Worker loses part of hand while cleaning equipment

27/10/2011

An example of the dangers associated with removing protective guards from equipment, which help stop workers being injured, has seen a man lose most of his hand.

The member of staff was helping to clean a piece of machinery in a factory when his hand was pulled between rotating cogs after a safety guard had been removed from the equipment.

His hand was crushed resulting in the loss of four fingers, the majority of his thumb and a fraction of his palm.

Julie Jarvey, Health & Safety Executive inspector (HSE), said: "He will have to live with the consequences of someone else's mistakes for the rest of his life."

Modifying equipment and rendering it unsafe is a flagrant breach of health and safety regulation and puts the health and wellbeing of staff at risk.

All machinery and equipment must be designed and manufactured to specific standards before it can be sold for use in the UK and removing safety features is an unwise thing to do.

It turns out that removing safety provisions was more widespread in the business which has been prosecuted for breaches of health and safety procedure.

Even after this incident a second occurred when a worker tried to fix a blockage in a piece of machinery and ended up with a broken arm.

He had not been given any extra training to perform the task which fell outside of his usual role, which added to the severity of the situation.

Once again the safety features had been modified with a by-pass device fitted over-riding a safety control which would have prevented the accident.

Prosecution by the HSE resulted in the company paying a total for the combined incidents of £230,000 and £24,350 in costs.

The legislation which had been in breach was Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

If guards are to be removed in order for maintenance to be carried out on machinery this should only be done by a trained professional and with the correct authorisation, making sure electricity supplies to them are cut.

Removing guards can leave belts, cogs, pulleys, sheaves, drive shafts, rotating parts, chains, flying chips, sparks and drive couplings exposed, all of which can be dangerous.

Ms Jarvey said: "HSE will not hesitate to take companies, big or small, to court and seek tough penalties when it finds them taking a lax attitude to their workers' safety."