7 February 2013
A glass-making company in Leeds has been prosecuted for neglecting the safety of its workers after an employee was injured using an industrial high-pressure jet washer to clean a production line.
The employee, who does not want to be named, suffered a severe cut to the base of his left index finger when the lance of the 1500-bar jet washer fell from his grip. He had to undergo an operation to remove air that had been injected into the finger and to repair nerve damage.
Leeds Magistrates’ Court was told today (7 February) that Allied Glass Containers Ltd had not provided the worker with adequate training, information or instruction. He was given unsuitable protective clothing – including boots four sizes too big – and, despite not having used the equipment before, was not adequately supervised.
Allied Glass Containers Ltd, which employs around 600 staff at its sites in Hunslet and Knottingley, was charged with a breach of safety after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident on 4 May 2011 in Hunslet.
The court heard the firm bought the jet washer to clean dirt and oils from the glass- forming section of the production line. Previously the cleaning had been done manually.
HSE found the employee was told to carry out a two-day deep clean of the line although he had not been given the chance to handle the equipment. In addition no instruction was given about the gloves to be worn and, despite being a size six shoe, he was given size ten boots to wear.
HSE also found that the sheeting used to protect other workers from the water jetting was inadequate to withstand the water pressure, and there were no signs warning other workers of the danger of entering the enclosure.
Allied Glass Containers Ltd, of South Accommodation Road, Leeds, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £2,623 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Kate Dixon said:
"Allied Glass Containers did not stop to think whether the high pressure water jetting was a necessity or if the safer method of manual cleaning could continue to be used.
"They did not properly assess the use of the new equipment and this led to the wholesale failure of the company to fulfil their duties relating to safe systems of work, training, supervision and personal protective equipment. An employee suffered a very painful injury as a result. Indeed, if the air injected into his finger had entered the bloodstream, the consequences could have been much worse, if not fatal.
"When introducing new machinery or ways of working, employers should ensure they fully consider the implications. It is only by doing so that risks can be identified and then addressed with appropriate measures to control the risk."
The employee has since returned to work and Allied Glass has reverted to manual cleaning of the production line.
For information about safe working with machinery, 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
- Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."