A Kent recycling firm has been prosecuted after an employee had his jaw shattered into ‘pieces like cornflakes’ when he was hit by a piece of plastic pipe ejected from a band saw. The worker, then 42 from Chatham, was cutting down the old gas pipe for recycling at Kingsnorth Waste Management’s site in Hoo, Rochester, when the incident happened. The pipe was some 50 cm long and 30 cm in diameter and 2 cm thick.
As he fed the domed section of the pipe into the band saw, the teeth of the blade stuck into the plastic, rotated it round the domed end and ejected it. The piece was thrown out at high speed and struck him in his throat and under his chin. It broke both upper and lower jaw bones and burst his jaw hinges.
Kingsnorth Waste Management pleaded guilty to safety failings at Dartford Magistrates’ Court after an investigation by the HSE. The court heard the worker had undergone a number of operations, including a bone graft from his hip, over the past four years to reconstruct his jaw. He still suffers from a continual feeling of ‘pins and needles’ caused by irreparable nerve damage, and has problems eating.
Early in its investigation, HSE identified that after the incident, there had been two further instances of plastic pipe being ejected as it was being sawn and striking the operators, including one where the worker was a 16-year-old trainee. As a result, a prohibition notice was served on Kingsnorth Waste Management preventing any further use of the band saws for cutting this sort of material.
HSE found the company had not identified the added risks of using the band saws to cut across cylindrical material, such as the rotation and ejection of pieces from the saw. There were no measures, such as the use of jigs clamps or wedges, to allow the machine to be more safely used.
Kingsnorth Waste Management Ltd of Kingsnorth Industrial Estate, Hoo, Rochester, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Had the business properly investigated how the bandsaw was operated and fully understood the risks of use then a risk assessment could have identified what controls would be required. A simple exercise that would have prevented such a life changing incident occurring. The use of simple clamps or wedges, or the use of alternative cutting equipment, would have allowed the job to be safely carried out.