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August 19, 2011

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Timber firm failed to eradicate unsafe work practice

A Lincolnshire timber company has admitted failing to stop its staff from removing a guard when using a table-mounted saw, which contributed to a worker severing his thumb.

Spalding Magistrates’ Court heard that a 20-year-old production operative was cutting insulation foam when the incident took place at Kestrel Timber Frame Ltd’s factory in Market Deeping. The company manufactures timber frame panels, which are used to construct roofs, with foam inserted inside the frames.

On 11 May 2010, the worker was using a table-mounted circular saw to cut the foam, but the machine was not big enough to adequately support the foam being cut. The guard on the machine couldn’t be adjusted high enough to get the foam underneath, so he removed the guard, which was an accepted practice by site management. The platform of the saw was also not large enough to support the foam, so he used his hands to hold the foam and push it through the blade rather than using a push-stick. As he was moving the foam through the saw his left thumb touched the blade and was severed. He was unable to return to work for seven weeks.

HSE inspector Emma Madeley told SHP that the firm failed to carry out a risk assessment before using the machine. Had it done so, it would have realised that the saw was not big enough to safely cut foam of that size. She said: “The company neglected its legal duty to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of their employees.

“The injured man’s employers failed to provide equipment that would allow the job to be done safely and, as a result, a young employee suffered serious injury in a completely preventable incident.”

Kestrel Timber Frame appeared in court on 17 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £6700 and ordered to pay full costs of £4117.

In mitigation, the company said it had no previous convictions and denied senior management had been aware that this method of work was in operation, claiming it was the fault of its site management team. It has subsequently reviewed its training procedure and appointed a new manager with specific responsibility for health and safety at the site.

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