Fine after worker loses arm in “avoidable incident”
A Staffordshire farming firm has been sentenced for safety failings after a Polish worker had to have his arm amputated when it was caught in the rollers of a potato grading machine. The HSE said that the employer’s failings had led to a series of unsafe methods developing.
Marek Wasilewski, 35, of Swadlincote, was trying to clean the rollers of the machine at Blakenhall Park, Barr Lane, Barton under Needwood, when the incident occurred on 12 November 2013.
The machinery had to be dismantled to enable his left arm to be released, but the crush injuries were so severe it later had to be amputated at the shoulder. Mr Wasilewski also suffered multiple bruises and scratches on his head, neck, right arm and back and had to have five stitches to the middle finger of his right hand.
Had the machinery been switched off and securely isolated before the cleaning work had started, the incident could have been avoided, the court heard.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation into the incident and prosecuted his employer W B Daw & Son for safety failings.
Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Wasilewski ‘s duties included operating, cleaning and clearing blockages on the machine, into which potatoes harvested from the field were fed to be cleaned and sorted.
He sat down underneath the rollers of the machine to clean them while they were moving using a long screwdriver, but the rollers drew his left arm into the machinery right up to his shoulder.
The investigation found that there were unsafe systems of work being used, which involved cleaning and clearing blockages from the rollers while they were still rotating under power.
On Monday 25 January 2016, W B Daw & Son, of Woodhouse Farm, Pipe Lane, Blithbury, Rugeley, Staffordshire, was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000 after being found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
After the case, HSE Inspector David Brassington said: “Incidents of this kind are all too common and generally have serious consequences. The onus is on employers to ensure that suitable and sufficient risk assessments are undertaken for work activities involving exposure to dangerous parts of machinery, and to make sure that robust safe systems of work are implemented to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.
“This incident could have easily been avoided had the machine been switched off and securely isolated before cleaning work started. But W B Daw & Son had failed to give clear instructions to its employees and failed to monitor their activities, so a series of unsafe methods of cleaning the potato grader had developed.
“The employer’s failings led to this young man having his arm amputated and he and his family will now have to cope with those serious, life-changing injuries.”