Worker suffered “horrific” facial injuries at components factory
An agency worker required reconstructive surgery on his face after the abrasive wheel broke on a hand-held grinder and smashed through his visor.
The 20-year-old, who has asked not to be named, was working at the Tower Works site of Wyman-Gordon Ltd on Spa Road, Lincoln on 20 October 2010. He was employed as a settler, which meant he was responsible for grinding out defects from metal components using a hand-held grinder.
The company had sent all of its employees on an external training course on working safely with abrasive wheels. But management had made the decision not to send agency staff on the course. Consequently, the agency worker didn’t know how to change the wheel on the hand-held grinder, or how to spot any defects with the wheels.
Over time, one of his colleagues showed him how to change a wheel. Having learnt the procedure, he began to change wheels on his own without any supervision and without detection by the company.
On the day of the incident, he changed a wheel but failed to spot that the replacement had a hairline fracture. When he used the grinder, the wheel spilt and it flew out of the tool. A fragment burst through his visor and struck him in the face.
He suffered a fractured skull and severe facial injuries, which required significant medical treatment. He underwent a five-hour operation to remove a piece of bone, which was touching his brain, before further reconstructive surgery was carried out.
HSE inspector Scott Wynne told SHP that the incident could have been avoided if the firm had sent the worker on the external training course, which would have given him the skills to identify the faulty wheel.
“It’s vital that workers who use hand-held grinders get appropriate training in their safe use and in how to change the grinding wheels properly. Most importantly operators need to know how to identify defects,” said inspector Wynne. “This was a preventable incident. Wyman-Gordon Ltd paid insufficient heed to the safety of this worker. As a result, a young man was left with an horrific head injury. He was extremely lucky to escape with his life.”
Wyman-Gordon Ltd appeared at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court on 17 October and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £16,500 and ordered it to pay full costs of £6178.
In mitigation, the company said it cooperated with the investigation and has subsequently tightened up its supervision of new-starters. It also now ensures that all staff are sent on training courses if they work with hand-held grinders.
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