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August 25, 2010

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Worker’s hand crushed under unguarded rollers

A factory worker was badly injured when his hand was drawn between two rotating metal rollers on an unguarded machine.

Gary Burke, 45, was working as a team leader at Formica Ltd’s factory in North Shields, Tyneside when the incident took place on 20 November 2009. He was operating a core-treater line, which coats paper with resin that is then cut into lengths to produce the back of laminated products.

He noticed that some of the paper had holes, which he believed could have been caused by excess resin on the feed belts. As he inspected the belts his glove became caught, and his right hand was pulled into two guide rollers. He was unable to free himself and there was no isolation switch within reach.

One of Mr Burke’s colleagues noticed that he was trapped and isolated the machine. A number of other workers attempted to free him by reversing the machine, but they restarted the belt in the wrong direction, and his hand was pulled further into the rollers. They eventually managed to reverse the machine and he was able to pull his hand free.

Doctors were forced to amputate his little finger and part of each of his remaining digits. He is still waiting for reconstructive surgery on two of his fingers. He was off work for more than six months owning to his injuries, but has now returned on light duties.

A Prohibition Notice was issued on the day of the incident, which required the machine to be taken out of service until adequate guarding was put in place.

Formica Ltd appeared at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on 20 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £8000 and ordered to pay £4741 towards costs.

In mitigation, the company said it had no previous convictions and had fully cooperated with the investigation. It has carried out a fresh risk assessment and subsequently installed perimeter fencing around the machine, which operates a captive key system that isolates the machine when the access gate is opened.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrea Robbins said: “Production problems, such as misalignment of belts and nicks in the paper, were a regular problem with this machine and had been occurring for a number of years – yet the company had done little about it. It had become custom and practice for workers to try to rectify faults themselves.

“The incident could have easily been prevented if the company had implemented safe systems of work for fault-finding and ensured that guards were in place to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the machine.”

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13 years ago

Would be interesting to see the Risk Assessment for this process and the preventative maintenance records, oh and maybe a daily pre operational checksheet for the M/c, need I go on, more likely there was no Risk Assessment, but this is just my assumption, and we all know what assume can do!