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Company fined after worker loses arm on dangerous conveyor

Date:
24 October 2013

A recycling company has been fined for safety failings after a worker lost his arm after trapping it between a roller and the belt of a moving conveyor at a site in North East London.

Domingos da Conceicao Freitas, 28, had to have his dominant right arm amputated following the incident at MSK Waste Management and Recycling Ltd, on River Road, Barking, on 17 August 2012. He is no longer able to work and now struggles with day-to-day tasks such as washing and dressing.

Kent-based company MSK was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified that the conveyor system posed a clear risk because it was missing important safety guards.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard (23 October) that agency worker Mr Freitas was working on a picking line to sort waste and transfer materials to different bins.

A blockage occurred and he asked by a supervisor to clear it while he and others took a break.

An informal system was in place to clear blockages using a piece of wire that was pushed through an opening in the side of the conveyor frame to hook items from between the roller and the belt.

This was an established practice that had been in place for months, possibly years, and it was usually undertaken by two or three people – one to use the wire, one to stop the conveyor via a control panel situated some 75 feet away and on a different level, and one to act as a go-between relaying instructions.

However, Mr Freitas attempted it on his own, and had no real option but to do so while the conveyor was still switched on because the control panel was so far away.

His arm was caught and drawn into a roller as he accessed the opening in the frame.

HSE established that there were two such openings on the conveyor, neither of which were guarded despite sliding guards being available.

Magistrates were told the incident could have been prevented had the guards been in place, and had there been a safer system of work for clearing blockages that was properly relayed to all workers.

MSK Waste Management and Recycling Ltd, registered to Station Road, Sidcup, Kent, was fined £10,000 and was ordered to pay a further £5,944 in costs plus £5,000 in compensation after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said:

“Mr Freitas has been left with a permanent, life-changing injury as a result of an incident that could easily have been avoided had the conveyor been properly guarded.

“Incidents of this kind occur all too often in the recycling sector, and the onus is on companies like MSK to acknowledge the dangers posed by unsafe machines and risky methods of work for clearing blockages, and to take action.

“We will continue to prosecute when worker safety is compromised.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2.  Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 covers ‘Dangerous Parts of Machinery’. Details here: Reg 11 PUWER

 

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