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Employee suffers debilitating injuries at Ebbw Vale recycling plant

Date:
11 July 2013

Two businesses have been prosecuted for safety failings after an employee’s hand was caught in a saw, resulting in debilitating injuries.

In a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Caerphilly Magistrates’ Court heard today (11 July) that the 33 year-old man from Nantyglo was operating a saw to cut lengths of lead into smaller, more manageable pieces at the Jamestown Industries lead recycling plant in Ebbw Vale on 21 February 2012.

The court heard that the man, an employee of Hertfordshire-based Envirowales (the company responsible for the day-to-day running of Jamestown Industries), who does not wish to be named, tried to dislodge a piece of lead which had become jammed, believing the saw blade was fully retracted and out of reach.

However, his right hand made contact with the blade, severing his third finger. He was taken to Morriston hospital, where he had his finger amputated above the second knuckle. The saw had also gone through the tendons and artery of his middle finger.

The employee returned to work four months after the incident but has difficulty picking up small items and his grip is poor. He also experiences aches and constant pins and needles in his hand.

An HSE investigation found that the employee was not supervised at the time of the incident and there was no experienced operator working with him. Training had been undertaken but it was not adequate to ensure that all employees understood the risks in place when the saw was retracted, or the procedure for removing material that had become jammed in the saw.

Neither Envirowales Ltd nor Jamestown Industries Ltd provided the necessary measures to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the saw. The guarding on the saw was not effective and the companies failed to inform employees of the risks from the saw when retracted. They also failed to supervise inexperienced employees and ensure that the injured employee had understood every aspect of the operation.

Envirowales Ltd of Victoria Street, St Albans, and Jamestown Industries Ltd of Stocks Lane, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, both pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The companies were fined £4,000 in total and ordered to pay costs of £8,600 – both to be split equally between Envirowales and Jamestown.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Joanne Carter, said:

"This accident was foreseeable and both companies have fallen woefully short of the standard required by law. They both failed in their roles to protect workers by not properly guarding this machine. The injured employee should never have been placed in the position he was, and has suffered a debilitating injury as a result.

"Employers must fully assess the dangers associated with their work and put in place control measures. In this case, the risks associated with saws are well known, and should have been adequately controlled."

Guidance on using industrial equipment and machinery is available from the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery

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(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states that: "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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