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April 28, 2014

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Company fined after worker with 35 years of experience is seriously injured at work

A worker with over 35 years of experience working in foundries broke both of his legs when he was struck by a one tonne mould in a casting box, a court has heard.

Robert Easton, from Falkirk, was 56 and employed as a moulder by Specialised Castings Limited at its foundry in Denny.

On the day of the incident, 27 May 2011, he had been preparing a two-part mould, with each half weighing in the region of one tonne.

He was attempting to turn one half of the mould over by 180 degrees so that he could make the top part, and had looped lifting chains around lower pivot points on either side of the casting box. He then used the crane’s control panel to lift it into the air.

He was standing in front of the box, and as it turned it swung towards him and struck him below the knees. His legs were crushed between the casting box and a cast iron platform before the mould swung away. It then swung back in and struck him a second time, but with much less force.

X-rays revealed both of his legs had been broken below the knee and his left ankle was shattered. Surgery was carried out to insert metals pins and rods, but his recovery was not smooth and he had to endure further surgery in June 2011 and again in July 2011, including a muscle graft and skin grafts.

He has been left with extensive scarring on both lower legs, his thigh and back.

An investigation by the HSE revealed various failures in the company’s management of health and safety.

These included:

·       different approaches to turning the moulds taken by various employees;

·       only one person had actually been trained to turn casting moulds safely;

·       while the company did have risk assessments in relation to operations at the foundry, there was nothing that specifically dealt with the risks associated with the turning of casting moulds;

·       there was no safe system of work setting out the correct method of carrying out the task; and

·       the company had relied on the experience of its employees, and while it did provide training in many areas of work, no training was provided that was specific to the task of turning casting moulds.

During the investigation an Improvement Notice was served on the company requiring it to carry out risk assessments on all lifting operations, which was later complied with.

The court was told that an aggravating feature of the case was the fact that Mr Easton had been involved in a previous incident at the foundry in June 2010 when he was injured while lifting a ‘boxless’ sand mould.

HSE also investigated on that occasion, and while no specific failings were found, advice was given in relation to providing additional training and supervision. Mr Easton had also told his bosses that he was “wary of lifting large moulds”, which should have highlighted a need for additional support or training.

Specialised Castings Limited, of Headswood Mill, Denny, Stirlingshire, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. No costs are awarded in Scotland.

 Following the case, HSE principal inspector Fiona MacNeill, said: “The task of turning a casting mould weighing around one tonne using an overhead crane is inherently dangerous. It was entirely foreseeable that if a worker was struck by the mould he could be killed or seriously injured.

“Following the earlier incident, Mr Easton had himself expressed his concerns to bosses, but rather than provide additional support his employers simply told him this could be a good thing as it would make him more careful.

“Had the company implemented the advice given by HSE in 2010 and had proper risk assessments and a safe system of work been in place, this incident may have been avoided.

“As a result of these failings, Mr Easton suffered serious injuries which have left him permanently scarred and unable to continue to work at the foundry.”

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