Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

November 18, 2014

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Companies fined for failing to provide safe machinery

Two companies have been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered serious injuries to his left hand when it was caught in a stone cutting machine. Following the prosecution the injured worker said that he hoped this case served as a reminder to other companies that safety has to be paramount.

Swindon Magistrates Court heard on 17 November that Richard Hale, 52, of Easterton, near Devizes, was cleaning the machine at Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd in Melksham, Wiltshire, when the incident happened on 12 March 2013.

The glove on his left hand was caught and dragged by the corner of a moving blade motor carriage into the narrow gap between that and a support frame. His hand was trapped for around an hour until emergency services were able to release him.

The skin, muscles and tendons were stripped from the back of his left hand and he was admitted to hospital to undergo surgery. This was only partially successful and Mr Hale still suffers stiffness in his hand, restricted finger movement and a bent middle finger, although he has returned to work.

An HSE investigation found that Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd, who employed Mr Hale, had bought the stone cutting machine in 2012 from Waters Group Ltd, of Cornwall.

The machine had been imported, having initially been produced for an Australian company, and came with a CE marking indicating that it complied with European safety standards. However, it was not fitted with adequate safeguards to prevent employees putting their hands into the traps between dangerous moving and fixed parts underneath the machine.

HSE found that Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd had not checked to ensure the machine they had bought was in fact safe for employees to use.

The court also heard that Waters Group Ltd had failed to supply a machine that was safe.

Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd, of Bath Road, Sells Green, Melksham, Wiltshire was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,337 costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Waters Group Ltd, of Liskeard Business Park, Quimperle Way, Liskeard, Cornwall, was fined a total of £2,000 and ordered to pay £5,020 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Hale, a father of four, said: “Wherever you work and whatever you do you have to consider your own safety above anything else. Don’t feel forced into doing things you’re not comfortable with and I hope this serves as a reminder to all – workers and employers – that safety has to be paramount.”

HSE inspector Andy Shaw added: “This case highlights the need for employers to take reasonable steps to ensure that machines they buy and put into use are actually safe, whatever the manufacturers or suppliers may claim in documentation, or through CE marking.

“Employers have a duty to assess the risks from machinery they use at work and should not assume that a machine will be safe as supplied or as installed – a risk assessment still needs to be carried out.

“Otherwise, as happened here due to the combined failings of Mr Hale’s employer and the suppliers of the machine, workers are placed at unnecessary risk. Simple steps could and should have been taken to check and safeguard the stone cutter, instead he suffered a serious, debilitating injury.”

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