A major printing company has been fined for serious safety breaches after a worker suffered life threatening injuries when his head became trapped in machinery.
David Howkins, 57, was working on a stacker at the end of a web-fed printing press at The Artisan Press Ltd plant in Beaumont Leys, Leicester. As he attempted to replace a bearing, his head became trapped between dangerous moving parts and the fixed machine.
Mr Howkins, of Ratby in Leicestershire, suffered multiple skull fractures and spent 16 days in hospital in a medically-induced coma on a life support machine. He is now deaf in his left ear and has no movement in his left eye. He has had to learn how to walk again.
Leicester Magistrates’ Court was told today (12 December) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the stacker.
The court heard Mr Howkins had been asked to replace a seized bearing in the stacker. He managed to loosen one side of the bearing using an Allen key but couldn’t remove the other, so went round to the back of the machine.
HSE found the gate to the dangerous area was neither fixed in place nor interlocked, meaning there was free access to and around the dangerous moving parts of the stacker, which was not isolated from its pneumatic power supply.
As a result, his head became trapped when the mechanism of the stacker became activated.
The court was told Mr Howkins was freed by colleagues who cut away part of the stacker just before emergency services arrived.
The Artisan Press Ltd of Boston Road, Gorse Hill Industrial Estate, Beaumont Leys, Leicester, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,915 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Dr Richenda Dixon said:
“Mr Howkins’ life has been devastated by the horrific injuries he sustained as a result of The Artisan Press failing to effectively prevent access to dangerous moving machinery.
“Incidents where workers are injured, or even killed, by moving machinery are easily avoided if employers provide suitable guarding.
“Effective measures were not taken by The Artisan Press Ltd to prevent their workforce from accessing dangerous moving parts, in this case the stacker and sword drive mechanism.
“In addition, safe systems of work, information, instruction and training are required to control the risks during both production and maintenance activities.”
Mr Howkins’ wife, Mrs Lisa Howkins, said:
“David was in a medically-induced coma while in hospital for 16 days. We were told at this point that if he were to get pneumonia, his chances of survival were slim.
“When he first came round he was frightened, confused and extremely tearful, and when he came home, I had to help him with everything.
“We used to go on long walks with our dogs but now he can only really manage much shorter walks. He doesn’t really like to leave the house and he gets very tired.
“David is much improved now but whenever you try to talk about the accident he gets very emotional and bursts into tears.
“The prospect of returning to work frightens him but he is having counselling and is aiming to return to work one day.”
Unsafe interventions on machinery continue to be one of the main causes of injury in the printing industry. Further information on health and safety in printing can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/printing/machine
Notes to editors
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce 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) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states that 1) Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.