The HSE carried out inspections at two premises belonging to a Tyne and Wear floral foam manufacturers, SOUK, following an incident in which a machine operator suffered a partial amputation of her left middle finger and a broken left index finger while operating a milling machine. Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard that at the time of the incident (09 May 2012) the HSE found there were no protective measures in place to stop workers getting too close to a specific dangerous moving part of the milling machine.
After the incident SOUK did fit guarding to this area, but it was not fully effective and HSE served an enforcement notice (which was complied with) requiring the firm to further improve the safety guards. In October 2012 an HSE Inspector (Paul Miller) carried out a general inspection of the company’s two sites and a significant number of machinery guarding defects were identified on several machines. The HSE served another Improvement Notice requiring action where the existing machinery guarding arrangements were found to be deficient. Again, this notice was complied with.
SOUK was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £6,630 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Miller said:
For a number of months employees at two sites had been put at risk of serious injuries due to SOUK’s failing to prevent access to dangerous parts on a substantial number of machines. This was despite a worker’s injury and visits by HSE. These failings could have led to further injuries to workers including cuts, amputations and crush injuries. The company was simply lucky that a more serious incident to the one in May 2012 did not occur.
Employers must take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible – such as with the blade of a circular saw – it must be guarded as far as is reasonably practicable and a safe system of work used.