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February 20, 2009

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Factory fined after underage worker suffers crippling hand injury

A firm that illegally employed a young worker in an industrial job has been fined after a printing machine accident.

Sitting on 4 February, Hyndburn Magistrates’ Court heard how 16-year-old James Dean received serious crush injuries to his hand after it was pulled into a printing machine, which he was cleaning.

East Lancashire Box Company had employed Mr Dean in March 2008 even though he was not eligible to work in an industrial undertaking until the end of the academic year. He had been working as a general hand at the firm’s factory in Rishton, Lancashire when the accident took place on 28 March last year.

The magistrates heard that Mr Dean had completed all his assigned tasks and had approached a machine operator to ask for extra jobs, upon which point he was asked to clean a printing machine. He had not been trained in how to use the machine but had observed that his colleagues cleaned it by wrapping a cloth around their hands, while the machine’s rolling speed was reduced to a slow roll.

While he was cleaning the device using this method, the end of the rag became caught in a trapping point between two rollers and drew his hand into the machine. It took 20 minutes for the fire brigade to arrive and free him before he could be taken to hospital. As a result of the accident he broke one finger and received serious crush injuries to two other fingers. He has undergone several operations to straighten his fingers, but has been told that his right hand will be permanently disfigured.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999, and s1 of the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act 1920 for employing a child in an industrial undertaking. Magistrates fined the firm a total of £12,000 and ordered it to pay £3451 in costs.

In mitigation, the company accepted responsibility for the accident and entered an early guilt plea to all three charges. In order to prevent similar accidents from taking place, it has now created a safe system of work, which states that the machine must be turned off while it is being cleaned. It has also installed a protective bar, which prevents access to the trapping point.

HSE inspector, Matthew Lea, told SHP: “This case should act as a reminder that it’s illegal to employ a child in an industrial undertaking. In this instance the firm failed to consider the additional responsibilities associated with employing young people, and ensure that they are properly supervised to prevent them attempting tasks that they have not been trained to do. There should also have been a safe system of work put in place.

“This accident was avoidable and, sadly, despite several operations, this young man is still unable to straighten his hand. He has also been unable to follow his chosen career path, which was to join the armed forces.”

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