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August 10, 2008

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Manufacturer fined for two “entirely preventable” hand-injury incidents

A Lancashire acoustic insulation manufacturer has been fined in connection with two separate incidents, in which workers were injured by unguarded machinery.

Janesville Acoustics, of Colne, appeared before Reedley magistrates on 24 July, where it was fined a total of £4000 after pleading guilty to four charges, and ordered to pay a contribution of £3000 towards the cost of the HSE prosecution.

The magistrates heard that on 27 July 2006, agency production operative Antony Riley had been working on a machine at Janesville’s Colne premises to produce felt for the noise-reduction trim made by the firm for automotive use. A dust extraction unit was situated at the end of the machine to separate out dust, which was then carried along to a point where it dropped into a plastic bag.

Sheldon Taylor, the HSE inspector who investigated the case and prosecuted it in court, told SHP that Mr Riley had been changing the bag over at the end of his shift. As he did so, he slipped on the replacement plastic bag on the floor, put his hand out to avoid a fall and straight into an unguarded, eight-inch discharge port, trapping it in the machine. He suffered crush injuries, but has since returned to work.

In the second incident, on 24 January 2007, production supervisor Tony Campione had been working on a similar machine. When he opened a hopper that held granular resin, to check that the resin was evenly spread across the width of the hopper, he found that it had collected at the centre of the trough, meaning the last part of the production process would have to be scrapped. He decided to distribute the resin evenly across the trough using his hand.

“Unfortunately, there was a rotating agitator in the trough, that had metal spikes protruding from its shaft (pictured),” inspector Taylor said. Mr Campione came into contact with the agitator, sustaining a hand injury that required surgery.

In mitigation for the first incident, the company said the rest of the machine had been risk-assessed and guarding fitted, but the dust unit had slipped through the net, unbeknown to the company’s health and safety officer. Regarding the second incident, the firm said that although a risk assessment had been carried out, it had been a bad judgement call. But the inspector disagreed: “They had got the balance wrong between disruption to production and protection of workers.” The company said its financial means were strictly limited. It had not made a profit since 1999 and was being kept afloat by its US parent company.

Janesville was fined £500 for breaching reg.3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 by failing to make a suitable assessment of the risk to employees, and £1500 for a breach of s3(1) of HSWA 1974 by failing to protect non-employees in the first incident in July 2006.

The company was fined £500 for the January 2007 incident, for breaching the same regulation of the Management Regulations, and £1500 under s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of employees.

Inspector Taylor added: “These were entirely preventable incidents, had the machines being properly guarded. While the injuries on this occasion were not serious, the consequences could have been far worse. Companies have a responsibility for the health and safety of their employees, which includes carrying out proper risk assessments, and machines being guarded.”

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