A teenage apprentice lost four fingers on a poorly guarded tube-expanding machine while helping a worker who was not trained or authorised to use it, a court heard today (29 October).
The 18-year-old, who does not want to be named, had been working for only five weeks at engineering firm W P Metals Ltd in Aldridge, near Walsall, when the incident occurred on 16 February this year.
His left hand was trapped by the mechanism of a swager machine, which expands the ends of metal tubes so that other tubes can be inserted inside.
All four fingers were severed clean off. Surgeons successfully reattached two of them, but his little finger and ring finger could not be saved. As well as being left permanently disfigured, he now struggles with everyday tasks, such as dressing himself.
Walsall Magistrates’ Court heard the teenager was serving a three-month placement at W P Metals through LATA, the Logistics Apprenticeship Training Academy.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found he was lining up tubes for a permanent employee who wasn’t trained or authorised to be using the swager. Although the apprentice was aware of how to use the machine, he should have been properly supervised.
The firm also failed to ensure the machine was properly guarded to prevent access to dangerous moving parts. As such, W P Metals Ltd failed to provide a safe system of work.
The company, of Westgate, Aldridge, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £2,740 in costs.