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Health and Safety Executive - Recent Cases Blog

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a regulatory body in the United Kingdom that is responsible for the encouragement and enforcement of health and safety within the workplace. In our weekly review of recent HSE cases we explore current trends and topics of interest from this week’s HSE Bulletin. This time we focus on equipment at work.

Bypass Conveyor Negligence

A leading frozen food manufacturer in the Peterborough area has been given a substantial fine after safety failings led to one of their employees nearly losing an arm.

During the proceedings, Peterborough Crown Court heard how the employee was attempting to check the condition of the head roller on a bypass conveyor during which his arm became entangled in the machinery and was almost severed. While his arm was able to be saved, he now has limited movement in his hand.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the conveyor did not have the correct guards fitted. A risk assessment undertaken by the company failed to recognise this potential danger.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £800,000 with costs of £12,831.51.

Pillar Drill Negligence

<span line-height:1.6em"="">A lead crystal manufacturing company based in Cumbria has been fined after one of their employees sustained a serious injury to their hand whilst operating machinery.

During the proceedings, Preston Crown Court heard how the firm had failed to prevent operatives from accessing dangerous parts of machinery. On 20th February 2015, the employee was using a ‘pillar drill’ to widen the neck of a glass bottle while the chuck and reamer were unguarded. The employee was wearing latex gloves which became entangled in the machinery, leading to the middle finger of her right hand being severed.

Despite undergoing 10 hours of surgery to reattach the finger, she was later told that the operation had not been successful and a further operation took place to surgically amputate the finger to below the second knuckle.

HSE informed the court that the incident could have been prevented if a thorough risk assessment had been conducted and if measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery had been in place.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £15,000 with costs of £3,000 awarded to HSE.

HSE inspector Leona Cameron said: “This incident could have been prevented simply by providing guarding to prevent access to dangerous parts of the machine.

“The need to guard dangerous parts of machinery is well known with established industry guidance available, and in this case, the result of that guidance being ignored is a serious injury to a young woman.”

Fork Lift Negligence

A cargo handling company based in Suffolk has been fined after an employee suffered serious injuries when a sheet of marble weighing one tonne fell on him.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how the employee was assisting a fork lift truck operator with moving a one tonne sheet of marble from a container, during which time it fell on him. The impact caused serious injuries to his legs as well as a fractured sternum and lacerations to the back of the head.

An investigation was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive which discovered that there was an unsafe system of work being used to move the marble sheet.

The company subsequently pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9938.38.

HSE inspector Jessica Churchyard said: “Employers have an absolute duty to ensure that they do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of their employees.”

Deborah Robinson, Trainee Health & Safety Solicitor commented, 

“These cases show how a failure to properly assess and manage risk relating to the use of equipment at work can cause injuries which have serious and long term consequences. Risk can arise from the design of the equipment itself or from the way in which it is used.

It is advisable to have a method statement to accompany any risk assessment, particularly for higher risk, complex or unusual tasks. A method statement describes how a particular task is to be completed and takes into account everything identified in the relevant risk assessment to ensure the task is completed in a safe manner.

The HSE provide a wealth of information to assist in the process of completing risk assessments and method statements. Anyone who is still unsure should seek professional advice.”

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