This is another reported case of a machinery safety failure leading to a fatality.
In this case, Leeds Magistrates Court heard how, on 28 February 2014, a 50-year-old employee of WE Rawson Limited leant into a packaging machine whilst attempting to free a stuck package. Whilst doing so, he became trapped between an upper and lower moving conveyor. The employee suffered severe crush injuries and later died in hospital.
During the investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, it was found the company had failed to take measures to prevent access to the danger zone between the moving conveyors. The investigation also found that no safe system of work had been provided for the removal of trapped packages from the machine.
WE Rawson Limited of Castlebank Mills Portobello Road Wakefield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,165.09.
In many cases, the safety of workers using potentially dangerous equipment can be achieved by the use of a suitable Safe System of Work. Conversely, the lack of a safe system of work can lead to serious (and even fatal) consequences. Unfortunately, in a recent case waste paper management company has been fined £250,000 after an employee was fatally crushed inside a baling machine.
The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found it was “most likely” that the worker fell down the baling machine’s hopper and into the compactor chamber while clearing material that had blocked the hopper. It is also suggested that “Falling into the chamber initiated the compaction sequence.”
The Company had failed to adopt a safe system of work, and employees routinely climbed the baler to remove blockages. The HSE said workers were exposed to the risk of falling from height, either into the compactor chamber or on to the concrete floor.
The company was found guilty of breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £250,000, with costs of £6,640.
HSE inspector Nicholas Wright said: “This tragic incident, which led to the avoidable death of a father, was easily preventable and the risk should have been identified.”
Safe System of Work
A system of work is a set of procedures according to which work must be carried out. Safe systems of work are required where hazards cannot be eliminated and some risk still exists. Safe Systems of Work can reduce or eliminate exposure to hazards but they must be strictly followed. In order to be effective, your Safe Systems of Work Regularly review your systems of work to ensure that they still reduce or minimise risk and revise as necessary.
The lack of a Safe System of Work may lead to risks not being managed effectively and workers being placed in danger. The lack of a Safe System of Work may also lead to death, as in the case outlined above.
A maintenance fitter died after he was trapped in a conveyor used a spare captive key (part of a safety interlock) to access a guarded enclosure and work on the machinery while it was still powered up. The use of the spare key led to the interlock guard bypass which led to the fatality.
The precast concrete products manufacturer CPM Group was fined £660,000 after a 43-year-old fitter [JB] was fatally crushed when the conveyor started moving as he was carrying out maintenance work at the company’s plant in Frome, Somerset in October 2016.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that JB’s supervisor had authorised the maintenance on the same day and issued a permit to work, which detailed the procedures to ensure work was carried out safely in the weigh bin area. But the supervisor failed to supervise the work and had not checked the control measures identified in the permit, including making sure the machinery was isolated and confirmed safe.
Tata Steel UK Limited (a steel producer) was were punished with a fine of £1.4 Million in February 2018 after the death at work of a 26-year-old maintenance electrician [TS].
Hull Crown Court heard how, on 23 April 2010, TS (an employee of Tata Steel) was examining a crane as part of his inspection duties as a maintenance electrician. Whilst carrying out this work, an overhead crane travelled over the cage he was in, trapping and then crushing him. TS died instantly.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Tata Steel had failed to enforce its own safety procedures, despite having two previous incidents before TS’s death. The HSE investigation also found Tata Steel failed to put in place essential control measures which would have prevented the overhead crane that killed TS from even being in operation.
Tata Steel UK Limited of Millbank, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 and Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was given a fine of £1.4 million along with costs of £140,000.
The fine is large, but the effect on the family is impossible for others to comprehend. Speaking after the hearing, a member of TS’s family said:
“T’s death has devastated us as a family. There’s not a day goes by when we don’t think about him. We miss him always, especially on family occasions when he should be with us. He was well loved by everyone who knew him, and had lots of friends. Every day we think about what might have been if he had still been here. We would like to thank, once again, all those who have helped and supported us over the course of the last eight years. It means a great deal to us.”
Machinery Guarding is an important control measure to prevent injury to workers using conveyors and other similar equipment. This case is yet another severe injury arising from inadequate guarding and predictable human actions (trying to clear a blockage).
Mason Animal Feeds Ltd (based in Co Armagh, Northern Ireland) has been fined £120,000 at Newry Crown Court after failing to provide adequate safety measures on a chain and flight conveyor used to move animal feed from the mixing plant to the bagging area. The company was found guilty following an incident in which a 17-year-old employee had his right arm dragged into the conveyor while trying to clear a blockage. His right arm and wrist were severely damaged, resulting in him now having very limited mobility in his hand and wrist.
There were breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (NI).
Speaking on behalf of the HSENI, Inspector Sean Keogh said:
Employers must ensure that all machinery is adequately guarded and that the employees are trained, competent and authorised to operate machinery.
It is also essential that employers provide health and safety information to their employees that is clear and easily understood.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned the waste industry that it can expect unannounced safety inspections at sites from 02 October. This warning came after the HSE advised businesses in the waste and recycling industry that “they must pay closer attention” to how they manage workplace risk. It is part of a “proactive review” of health and safety standards in waste and recycling businesses across the country.
In the recently published HSE sector plan for the waste and recycling sector, there is a targeted reduction in injuries and fatalities to waste workers caused by moving machinery. The main causes of fatal injuries to workers in the sector are thought to be collisions involving moving vehicles, coming into contact with moving machinery, or injury from collapsing or overturning objects.
A 21-year-old worker has been left with life changing injuries, and the Company has been fined.
Devonshire based textile company Heathcoat Fabrics Limited has been fined after a 21-year old employee suffered life changing injuries (to his hand). In August 2014, AS was preparing a piece of machinery for the next shift. During this operation, his hand was drawn into the rotating rollers. He suffered severe crush injuries to his left hand resulting in partial amputation of four fingers. Exeter Magistrates’ Court was told that the HSE investigation found the company had failed safeguard this dangerous machinery. They had previously provided a guard, but when it broke down they failed to repair it and instead replaced the guard with an emergency stop wire. It remained in that condition for over two years, with the proper guard only being replaced the day after this incident.
The Company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,862.30.
Speaking after the hearing Health & Safety Executive inspector Paul Mannell said: “[AS] has suffered life changing injuries due to the company’s failures. An individual’s health and safety should not be made worse by the work they do.
[AS] has suffered life changing injuries due to the company’s failures. An individual’s health and safety should not be made worse by the work they do.
Duty holders have the responsibility to ensure all dangerous machinery has the appropriate level of safety guarding for employees to be able to operate it.
I have been approached recently by a few engineering companies as a result of HSE actions. In line with the HSE inspection regime, these are now more focused on Health Issues instead of the more traditional safety issues, such as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), Noise, inhalation of hazardous fumes and dust.
In addition to these approaches, there is evidence of HSE interest and action on Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) from recent prosecutions.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) Prosecution
An engineering firm has been fined for failing to control the risk to employees using hand-held power tools from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Manchester and Salford Magistrates heard how Newfield Fabrications Co Ltd (NFCL) failed to ensure the risks to its employees from exposure was adequately controlled. The company also failed to ensure its employees were given sufficient information, instruction, and training on the health effects of working with vibrating hand tools.
An investigation by the HSE found that sometime towards the end of 2015, a welder who had been working at the company for a number of years had been given a job that involved a significant amount of grinding and polishing. After a number of hours on the task, the worker began to experience numbness and tingling. He asked to swap with another worker but was told to carry on. Whilst his symptoms continued he was told by his supervisor to carry on using vibrating tools. A few weeks later, a 20-year-old apprentice welder also began to suffer from vibration-related symptoms from using similar tools.
Nottingham Crown Court heard that on 01 June 2015 a disabled 71-year-old man suffered bruising and injuries to his arms, legs and head from the incident involving Council Workers. The court heard that council employees were collecting branches (which were to be burned) from Rufford Park, transporting them using a tractor mounted grab attachment. During this process, the park was in use by others, and a disabled man was on a guided walk in the park. The worker using the tractor to transport branches through the park could not see the member of public ahead and collided with him.
Nottinghamshire County Council has been fined after a member of the public was injured as a result of being struck by a council tractor. The Council received a £1,000,000 fine for the incident and ordered to pay costs of £10,269.85. The council pleaded guilty to charges of breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Breadmakers Warburtons Ltd has been fined £1.9 million after an agency worker was injured when his arm got trapped against a running conveyor belt. The Crown Court in Nottingham heard how on 4 August 2015 the agency worker was cleaning parts of the bread line when his arm got trapped leaving him with friction burns which required skin grafts.
An investigation by the HSE found CCTV footage showing the worker cleaning parts of the line. As he reached into the line he became trapped between two conveyors and part of the machine had to be dismantled to release him. HSE inspectors found the machine could have been fitted with localised guarding to prevent access between the conveyors.