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Worker lost arm in conveyor at South Wales recycling firm

Date:
25 October 2013

An experienced worker had his right forearm pulled off by a conveyor belt as he was trying to clean it, a court heard today.

Stephen John, 57, of Baglan Moors, Port Talbot, was working for Neath Port Talbot Recycling Ltd in Swansea when the incident happened on 11 May 2011.

Swansea Crown Court fined the company a total of £90,000 and ordered it to pay £50,000 in costs in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today (25 October).

The court heard that Mr John was asked to clean a conveyor which had become blocked with a sticky black substance known as flack.

The company did not have any risk assessment or safe system of work for completing this task, and experienced employees like Mr John had developed their own way of cleaning the conveyor belt roller.

This system of work was devised partly because the control switch was located some distance away from the actual conveyor.

To clean the rollers, one employee stood by the control switch, which is out of sight from the conveyor, and a second person inserted a bar and scraped the flack from the roller. He then inserted his arm to wipe away the flack.

A command was given to the switch controller and the conveyor was started and stopped quickly. The process was repeated until the roller was clean.

On the day of the incident, Mr John inserted his arm and was wiping the flack away. He then passed the bar to a work colleague. The switch controller misinterpreted this as a signal and started the conveyor.

Mr John’s right forearm was trapped and amputated by the conveyor belt. His arm was severed below the elbow and could not be reattached by surgeons.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sarah Baldwin-Jones said:

“Mr John suffered a serious and permanent injury. The potential for greater harm or a fatal incident was also a realistic possibility.

“The company failed to fully guard the conveyor around the tail end roller and this failure resulted in employees having access to dangerous parts of the machine. The risk of entrapment is well known in the industry, and this company could have taken simple steps to fit guarding.

“There was also no line of sight between Mr John and the employee operating the machinery and the company failed to carry out a risk assessment when the conveyor was installed. They also failed to devise a safe way of cleaning the rollers and to instruct employees on how to clean them safely.

Neath Port Talbot Recycling of Crymlyn Burrows, Swansea, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined a total of £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000.

Further information on conveyors can be found on 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. 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.”

3. Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with Paragraph 2 which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any returning stock-bar.”

4. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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