A Dronfield company which produces packaging for the food processing industry has been fined after a worker suffered serious hand injuries unblocking an incorrectly-guarded machine.
Andrew Rawson, 48, of Dronfield, was operating a food casing machine at Rillatech Limited’s factory when the incident happened on 8 January 2013.
Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court heard today (9 July) that while trying to free a jam inside the machine, which was still running, Mr Rawson reached around the guards and his fingers came into contact with a clipper. The index finger on his right hand was severed at the first joint, as well as the tip of his right thumb.
Mr Rawson required plastic surgery to treat his injuries and was unable to drive for three months. He was off work for a year but has since returned to work for the company.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the machine and another identical model should have been installed with better guarding to protect workers while removing blockages.
HSE found a similar incident had happened previously and Rillatech Limited subsequently installed further guarding, but this did not fully prevent operators accessing dangerous moving parts of the machine.
Since Mr Rawson’s injury, guarding had been improved and safer systems of work implemented to help prevent similar incidents occurring.
Rillatech Limited of Callywhite Lane, Dronfield, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £13,000 with £7,353 costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stuart Parry said:
“It is remarkable that, despite previous similar incidents and risk assessments being carried out, Rillatech Limited still did not install better guarding on their food casing machines.
“This incident was entirely preventable and it is most unfortunate that it took an employee to suffer such serious injuries to make the company take action to better protect its employees when operating machinery.”
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Rawson said:
“After the operations, I had to go to my local doctors for them to keep an eye on it and dress my bandages. My right hand, for approximately three months, was just a ball of bandages.
“I am a type two diabetic and when my finger did not heal, I thought that I would have to have my arm up to my elbow amputated. My dad was a diabetic and he had a problem with one of his toes and ended up having his leg amputated below the knee. This caused me real concern and I didn’t know where to turn.
“If it was not for my mother, brother and sister helping me out in various ways, I don’t know how I would have got through it all. I was not bothered about the actual loss of my finger – it was more the consequences of losing my finger. I was off work, I’d got into debt and my diabetes got worse as I could not eat healthily.”
For further guidance, go to www.hse.gov.uk/food/package.htm
Notes to Editors:
- Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken… to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”