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Sawmill sentenced after worker suffers horrific injury

Date:
15 November 2013

An Elgin sawmill has been fined for serious safety failings after a worker suffered horrific injuries to his arm when it was pulled into unguarded machinery.

Tennants (Elgin) Limited was prosecuted after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated an incident at the company’s Brumley Brae sawmill on 26 September 2011.

Elgin Sheriff Court was told today (15 November) that Damian Gawlowski was operating a machine used to cut large pieces of timber, with a continuous blade revolving at high speed. Whilst trying to feed some wood through, his arm was drawn into the machine and cut in half lengthways up to the elbow.

The 20-year-old from Poland sustained significant injuries and needed 16 operations to try and repair ligament, muscle and nerve damage. He has lost one finger entirely and part of another finger, and now struggles to use his right hand.

Mr Gawlowski has been permanently scarred and requires ongoing pain relief. He is unlikely to be able to return to work for a considerable length of time.

The HSE investigation revealed that, despite the risks being widely known in the woodworking industry, the drive wheels and chain drive were unguarded and the saw-blade guard was not positioned correctly.

Mr Gawlowski had also not received any formal training on the machine and was left unsupervised even though he was untrained and inexperienced.

Training in the use of the machine was informal and generally carried out by the person who had previously used it, whether or not they had ever been formally trained themselves.

Employees had not been made aware of the risks and dangers which could occur during woodcutting operations. They had also not been given a push-stick which would have allowed them to move wood through the machinery whilst remaining at a distance from cutting blades.

Tennants (Elgin) Limited, of South Street, Elgin, was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Niall Miller, said:

“This incident was wholly avoidable. Damian Gawlowski was let down by the company’s lack of proper training, inadequate assessment of risks, and ineffective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.

“From Mr Gawlowski’s point of view, his life has been destroyed. He is unable to go back to work, unable to use his hand and he relies on others for many of the tasks of daily living.

“The risks of bandsaws – where there are fast moving cutting parts – are well known in the sawmill industry and Tennants (Elgin) Limited should have put in place suitable measures to prevent this type of injury from occurring.

“Instead Mr Gawlowski has been left with a serious injury from which it’s likely he will never completely recover.”

For more information about safety in the wood cutting industry visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/woodworking/sawmills.htm

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(1) of the Health and Safety at Work 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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