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Essex firm in court after two workers injured within weeks

Date:
21 January 2014

An Essex-based hi-tech manufacturer has been fined after two workers were injured in separate incidents in the space of six weeks.

One employee of Fiberweb Geosynthetics Ltd had a finger pad partially severed when his hand was trapped in a lifting operation. A second suffered a deep head laceration when he was hit by a falling machine part.

Both incidents, which happened at the company’s plant in Maldon on 7 January and 27 February 2013, were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard today (21 Jan) that the first incident occurred when a two-man team attempted to lift a 70-90kg reel of synthetic plastic material. One of the workers lost their grip on the reel causing it fall and trap his co-worker’s hand against the surface of a wrapping table.

The 39 year-old worker from Southminster – who does not wish to be named – had a finger pad partially severed and required reconstruction of his fingertip and nail-bed.

The second injury happened when an 850kg machine part was badly secured to a crane during an operation to fit it at a height of about three metres. Whilst manoeuvring it into place, an eyebolt detached from its thread causing the part to fall and strike him on the head.

The worker, 24, from Braintree, was knocked from his platform and suffered a deep cut requiring four staples to close the wound.

HSE identified safety flaws had led to both incidents.

In the first, the reel being lifted was almost double the weight of reels usually produced and the operation to lift it had not been attempted before. Despite that, Fiberweb Geosynthetics had not assessed the risks involved or made any changes to the system of work. It has since eliminated all manual handling from the process entirely.

In the second, HSE found both the injured worker and a colleague working with him had not received training for the operation being undertaken. The eyebolt had been inserted incorrectly leading to it becoming detached whilst the load was suspended. A lack of appropriate supervision meant the worker had taken up a dangerous position below the item and in direct line as it fell.

Fiberweb Geosynthetics Ltd, of Blackwater Trading Estate, The Causeway, Maldon, Essex was fined £22,000 and ordered to pay £604 costs after pleading guilty to separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974), the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Paul Grover said:

“Both these incidents resulted from failures by Fiberweb Geosynthetics to adequately risk assess operations, issue safe working procedures, and to ensure that employees were not exposed to unacceptably high levels of risk.

“The second incident could easily have resulted in a much more serious injury or even death, and demonstrates the need to ensure workers are appropriately trained, their competencies properly recorded in an accessible form, and that there is a suitable level of supervision reflecting the degree of risk involved in the operation.”

More information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/

 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. Full details of Regulation 4(1) of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1992/2793/regulation/4/made

4. Regulation 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.

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

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