A Staffordshire farming firm has been sentenced for safety failings after a Polish worker had to have his arm amputated when it was caught in the rollers of a potato grading machine. The man was trying to clean the rollers of the machine when the incident occurred.
The machinery had to be dismantled to enable his left arm to be released, but the crush injuries were so severe it later had to be amputated at the shoulder. He also suffered multiple bruises and scratches on his head, neck, right arm and back and had to have five stitches to the middle finger of his right hand.
The HSE carried out an investigation into the incident and prosecuted his employer W B Daw & Son for safety failings.
Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard that the man’s duties included operating, cleaning and clearing blockages on the machine, into which potatoes harvested from the field were fed to be cleaned and sorted.
He sat down underneath the rollers of the machine to clean them while they were moving using a long screwdriver, but the rollers drew his left arm into the machinery right up to his shoulder.
The investigation found that there were unsafe systems of work being used, which involved cleaning and clearing blockages from the rollers while they were still rotating under power.
In court, W B Daw & Son, of Rugeley, Staffordshire, was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000 after being found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
After the case the HSE Inspector commented that incidents of this kind are all too common and generally have serious consequences. The onus is on employers to ensure that suitable and sufficient risk assessments are undertaken for work activities involving exposure to dangerous parts of machinery, and to make sure that robust safe systems of work are implemented to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.
It seems to us that there are still too many businesses out there who are prepared to put lives at risk rather than take the time to look at how work tasks can be made safer. This incident could have easily been avoided had the machine been switched off and securely isolated before cleaning work started.
It seems that W B Daw & Son had failed to give clear instructions to its employees and failed to monitor their activities, so a series of unsafe methods of cleaning the potato grader had developed.
We think this business got off lightly given what this man will have to live with for the rest of his life. We suspect that had the case been heard under the new sentencing guidelines then the fine would have been 5-10 times higher.