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October 23, 2012

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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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Ajones7051
Ajones7051
9 years ago

The employer has a duty of care to ensure that ALL employees are fully trained in the jobs to which they are allocated. At an average cost of about £250 per course (I am an agency worker) it is not always viable for the typical agency worker to fork out for something which could only be valid for a few weeks. Workers are workers no matter what badge they wear.

Alanthurgood1087
Alanthurgood1087
9 years ago

Due to short duration that some agency workers are employed for it is not always possible to send them on external training courses as recommended by the HSE inspector. Surely ensuring agency staff are competent and have relevant certificates where appropriate prior to bringing them into the workplace is reasonable and practicable when it comes to training?
An employer surely cannot be expected to provide all the training necessary for say an agency motor mechanic or cook.

Andy
Andy
9 years ago

It would be helpful to know what kind of face shield he was wearing ?
What kind of disk was being used ?
More information on specifics would help us to compare what happens in our workplaces and help us to ensure good measures are in place.

How did the HSE inspector know there was a hairline crack in the disk – the disk had already fragmented -hindsight and assumption, or forensic science ?

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

A disturbing case, are we too conclude that the Visor was adequate for impact protection? and was guarding fitted to the grinder, or fitted incorrectly?

The hairline crack in the grinding wheel may not have been clearly visble, and excessive pressure whilst grinding can increase risk of breakage regardless of pre existing crackage.

I agree that training is required whole heartedly, but other issues are not really closed out herein to avoid repetition?

Stuart
Stuart
9 years ago

No, the job he was employed to do was as a ” FETTLER” a person who grinds metal castings. Very nasty injury though.