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March 25, 2011

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Machine operator injured after wrenching arm free

A farm worker suffered a permanent injury when his arm became trapped inside an inadequately-maintained hop press.

Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court heard a 51 year-old man was working for UK Hops Ltd at White House Farm in Sibton near Saxmundham, when the incident happened on 24 September 2010. He and another colleague were operating a hop press, which is used to make bales of hops for the brewing industry.

During the process, the machine’s plunger, which compresses the hops, shot upwards and trapped the man’s right arm against the side of the press. He was able to free himself but, in doing so, he suffered a serious injury to his right forearm, and tore the muscle away from the base of his right thumb. He spent two weeks in hospital and required a skin graft. Doctors have told him that he is unlikely to regain full use of his right hand.

HSE inspector, Ivan Brooke, said his investigation revealed the press had not been sufficiently maintained and its operating controls were not working properly. He said: “This was a serious and entirely preventable incident, which left a worker with an injury that is likely to affect him for the rest of his life.

“Hop presses have the potential to be very dangerous if they’re not maintained properly, and UK Hops Ltd should have made sure this employee was not put at risk.

“The case clearly demonstrates the importance of employers maintaining their equipment to ensure it is safe for their employees to use.”

UK Hops Ltd appeared in court on 17 March and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 5 of PUWER 1998, for failing to adequately maintain the machine. It was fined £3500 and ordered to pay £4020 in costs.

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