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Firm prosecuted after worker loses fingertip in unguarded drill

Date:
3 October 2014

A West Midlands fabrications company has been fined after an employee lost the tip of his finger in an unguarded drill.

Black Country Magistrates’ Court heard the 32-year-old man, from Dudley, was drilling holes into metal components at H&H Alloy Sales Ltd when the incident happened on 18 December 2013.

As he pushed a piece of metal which was not moving properly, his hand shot across it and his middle finger became caught on the drill bit. His glove became entangled so he was unable to pull it out.

He had to have the tip of his middle finger amputated and was off work for three months. However, when he returned in March this year, he suffered considerable discomfort and surgeons decided to amputate the finger further, to the first joint. He only went back to the factory three weeks ago.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company had a documented safe system of work for the drill which stated that as part of the preparations for work, the guard should be placed in position and then checked by the operator to make sure it is correct. However, the guard had been removed at some point previously and never replaced. It was subsequently re-fitted after being found in a box.

H&H Alloy Sales Ltd, of Titford Lane, Rowley Regis, was yesterday (2 Oct) fined £13,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,391 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Judith Lloyd said:

“The incident was entirely preventable. The underlying cause was that it was custom and practice to use the drill without a guard in place. Instruction for employees was lacking and there was no system in place to check that guards were being used correctly, despite having a written procedure.

“It was reasonably practicable to guard the drill and it had in fact been guarded in the past. Wearing gloves without an appropriate guard significantly increased the risk of entanglement, something the company had been provided with advice on during a previous inspection.

“Following the incident the job was completed on a programmable automatic drilling machine which begs the question, why didn’t the company use this method from the start? If it had, a man would have been spared a painful injury.”

Further information about managing the risks associated with machinery can be found at http://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.”

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