£10K fine for car giant after employee loses fingers


A UK car manufacturer has been fined £10,000, with more than half as much again in costs, after an employee severed 2 fingers while working at the car firm's plant.

Swindon Magistrates' Court was told that when the accident happened, in February 2012, the 55 year-old worker had been polishing a metal part with an emery cloth while using a manual lathe.

After a Health and Safety Executive investigation, the HSE found that the man was finishing his task when the machine caught his right-hand glove.

Having lost 2 fingers, the man was forced off work for 6 weeks before returning to lead up to normal duties. However, magistrates were told that he sometimes still needs help from co-workers.

The court also heard that the man was under observation as he worked by a management team, who distracted him by asking how much longer he would need.

The HSE found that the manufacturer had failed to provide a safe system of work and had not assessed the dangers involved in the tasks expected of its employee. The manufacturer also failed to enforce its own policy which should have instructed against wearing gloves while using machinery.

Pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the firm was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,959 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Whittles said the accident could have been prevented if a safe working system had been in place and the company's glove policy had been enforced.

"This company clearly failed to ensure the safety of its employees, with painful consequences," Mr Whittles commented. "If an emery cloth is held by hand and wrapped round a work piece, there is a high risk of it becoming entangled. Wearing gloves also increases the risk of entanglement and for these reasons hand application of emery cloth should be avoided."

According to HSE guidelines, emery cloths should not be applied by hand on manual or CNC lathes. Several serious incidents are reported each year, many leading to broken bones, amputations and occasionally even death.

Mr Whittles added that the law was clear. "Employers should take all reasonably practicable steps to protect employees from harm arising from their work. In the case of machinery, moving parts that could cause injury should be guarded or made safe so that people cannot come into contact with them."

"In this case, a tool holder could have been used or the component could have been taken off the lathe and polished by hand."

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