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Company fined after worker severely injured at paper mill

13 March 2013

A paper manufacturer has been fined after a worker seriously injured his left arm when it became trapped in moving machinery.

Stonehaven Sheriff Court was told today (13 March) that the 54-year-old, from Aberdeen, was employed as a coaterman at the Stoneywood Paper Mill, operated by Arjo Wiggins Fine Papers Limited, when the incident happened on 15 October 2010.

He had worked at the mill for 17 years and had been working on the Paper Coating Machine, which applied separate coatings to paper after sheets had been formed, since it was installed in 2003.

The court heard that he was attempting to clean the rolls at the coating head section of the machine because there was a problem with excess coating mix contamination accumulating on the rolls.

While the machine was operating at normal production speed, at around 300 metres per minute, he went to the back of the machine and used a set of small steps to climb up and stand on a beam in the machine frame.

Using his right hand to steady himself, he then used a sponge pad and cloth in his left hand to clean the rolls, a method he had used on previous occasions. However, his left hand was suddenly taken into the machine at the in-running nip formed by the lap roll and camber roll.

The worker managed to pull his hand free after a few seconds and raised the alarm, but not before it was badly injured.

He had to have two metal plates inserted into his fractured left arm and has been left with scarring. He still does not have full movement in his arm and although he hopes to recover much of its strength, he has been told it will never be 100 per cent healed. He has since returned to work but is still on light duties.

An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had provided training when the machine had been installed in 2003, but interviews among employees found several workers had adopted unsafe methods of cleaning the rolls and management appeared to be completely unaware of this.

The investigation concluded that this indicated a failure to adequately supervise employees.

Following the incident, a new method of cleaning the lap rolls was introduced, with access from a designated point, at an out-running nip where there is no risk of being drawn into the machine. Employees also use a long pole with a scraper attached and the machine running at a reduced speed of 80 metres per minute.

Arjo Wiggins Fine Papers Limited, of Eversheds House, Great Bridgwater Street, Manchester, was fined £75,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector John Radcliffe, said:

"Although the company had established a safe system of work for cleaning the rolls of the paper machine some time ago, this had clearly deteriorated over time and there was a failure in management supervision.

"As a result, the very unsafe practice of cleaning rolls at full production speed by some employees was not detected and this was allowed to continue for several years until the incident occurred.

"The injuries suffered by this worker were serious and life changing for him, but could have also been far worse as there is a history in the paper industry of amputation and fatal injuries occurring when safe systems of work are not adopted when cleaning or maintaining paper machines."

Notes to editors

  1. 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. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.
  3. Section 2(2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular – the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees."

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