We have on many occasions warned businesses over the need to control the risks posed by working with machinery. Clearly from the prosecutions taken by the HSE this message is too often overlooked or is not looked at properly.
In a recent prosecution a business was sentenced after an employee’s left hand was crushed when it was drawn into a two centimetre gap between the rollers of a printing machine. The man injured was an experienced printer; once again dispelling the myth that these accidents only happen to inexperienced workers.
After the accident he needed two operations on his severely injured hand and has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
The incident at the food packaging premises of Chevler Ltd was investigated by the HSE and the company charged with serious safety breaches.
The Court heard that the HSE found the printing machine was unguarded, allowing workers to get too close to dangerous moving parts. In particular, the drive rollers had not been identified as a hazard and no safe system for cleaning them was in place.
Too make matters worse the business had been aware for almost 18 months prior to the incident that a safe isolation procedure was required when cleaning the machine but failed to implement one.
The man was injured when he tried to clean the printer at the factory after he noticed the final product was developing streaks. As he tried to clean dried ink from the rollers, his hand was drawn into the two-centimetre gap formed by the two counter-rotating drive rollers. The machine had to be reversed manually by another operator to free his hand.
He was off work for almost nine months but has since returned to work on light duties.
Chevler Ltd was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £5,843 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
As the HSE commented after the case this was a completely needless and entirely preventable incident that left an employee with painful injuries and a long-term disability. The impact on his life has been quite profound.
Evidence shows us that in the manufacturing industry there are too many businesses operating machinery that is either badly guarded or not guarded at all. We have had many, many discussions with managers about the importance of guarding dangerous parts and to ensure that activities such as cleaning and maintenance are considered when undertaking the risk assessment.