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Bradford man may lose lower leg after work injury

Date:
1 May 2013

A Bradford man may need to have his foot and lower leg amputated as a result of a crush injury caused by the safety failures of his employers more than a year ago.

The city’s magistrates were told today (1 May) that 51-year-old David Wain, from Holmewood, suffered serious injuries when a 1.5 tonne pallet of tin plates fell onto his right lower leg and foot when he was employed by Emballator UK Ltd at their factory in Tyersal, Bradford.

The incident, on 6 February 2012, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the company after identifying a number of safety failings.

Bradford Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Wain, a coating assistant at the plant, which manufactures tin cans, had been told to use an older machine to turn the bulk tin plate as a fault had developed on the usual, more modern, pallet turner.

He had no experience of using the older machine and a colleague gave him a demonstration of how to use it and how to load the pallets for turning.

Mr Wain used a forklift truck to pick up a pallet of plates, loaded the machine the way he had been told – wedging the load using empty pallets – and switched it on. Moments later, after the machine turned 180 degrees, he saw the plates and pallets moving. He tried to get out of the way but the full load of metal plates spilled out of the machine in a weighty waterfall, trapping his foot against the floor.

Part of Mr Wain’s big toe was severed and the sole of his foot was split. Surgeons managed to reattach the next two toes and he needed plates put into his ankle and screws into his lower leg. He was in hospital for 11 days.

Mr Wain has been housebound since the incident and unable to walk without crutches. He was informed earlier this year by the hospital that his foot and lower leg may need to be amputated.

HSE found Emballator UK Ltd had failed to provide both safe equipment and a safe system of work. There was no clamping mechanism to retain the pallet of metal plates within the rotating machine, and no guarding to keep operators from the machine during turning.

In addition, the firm had not identified the risks involved with using the older machine, and in particular the risk of the plates falling out. Mr Wain was not supervised whilst he used the machine for the first time. No checks were made that he understood the risks and the precautions to take.

Emballator UK Ltd, of City Link Industrial Park, Phoenix way, Tyersal, Bradford, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The firm was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,769 in full costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrea Jones said:

"Everyone has the right to come home from work safe and well. But David Wain suffered life-changing injuries in an incident that was preventable.

"Emballator UK Ltd failed in their duties to provide a suitable machine for turning pallets and a safe method of operation that Mr Wain could use. Manually securing the load in an open box by means of wedges or empty pallets is not a sufficiently reliable method of securing the load.

"A proper examination of the risks would have shown that there was a danger of the load shifting and falling from the machine, during or after turning. A simple clamping mechanism would have secured it, and was indeed applied to the newer machine.

"It is also essential that checks are made by managers to ensure operators are trained and competent to use the machines they provide, understand the risks and associated precautions to take."

The latest statistics from HSE for 2011/12 show that there were 31 deaths, more than 3,400 major injuries and some 14,000 minor injuries recorded within the manufacturing industries. For advice and information go to www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.

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. 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."

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