Accident at work "entirely preventable" despite earlier warnings


After a severe personal injury to a worker by an unguarded block saw, a timber packaging company has been fined for breaching safety laws – despite earlier HSE warnings.

The wood machine operator, who has asked not to be named, spent 4 days in hospital before Christmas 2009 for skin grafts when his fingers were partially severed in an accident at his place of work.

Wood Machine – Personal InjuryProsecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the company admitted breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure that plant and systems of work were safe for employees. The firm was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £2,410.

Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court heard that the worker was on a late shift when he noticed sawdust leaking from 2 holes below the block saw. Although he tried to tape over the holes, he was caught by the machine and the ends of 2 of his fingers were severed.

The court was also told that in May 2006, after an HSE inspector found a circular saw with inadequate protection against dangerous blades, the company was served with an Improvement Notice.

Lisa Sheldon, Personal Injury Solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP, said there was no excuse for ignoring the notice and that all companies should take heed if the HSE uncovers inadequate safety procedures. "HSE recommendations are there for good reason, and accidents in the workplace can only start to be mitigated if firms act quickly upon valid warnings. Regrettably Shaw Pallet failed to do this and a worker was badly and needlessly injured because of it."

HSE Inspector Jackie Ferguson agreed: "This incident was entirely preventable and caused by Shaw Pallet's failure to ensure robust systems were in place to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the block saw. That failure was made worse by the fact that we had taken action for an almost identical breach before."

"The woodworking industry has one of the highest injury rates in manufacturing, most of which are caused by contact with moving machinery. This accounted for a quarter of all major injuries and one of last year's two deaths in this sector."

"HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that fall so far below the required standard."

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