A packaging firm has been fined after a worker severed the tip of a finger on a machine where a safety guard had been deliberately disabled.
The nesting machine, which makes food packaging cartons, had been running with a tampered interlock for at least five months prior to the incident at Alexir Packaging Limited, on Enterprise Way, Edenbridge, Kent, on 9 September 2011.
The Surrey-based company was prosecuted today (15 October) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for allowing the machine to operate unchecked in an unsafe state.
Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court heard that the worker, who does not want to be named, was making cartons when he noticed they were being folded in the wrong place.
In attempting to rectify the problem he trapped his right index finger between some rollers and a belt in the machine, with the moving parts slicing through the tip.
He was unable to work for five days and initially suffered with restricted use of the finger before making a subsequent recovery.
HSE established that an interlock guard on the machine had been defeated by moving a sensor to allow it to stay open.
Magistrates were told that regular checks should have identified this problem, and that had the guard been in place the incident could have been prevented.
They also heard that it was unclear whether workers had received any formal training on using machine guarding, and that a risk assessment for the nesting machine did not reference the need to only operate it with interlocked guard in use.
Alexir Packaging Limited, of High Street, Ripley, Surrey, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,985 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Guy Widdowson said:
“Incidents of this kind, where safety guards have been deliberately disabled, occur all too often, and it is extremely disappointing that it takes a worker to sustain a painful injury before the dangers are acknowledged.
“The onus is on companies like Alexir Packaging to make employees aware of the risks of defeating guards, and to ensure regular guard checks take place.
“Guards are there for a reason and they must be fully functional at all times.”
For advice and information on safety in manufacturing, visit www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.
Notes to Editors
- 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
- Regulation 11(1)(a) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar.”