Cladding company tolerated “dangerous system” for unblocking machine
A worker suffered a serious wrist injury while attempting to unblock a machine that repeatedly jammed, Cardiff Crown Court has heard.
Darren Gillard, 46, was employed by Euro Clad Ltd to make metal roof panels at the company’s Wentloog factory. On 19 April 2010, he was operating a machine that positions wooden blocks beneath packs of roof panels on the production line when some of the blocks became jammed in the machinery.
Walking into the enclosure with the machine still in ‘automatic’ mode, he reached under the machine to reach the jammed bearers and free them. However, once the blockage was removed, the machinery started up again and crushed his wrist between the bearer and the base frame.
Mr Gillard was taken to hospital, where he underwent three operations to insert a metal plate into his wrist, and skin-graft treatment to serious skin abrasions sustained in the incident. He was off work for four months.
Sitting on 5 August, Cardiff Crown Court heard that he was able to gain access to the production line through a defective interlocked gate in the two-metre high perimeter fence that surrounded it. The HSE investigation revealed the gate had been interfered with and tied open. This was deemed to be common practice owing to the high frequency of jams, with workers regularly passing the gate without correctly stopping and isolating the machine.
Inspector Paul Cartwright told SHP: “The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations require that duty-holders ensure that protective measures are maintained and in working order – in this case, that the gate remained closed during operation, and the interlock switch that controls access through the gate remained effective.
“Prior to the accident, it is believed that because no checks were taking place, the dangerous state of affairs existed for a significant period of time without being identified and remedied until the accident occurred.”
The regulator subsequently prosecuted Euro Clad Ltd, of Wentloog Corporate Park, Wentloog, for failing to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery, and for not checking the guards or interlocks were in place at the time. The company pleaded guilty to breaching reg.11(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment and was fined £20,000, plus costs of £6000.
In mitigation, the company offered its early guilty plea and pointed out that neither its safety advisors nor the manufacturer of the machine had identified the need for any checks. Since the incident, Euro Clad has implemented a system where the guards are checked at the start of each shift. A supervisor makes sure these checks take place, and the system of checks is also monitored weekly by a maintenance manager.
Added inspector Cartwright: “The case demonstrates the importance of ensuring that machinery guards and protective systems remain effective. Employers need to regularly monitor practices and rectify any problems promptly. HSE will not hesitate to take action where employers fail to ensure that protective measures are in place.
“In this case, there was no such monitoring, and a dangerous system was allowed to exist for some time before it was highlighted by a serious and wholly avoidable incident.”
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