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May 8, 2013

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Suitable safety gloves could have prevented knife injury

An incident in which an employee at a large butchery sliced his forearm could have been avoided if he had been wearing suitable hand protection.

Lewisham-based Rare Butchers of Distinction Ltd also failed to report the incident, which occurred on 21 July 2011, within the statutory ten-day period — taking 29 days to notify the HSE.

Sitting on 1 May, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that the injured man was working at the company’s premises on the Chiltonian Industrial Estate, when he sustained a deep cut to his non-knife forearm while deboning a lamb shoulder. He was off work for more than three months while he underwent physiotherapy to rebuild strength in his left hand and thumb.

An investigation by the HSE established that the employee, who does not wish to be named, was only wearing a wrist-length chain-mail glove on his non-knife hand. The court heard that he should have been wearing more suitable protection, such as a chain-mail gauntlet as far as his elbow, and that, had he done so, the incident could have been prevented.

The company did have a small number of chain-mail gloves that reached up to the mid-forearm, but these weren’t being worn and, in any case, elbow-length protection was required for most tasks, according to HSE inspector David Balfour.

The watchdog issued one Improvement Notice, instructing the company to reassess its PPE, and another relating to edge protection of a mezzanine level. The butchery complied with both notices.

Rare Butchers of Distinction Ltd, which employs around 50 workers, pleaded guilty to a breach of reg.4(1) of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 for failing to provide suitable protective equipment. It also admitted to an offence under reg.3(2) of RIDDOR 1995 for failing to report the incident in time. The company was fined a total of £2750 and ordered to pay £3690 in costs.

It mitigated that it was very sorry for the incident and had since provided elbow-length chain-mail gauntlets for all its workers. The firm also paid the injured worker more than the statutory sick pay. On the RIDDOR breach, the firm said it believed that by informing its insurer it had complied with its duty.

After the hearing, inspector Balfour said: “The deep, painful cut the butcher sustained was entirely preventable had he been wearing elbow-length chain-mail gloves, which should have been provided by the company as a matter of course.

“Working with sharp knives poses clear risks, but not enough was done to mitigate those risks. It is imperative that all employers properly assess the type of protective clothing, or equipment their workers need, and provide it as necessary.

“It is also vital that serious incidents of this nature are reported within the ten-day legal guidelines.”

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