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February 25, 2011

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Engineer maimed during second day at new job

An engineering firm failed on three separate occasions to make sure that a drill had adequate guarding before it was used by an employee.

Michael O’Brien, 60, suffered permanent loss of movement to three fingers in his left hand after his glove was drawn into the chuck of a drill, while working as an engineer on only his second day at Jex Engineering Company Ltd.

A court heard that the incident took place on 1 December 2009, while Mr O’Brien was installing a machine during the construction of a waste-transfer station in Leyland, Preston.

He was drilling holes into a steel plate as part of the installation of a conveyor belt, which was being built to transfer waste at the site. Jex Engineering had hired a magnetic drill stand and drill unit but didn’t check that the machine’s guard was in place. As Mr O’Brien began drilling, the back of his left glove touched the rotating drill and his hand was pulled into the machine. He spent four days in hospital and required several skin grafts. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector, Allen Shute, revealed that the company wasted several opportunities to make sure the drill had adequate guarding. It could have made appropriate checks when the drill was delivered, when it was issued to Mr O’Brien, and when it carried out a full-site risk assessment before the work began.

Inspector Shute said: “These injuries have had a devastating impact on an engineer who relies on being able to use his hands for his job. Sadly, he has been unable to find work since the incident.

“Jex had three separate opportunities to make sure the drill was fitted with a guard, but it failed to act on all three occasions. Even small drills have the potential to cause serious injuries if they are not fitted with a guard. It’s therefore vital that companies take the risk seriously.”

Jex Engineering Company appeared at South Ribble Magistrates’ Court, in Leyland, on 23 February and pleaded guilty to breaching Reg. 11(1)(a) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, for failing to prevent access to dangerous machine parts. It was fined £4000 and ordered to pay £3250 towards costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and it stopped using the drill immediately following the incident. It has introduced a company-wide policy stipulating that all hired machinery must be checked to make sure it is safe for use before being issued to staff. The company has also sent its senior managers on health and safety training.

Speaking after the case, Mr O’Brien commented: “I’d only been working for the company for a couple of days but you just expect employers to know what they’re doing when it comes to health and safety.

“Two of my fingers have been virtually paralysed and I now find it very difficult to grip with my left hand. Things I used to be able to do naturally, like holding a fork or opening a jar, now take real effort. I just hope the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else, as I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

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Dsmith
Dsmith
11 years ago

I cannot believe the attitude of the employee. Why wasn’t he prosecuted for failing to prevent harm to himself? He was employed as an engineer, presumably with experience, I would have expected him to realise a guard was missing from a piece of work equipment and bring it to the attention of the employer. Failings all round really but to just blame the employer is a bit harsh.

I
I
11 years ago

So what about the hire Company who provided the unsafe equipment. Surely they have a responsibility to provide equipment with appropriate guarding in accordance with the PUWER regulations.

Jimmy
Jimmy
11 years ago

A 60 year old engineer using a drill….what about his responsibility? his years of training and work as an engineer should have put him in a position to recognise the drills guarding failings. Lord Young’s common sense H&S straight out of the window?

The company are at fault obviously, but no issues raised regarding the employees skills or experience is just encouraging no accountability by employees in the workplace.

John
John
11 years ago

You just expect employers to know what they’re doing when it comes to health and safety states Mr O’Brien. Yes I would agree but I would also expect Mr O’Brien who the article states was an engineer to know the dangers of using equimpemt without a guard. It was the first thing we learnt when I was in engineering and employees also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety.

Kevin
Kevin
11 years ago

why was he wearing gloves on rotating machinery ?

Laurence
Laurence
11 years ago

Could the firm have not have pleaded Volenti non fit injuria towards Mr O’Brien, as pointed out he was an experienced tradesman who should of known better than to use such equipment without guarding, especially if a suitable & sufficient risk assessment had been undertaken. If they had not (which I suspect they had not) why where they not fined under the Management of health and safety regulations?

Neil_Davies
Neil_Davies
11 years ago

Should the engineer be wearing a ‘glove’ whilst operating a rotating machine?

Would the hand have been dragged into the rotating part, if he was not wearing the glove?

Roy
Roy
11 years ago

Surely a risk assessment should have been done and identified the wearing of gloves when operating rotational machinery is not to be permitted, this may have saved his fingers.
The employer as well as the provider of the equipement should be held resposible.

Scottd
Scottd
11 years ago

Managing change strikes again, or should I state “lack of”. I can understand the inspector not bringing charges to the Hire Company under PUWER (to some degree), but it would be interesting to see if they provided the necessary information as required under section 6.1 of HASAW Act 1974 etc.

Shpeditor
Shpeditor
11 years ago

I raised this issue with the inspector and he informed me that he could not bring charges against the hire firm under PUWER as it is the responsibility of the company hiring the equipment to ensure adequate guards were delivered.

Smith
Smith
11 years ago

Yes, the Company and the Engineer were clearly negligent. However, the magnetic drill (with limited exception) should comply with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regs under which full instructions must be given for safe usage. Conveying this information is where the hire company and/or the drill manufacturer would be at fault.

Stevepg56
Stevepg56
11 years ago

I agree the employee has responsibilities too, the basics an apprentice are tought regards these types of machines are guarding and no loose articles of clothing. You must also considered the age of the IP 60, he is old school, and complacency will have set in ” ive done it like this for 20 years and nothing has happened, I dont need health and safety” Sad to say dinasaurs still walk the workplace

Stevepg56
Stevepg56
11 years ago

laurence you are confusing civil and criminal law.
how do you suspect that they had not completed an assessment?
where is the basis for prosecution under MHSW regs?
you cant have a factual arguement built on hypothesis,

Stevepg56
Stevepg56
11 years ago

Scotty.
The hire company cannot be responsible under PUWER as this applies to users of work equipment( this is basic certificate stuff)
what do you mean to some degreee? you seem to have confused yourself.or dont know what you are saying