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Sawmill fined after worker’s arm trapped in machine

Date:
18 October 2013

A Dumfries sawmill has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered severe injuries to his arm when it became trapped in poorly guarded machinery.

Scott Campbell, then aged 32, was working for Howie Forest Products Ltd at its Kenmuir Sawmills site, in Dalbeattie, when the incident happened on 12 January 2010.

Dumfries Sheriff Court was told today (18 October) that Mr Campbell was working at a wood-stacking machine when he reached over a safety fence to pick up banding strips to tie the planks together. As he did, one of the machine’s arms, which lowers the planks into position, came forward and pinned his right arm against the inside of the fence trapping it.

His arm was then hit by the base block of the machine arm, breaking his elbow and leaving a bone protruding through the skin.

Mr Campbell needed surgery to repair the fracture and did not return to work full-time until four months later. His arm is not expected to recover the full range of movement.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified that a practice had developed for that particular machine whereby pre-cut banding strips were hung through the safety fence making them easily accessible but putting workers at risk of getting too close to machinery.

The court heard that newer stacking machines were safeguarded with light beam grids which would cut out if an operator broke the light beam and could only be restarted by the use of a pull-cord. Angled safety fencing also reduced the size of the recesses around the machines to make it difficult for an operator to stand behind the area covered by the light beams and close to any dangerous moving parts.

The investigation concluded that the company:

  • failed to properly assess the risks to employees by inadequate guarding of the machine and by a fence that was too close to and too short to protect people close to the machine;
  • failed to provide and maintain a safe machine and system of work for employees engaged in stacking and banding planks;
  • failed to provide adequate safeguarding measures to stop the machine’s operation in the event a person got too close to the machine’s moving parts;
  • failed to prevent the storage of banding strips on the boundary fence where they could fall through and lead to injury to anyone attempting to retrieve them.

Howie Forest Products Ltd, of East End, Earlston, Berwickshire, was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.   Following the case, HSE Inspector Russell Berry said:

“This incident was entirely preventable. If the company had adopted a consistent approach to assessing the risks of all the machines at the site, the higher standard of protection that existed on the newer machines would have prevented this incident from occurring.

“Higher standards of protection on recent machines had been installed since October 2007 and at that point Howie Forest Products should have been aware that the safety measures on this stacking unit were inadequate.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. 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 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.
  4. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press

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