We have recently completed a number of site audits where the guarding of machinery was clearly well below the standards PUWER requires, where it seemed that some businesses continue to base the safety of their operations on the “common sense” of the staff. The problem, as we have mentioned many times before, is that sense is just not that common.
Another case on the HSE website has helped to illustrate this where an Oxford based company who supply heating equipment has been fined after a worker suffered injuries to his fingers in a hydraulic press.
Banbury Magistrates’ Court heard that the employee was setting up a horizontal press with a defeated interlock when he inadvertently activated it, crushing the tips of his index finger and thumb.
An investigation by the HSE into the incident, which occurred on the 12 March 2015, found it had become custom and practice to defeat the interlock during the set-up of the press, and the risk assessment for the work was inadequate and had not been reviewed regularly.
Because of these failings, the business, Walraven Limited of Banbury, Oxfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and was fined a total of £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,353.60.
The HSE inspector involved in the case commented that a risk assessment needs to be suitable and sufficient and carried out by a competent person. It should identify the risks associated with all aspects of a machine’s operation including setting and maintenance.
In our experience, the problem is that businesses will too easily overlook poor custom and practice because they wrongly believe it helps to get the job done quicker. This acceptance is then clearly not picked up in the risk assessments even though management and employees know how the task is undertaken.
As the HSE said; in this case had the defeated interlock been identified and suitable control measures put in place then the injury could easily have been avoided. A very expensive mistake for the business.