A Cheshire precision engineering company has been prosecuted after it
paid no attention to HSE enforcement notices, first issued in 2001,
ordering it to replace safety guards on its machines.
David Norton, the HSE inspector who investigated the case and prosecuted it in court, told SHP that on a routine inspection in May 2007 to its factory in Hyde, Greater Manchester, it was discovered that the guards on several milling machines, large table-sized machines used to shape metal, had been removed.
Inspector Norton said management at Crest Engineering had taken a “deliberate decision” to remove the guards on the milling machines. “Safety guards are there for a reason and, by not providing them, the company put the lives of its employees in danger,” he said.
The HSE first served the firm with an enforcement notice in 1999 for failing to have in place a safety switch on a machine. When inspectors visited the site again in 2001, they found safety guards missing on several machines, and so served eight enforcement notices.
On a visit by inspectors in 2002 to check on the firm, these notices appeared to have been complied with, but on the routine visit in May 2007, this was found not to be the case. Witnesses said that although the guards were initially provided following the visit in 2001, they were removed or put out of use after a short period.
Crest Engineering pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates’ Court on 23 June to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 by not ensuring the safety of its employees, and reg. 11(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to provide and use suitable machine guarding. It was fined a total of £13,000 — £10,000 on the first charge and £3000 on the second — and ordered to pay full costs of £3003.
The firm said in mitigation it had since complied with notices and advice from the HSE. It pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
The inspector concluded: “Factory work can be extremely dangerous and so it is vital that the risks are reduced to a minimum. We will not hesitate to prosecute anyone who persistently ignores the rules, and I hope this case will act as a warning to companies who do not take health and safety seriously.”
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