A Rotherham manufacturing firm has been prosecuted for safety breaches after an employee’s fingers were crushed and severed in an unguarded machine.
The incident at Heaps, Arnold and Heaps Ltd, which makes metal products, was investigated by the HSE, which found a vital safety device had been deliberately removed from a 250-tonne press.
The court heard that a 43-year-old worker had been asked to work on the machine, which presses lead work-pieces into required shapes. He was unaware a safety device, or interlock, had been removed while he had been on holiday.
The employee put his hand into the machine during a routine cleaning operation but the press activated without warning and his fingers were crushed by the ram. He lost the index and middle fingers and suffered further crush injuries to his left hand. He is undertaking a phased return to work but still needs medical and physiotherapy treatment.
HSE’s investigation identified the safety interlock had been deliberately removed so that the machine could be operated while the protective guard was open. In addition HSE found inadequate management systems and a lack of competence relating to the required machinery guarding standards.
Heaps, Arnold and Heaps Ltd, of Rotherham, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £687 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.
The HSE commented after the case that this serious injury was entirely preventable.
Clearly the safety device had been deliberately taken off and with the full knowledge of management. These are the type of negligent decisions some businesses continue to make in order to increase productivity! From the HSE view a successful prosecution sends a warning to other businesses, however you have to question the level of the fine.
Why should someone have to suffer long term pain and suffering due to incompetent management decisions and who had completed the risk assessment?
The HSE found there were no systems in place to check the safety of machines and this employee was certainly not told that the machine had been left in a dangerous condition.
A key point for a business to remember is that safety devices, such as guards and interlocks, are installed on machines for very good reason – and that is to prevent workers from coming into contact inadvertently with dangerous moving parts.
Has your business checked its guarding and risk assessments recently?