Severe injuries at work mean fine for international fencing firm


Serious injuries to an employee's left arm have led to prosecution and a £12,000 fine for an international fencing manufacturer.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) took action against the company following an inquiry into a safety breach which led to severe injuries to a worker in August 2009.

The Magistrates' Court heard that the worker, suffered a dislocated elbow as he tried to re-thread severed wire through a rotating block on a wire drawing machine. Parts of his skin were also torn off and his lower arm sustained compound fractures.

Each of the machine's 4 blocks had a moveable guard, with a device which should break the power circuit to the block when the guard's position is altered.

Forced to lean too close to the machine, the worker's left arm contacted the rotating block when the machine unexpectedly began to move.

The investigation found that the interlock had failed to interrupt the power to the block. The worker might accidentally have pressed the start or run switch as he leaned in to repair the wire.

The worker, who has since left the company, had 2 metal plates fitted to his forearm and was given 3 skin grafts.

The court was told that, although the company had a checking procedure for the machine guards, this did not allow for the potential malfunctioning of interlock switches.

In 2003 the company, which employs 2,000 people in 10 countries, was convicted for a 2002 machinery safety incident. Since then HSE has brought 2 further enforcement notices against the firm, as well as writing several letters of advice on the issue of machine guards.

Noting that the dangers of moving machinery in an industrial environment were well documented, HSE inspector Jill Thompson said the company's management of the risks of severe injury faced by their workforce was unacceptable.

"This is an example of how a simple failure of a safety switch can result in life-changing injuries. Had the company included safety switch checking as part of the guard checking system, this incident would probably have been avoided."

"Prevention of access to moving parts of machinery is a clear duty upon employers and includes making sure that safety features of machines are maintained effectively."

For breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, the company was fined £12,000 with £3,762 costs.

According to HSE statistics for last year, 5 manufacturing workers were killed and over 550 seriously injured in Yorkshire and Humberside, with some 1,900 injuries of less severity.

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