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Firm fined after worker suffers horrific head injuries

Date:
29 April 2014

A manufacturing company has been sentenced after a worker suffered horrific head injuries when he became trapped in a machine at a Newcastle factory.

Desmond Salkeld, 65, of Dinnington, was with a colleague investigating a fault on a hot wire cutting machine at Springvale EPS Ltd in Coach Lane, Hazlerigg, when his head became trapped in dangerous moving parts.

He was taken to hospital with extensive injuries including a hole in the bridge of his nose, shattered eye sockets, a large gash to his head which needed stitches, a badly-damaged jaw, a bleed on the brain and fracture to his temple. During a nine-hour operation, surgeons took bone from the right hand side of his skull to reconstruct his face.

Mr Salkeld, who still suffers from blurred vision, is unable to return to work and has had to retire, although he had planned to continue working. He is unlikely to fully recover from his injuries.

Newcastle Magistrates’ Court was told today (29 April) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident on 4 June 2013 found the machine had not been isolated from its power source and a fixed safety guard had been removed.

HSE said Springvale EPS Ltd had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment and develop safe procedures for the maintenance activity the two workers were undertaking.

Springvale EPS Ltd, of Bedford Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,244.40 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the case, HSE Inspector Sal Brecken said:

“Mr Salkeld’s horrific injuries should not and need not have happened. This incident was easily preventable had Springvale EPS Ltd adequately assessed the risks of this particular maintenance activity, developed safe working procedures and informed their employees.

“Guards and safety systems are there for a reason, and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times, especially during maintenance activities.

“Ideally, machines undergoing repair should be isolated from their power source. However, where a repair requires viewing a machine as it works then the worker should be separated from danger by distance, work position restraint, temporary barriers or other means of ensuring safety.

“Springvale EPS Ltd’s failures have led to one of their employees sustaining devastating injuries from which he is unlikely to ever fully recover.”

For more information about safe maintenance visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/safemaintenance/index.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. 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. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press

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