A worker suffered a broken neck when his overalls got caught in an unguarded drill bit at a factory in Shropshire.
The 39-year-old worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working for steel engineering firm CRF (UK) Ltd when the incident took place at its factory in Wem on 6 December 2011.
He was operating a twin pillar drill to create a hole in a metal box section, when the sleeve of his overalls became entangled in the running drill spindle, which was unguarded. His arm and body were pulled into the machine and he was pinned against the machine bed. As he couldn’t reach the stop button, he shouted for help and was eventually freed by a colleague.
He suffered three fractures in his neck and serious cuts and burns to his right forearm. He spent seven weeks in hospital and was required to wear a neck brace for six months. The left side of his body has been permanently weakened owing to his injuries.
The HSE found the firm had failed to create a safe system of work, with no guards in place to prevent access to the rotating spindles. The investigation also identified that the work wasn’t properly supervised and operators hadn’t been given adequate training to use the machine.
The Executive issued an Improvement Notice to the firm, which required it to create a safe system of work. HSE inspector Marie-Louise Riley-Roberts said: “The custom and practice of the company were to rely on experience rather than on the need for guarding, with the addition of supervision and further instruction and training, as necessary.
“These failings had existed for a considerable amount of time until the practice of using unguarded machines became normal working practice for the employees. The result was that this was an accident waiting to happen and the employee suffered serious injuries.
“This accident could have been prevented by the simple measure of providing guarding to prevent access to the rotating parts.”
CRF (UK) appeared at Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court on 19 July and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.11 of PUWER 1998. It was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £7871 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and complied with the Improvement Notice. It has subsequently installed chuck guards on all of the drilling machines. It has also engaged the services of a new health and safety consultant.
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