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June 17, 2009

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Repeat offender fined GBP 75,000 for machine-guarding omission

A floor-manufacturing firm has been fined £75,000 after being prosecuted for a third time for failing to install adequate machine guarding.

Coventry Crown Court heard that Ian Burridge was working as a machine operator for The Amtico Company Ltd. The incident took place at the firm’s factory in Coventry on 25 September 2007.

Mr Burridge was operating a calendar machine, which uses a number of heated rollers to stretch flooring materials. He had worked at the factory for over 20 years on similar devices but had not received any training on how to use the machine.

On the day of the incident a strip of material fell clear of the rollers and landed on the conveyor belt below. It was normal practice for the operator to remove the material from underneath the machine, and, as Mr Burridge was doing so the glove on his left hand was drawn into the rollers. He was able to pull his hand free but his ring finger was severed and he suffered crush and burn injuries to his other fingers and forearm. Owing to the severity of his injuries he was absent from work for a number of weeks and has only been able to return in a part-time capacity.
This is the third incident of this nature to have taken place at the factory, and each has led to the HSE prosecuting for failure to guard a moving part of machinery. In both of the previous incidents an employee’s hand was drawn into an unguarded in-running nip on similar machines. It was fined £10,000 and £40,000 in 2003 and 2006 respectively, in relation to these incidents.

HSE inspector, Jenny Skeldon, visited the site following Mr Burridge’s accident and discovered that he should only have been able to access the rollers by removing a guard, which can only be removed if the machine is not running at production speed. But the guard was missing, allowing him to access the dangerous parts. The inspector also noted that gloves should not be worn while trying to clear materials from the machine, owing to the risk of entanglement or entrapment.

Inspector Skeldon said: “This man has suffered life-changing injuries. Companies should consider all the risks associated with this type of work to prevent something like this happening.

“HSE publishes Approved Codes of Practice, guidance and information leaflets with practical advice on machinery guarding — so there is no excuse for duty-holders who don’t control risks and protect their employees.”

The Amtico Company Ltd appeared in court on 28 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £23,721.

In mitigation, the firm entered an early guilty plea and expressed its remorse for the incident. It has subsequently installed a guard onto the machine and carried out a full risk assessment throughout the factory to ensure that sufficient guarding is present on other machine.

In sentencing the judge referred to the company’s previous offences. He said that the company knew the hazards and that they presented ‘an obvious risk and a foreseeable risk of harm’. He added that the firm had failed to learn from these incidents and whatever steps it had been taken to prevent subsequent accidents were not adequate.

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