UK division of a global packaging company has been fined for safety failings after a long-serving worker lost a finger in an unguarded chain on a machine. The man severed the first finger on his right hand to the bone in the incident at Huhtamaki UK Ltd in Gosport; it had to be amputated the following day after surgeons were unable to save it.
Huhtamaki specialises in food and drink packaging and operates 60 manufacturing sites worldwide, including the Hampshire factory. The UK operation was prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found that more could and should have been done to make the machine safe.
Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court heard the injured worker, who has worked for the company for 34 years, was part of a two-man team feeding plastic sheets into the machine after a product change. As he worked from the side of the machine to feed a sheet onto a chain that would draw it inside – described as a spiked bicycle chain – his finger was caught between the chain and a roller.
HSE identified that had the feeding line been properly guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts then the incident could have been avoided.
The court was told that Huhtamaki UK Ltd failed to fully assess and identify the risks posed by the lack of guarding, and take appropriate action. They were fined fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,088 in costs after being found guilty of a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
The HSE commented after the case that incidents of this kind are all too common in the manufacturing sector, and the onus is on employers to ensure appropriate guarding is in place at all times to protect workers.
We would have to back this observation up as too many times we find unguarded or poorly guarded machinery when auditing manufacturing businesses. Recently we found a machine with a guard left under the machine and a second guard with a broken interlock; when management were challenged they were completely unaware of the situation yet our investigation found it had been like this for nearly two years!! What defence could the business have offered in court?
Working for another large food manufacturing client after the HSE had requested a full PUWER assessment needed to be completed; we identified numerous cases of chain drives not being sufficiently guarded. Thankfully for this business they have reacted positively and implemented a major guarding improvement plan.
Perhaps you should take time to look at whether your guarding does what it needs to and stops your employees getting hurt; if not then the HSE may be on your case.