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Leading building supplier in court after worker’s hand injury

25 September 2013

A building product supplier has been fined after an employee severed three fingers in an inadequately guarded dust extraction machine.

Derby Crown Court today (25 September) heard that the Tarmac Building Products Ltd employee was emptying waste dust from the machine’s hopper into a bag at their plant on the Swains Park Industrial Estate, Overseal, Swadlincote on 27 September 2012.

Each bag holds approximately three quarters of a tonne of dust. If the side of the bag folds in then the dust will follow the crease in the bag and spill onto the floor. To avoid this, the 45-year-old, from Coalville, would periodically lift the sides of the bag. He was standing with his feet in the gaps of the pallet the bag was on and attempted to lift the sides of the bags but lost his balance and fell forwards.

As he put his hand out to stop his fall it landed on the hopper and three of the fingers of his right hand went into it, coming into contact with the rotary valve. He was off work for some nine months.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the dust extraction unit originally had a fully-enclosed recycling system where waste dust was blown back into a silo to be reused. But earlier in 2012 a section from underneath the hopper was removed to try to solve a contamination problem, which enabled access to the rotary valve.

Tarmac Building Products Ltd, of Millfields Road, Ettingshall, Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £4,999 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Edward Walker said:

"This incident could easily have been avoided had an appropriate guard been fitted when the hopper was modified. When modifying machinery and equipment it is important to make a suitable assessment of any increased risk that changes may cause. Tarmac Building Products failed to do that and a man was left with a permanent impairment."

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.
  2. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: 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."

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