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March 9, 2010

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Worker entangled in unguarded drill

A construction products manufacturer has been fined £40,000 after a worker’s arm was pulled into an unguarded rotating drill.

Agency worker Steve Jones, 28, was employed as a welder at Romtech Ltd’s factory in Cannock, Staffordshire, when the incident took place on 2 February 2009. On the day of the incident he was using a radial arm drill, which was part of a production line creating splice plates.

While he was operating the machine his right-hand glove became entangled in the rotating drill bit and his arm was pulled into the drill. He managed to use his left arm to hit the machine’s emergency stop button but his clothing was drawn into the machine to such an extent that he had to be cut free by the emergency services. He received treatment for two broken bones in his forearm and serious muscle damage.

A Prohibition Notice was issued against the machine on 6 February 2009, which required guarding to be installed. The firm was also given an Improvement Notice to review and revise the risk assessment for using the machine.

HSE inspector Andrew Bowker told SHP: “Mr Jones suffered a shocking fracture to his right arm and his injuries may have been much worse if he had not been able to use his left hand to hit the machine’s stop button.

“Fixed guards that enclose drill tips and the spindle would have provided the highest standard of protection for the operative.”

Romtech Ltd appeared at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on 4 March and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg. 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, for failing to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the machine. In addition to the fine, the firm was ordered to pay full costs of £7401.

After sentencing, Inspector Bowker said: “It is not acceptable that this type of incident is still happening. Companies must invest sufficient time and effort in risk assessment to ensure their radial arm drills have suitable guards, or trip devices in position. They must also ensure that staff are aware of the risks and that supervisors and managers monitor working procedures.”

The firm has no previous related convictions.

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