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February 17, 2010

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Factory didn’t have insurance for agency workers

A window manufacturer has been criticised for not having injury insurance for its employees, following an incident in which a worker severed a finger in an unguarded machine.

Dudley Magistrates’ Court heard that agency worker, Jeremy Adams, was working as a window machine operative for M&M Windows. On 19 May 2009, he was using a double pivoting-head-mitre cutting saw to cut window frames at the firm’s factory in Dudley, West Midlands.

He was clearing debris from the machine, when his hand got caught in the rotating blade, and his left index finger was severed. His middle finger also required reconstructive surgery, and he has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

The HSE issued an Improvement Notice on 4 June 2009 ordering the company to put a guard on the saw. It also requested that the firm produced documentation to prove it had Employer Liability Compulsory Insurance. It later emerged that the company was not insured against injuries to its employees, as it believed it was exempt because it employed mainly agency staff.

HSE inspector Jenny Skeldon told SHP: “Not having insurance in place was a gross failure of duty to their employees. It is crucial that all companies look at the relationship they have with its workers, agency or not, and the degree and extent of control they have over the work done, as this will indicate if insurance is required.

“Employers must look at the status of employees and determine if Employer Liability Compulsory Insurance is necessary. Just because a firm employs agency workers does not mean that they do not require insurance. These workers aren’t necessarily covered under the agencies’ policies.”

M&M Windows appeared in court on 11 February and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 , and s1(1) of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, for not having insurance. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2500 towards costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and has installed a new cutting saw, which has adequate guarding. It has also subsequently taken out a new insurance policy to cover employer liability.

Inspector Skeldon added: “This worker has been severely let down by his employer. It was an injury that could have easily been prevented but the company failed to ensure the saw machinery was fully guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts. The company should have recognised the obvious safety defects with the saw and taken action to prevent injury.”

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