An Essex packaging company has been fined after one of its employees sustained a serious hand injury on an unguarded laminating machine.
Gary Dean, of Redstock Road, Southend-on-Sea, had the skin on the palm of his left hand torn away in the incident at Frith’s Flexible Packaging, in Southend, on 26 September 2011.
Sourthend Magistrates’ Court heard today (28 November) that he was using a glue laminating machine when he noticed an indent mark on a finished product. He put his left hand into the machine via an unguarded portal to scrape away dried glue residue from a roller that had caused the blemish, but his whole hand was drawn into the roller and the palm of his left hand was de-gloved.
Mr Dean was hospitalised for two days and required emergency surgery. This was followed by several months of physiotherapy to regain movement between his thumb and first finger, before he finally returned to work after two and a half months.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that Mr Dean had removed an interlocked guard on the laminating machine some six years earlier to allow him to set the machine up more easily. He and other employees, including his supervisor, had used the machine without the guard ever since.
Had the guard been in place they would have been unable to access dangerous moving parts, including the roller, while the machine was in operation.
HSE inspectors also found that although a risk assessment and a safe system of work were available for the laminator they were very basic, did not adequately set out the control measures or troubleshooting guidance; and staff were largely unaware they existed.
Frith’s Flexible Packaging was served an Improvement Notice by HSE to review their training plan, incorporating revised risk assessments and a safe system of work.
Follow-up enquiries revealed that a second laminating machine at the site had also had its guard removed, and that the company had failed to address this issue following Mr Dean’s incident. HSE therefore served another Improvement Notice for guarding requirements and a third requiring ‘competent person’ training to enable the company to properly manage its health and safety responsibilities.
Frith’s Flexible Packaging Ltd, of Coopers Way, Temple Farm Industrial Estate, Southend-on-Sea, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £2,046 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Sam Thomson said:
“This incident was entirely preventable. Guards are placed on machines for a good reason and should not be removed for convenience. The fact the offending guard here had been missing for a number of years is particularly disturbing.
“Hand injuries from printing and laminating machines are a well known risk within this industry, and the company had been given previous advice on similar guarding matters. So measures should have been in place to protect Mr Dean and other workers.
“HSE will not hesitate to prosecute companies who put their employees at risk in this way.”
For further information about safety when using printing and laminating machinery, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/printing/machine/index.htm.
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