The Environment Agency has been fined after an employee was badly injured when his finger was caught by an unguarded circular saw.
The 48-year-old from Coniston, who does not want to be named, had to have the middle finger on his left hand amputated to the top joint as a result of the incident at the Bridge End Depot in Levens near Kendal on 19 April 2013.
The Environment Agency was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had become standard practice for employees to use the saw without a guard after they initially found it difficult to cut large pieces of wood with the guard in place.
Kendal Magistrates’ Court heard the worker had been using the circular saw on a multi-function woodworking machine to cut some two-inch thick pegs. The Environment Agency planned to use the pegs to hold wooden boards in place for new steps until the concrete set.
The court was told the circular saw was used to cut pegs once every few months, but no risk assessment had been carried out for the work and supervision had been insufficient. This meant managers were unaware it was being used without a guard.
The organisation has since reviewed its procedures and no longer uses the saw at its Levens site.
The Environment Agency was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,364 in prosecution costs on 17 September 2014 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Banks said:
“An employee has suffered an injury that will affect him for the rest of his life because the machine he was using was unsafe.
“Workers should never have been able to use the circular saw without the guard in place, but the Environment Agency failed to carry out a risk assessment or to properly monitor the work.
“Sadly it had become standard practice for the saw to be used without a guard, making it almost inevitable that someone would eventually be injured.
“The Environment Agency has now decided that the machine isn’t suitable and no longer uses the saw. If it had considered the risks from the start then the employee’s injury could have been avoided.”
Information on the safe use of circular saws and other woodworking equipment is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/woodworking.
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. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken…which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar.”
3. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk.