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Firm sentenced after worker severely injured

Date:
23 April 2014

A Stirlingshire company has been fined for serious safety failings after a foundry worker’s legs were crushed when he was struck by a one tonne mould in a casting box while turning it with an overhead crane.

Robert Easton, from Falkirk, was 56 at the time and had more than 35 years of experience working in foundries when the incident happened on 27 May 2011.

Falkirk Sheriff Court heard today (23 April) that Mr Easton was employed as a moulder by Specialised Castings Limited at its foundry in Denny and had been preparing a two-part mould, with each half weighing in the region of one tonne.

He was attempting to turn one half of the mould over by 180 degrees so that he could make the top part, and had looped lifting chains around lower pivot points on either side of the casting box. He then used the crane’s control panel to lift it into the air.

He was standing in front of the box, and as it turned it swung towards him and struck him below the knees. His legs were crushed between the casting box and a cast iron platform before the mould swung away. It then swung back in and struck him a second time, but with much less force.

X-rays revealed both of his legs had been broken below the knee and his left ankle was shattered. Surgery was carried out to insert metals pins and rods, but his recovery was not smooth and he had to endure further surgery in June 2011 and again in July 2011, including a muscle graft and skin grafts.

He has been left with extensive scarring on both lower legs, his thigh and back.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed various failures in the company’s management of health and safety.

The court heard that different approaches to turning the moulds were taken by various employees, and there was only one person who had actually been trained to turn casting moulds safely.

HSE found that while the company did have risk assessments in relation to operations at the foundry, there was nothing that specifically dealt with the risks associated with the turning of casting moulds, and there was no safe system of work setting out the correct method of carrying out the task.

During the investigation an Improvement Notice was served on the company requiring it to carry out risk assessments on all lifting operations, which was later complied with.

Inspectors also found that the company had relied on the experience of its employees, and while it did provide training in many areas of work, no training was provided that was specific to the task of turning casting moulds.

The court was told that an aggravating feature of the case was the fact that Mr Easton had been involved in a previous incident at the foundry in June 2010 when he was injured while lifting a ‘boxless’ sand mould.

HSE also investigated on that occasion, and while no specific failings were found, advice was given in relation to providing additional training and supervision. Mr Easton had also told his bosses that he was “wary of lifting large moulds”, which should have highlighted a need for additional support or training.

Specialised Castings Limited, of Headswood Mill, Denny, Stirlingshire, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.   Following the case, HSE Principal Inspector Fiona MacNeill, said:

“The task of turning a casting mould weighing around one tonne using an overhead crane is inherently dangerous. It was entirely foreseeable that if a worker was struck by the mould he could be killed or seriously injured.

“Following the earlier incident, Mr Easton had himself expressed his concerns to bosses, but rather than provide additional support his employers simply told him this could be a good thing as it would make him more careful.

“Had the company implemented the advice given by HSE in 2010 and had proper risk assessments and a safe system of work been in place, this incident may have been avoided.

“As a result of these failings, Mr Easton suffered serious injuries which have left him permanently scarred and unable to continue to work at the foundry.”

Information about safety in manufacturing industries can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing/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. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.

3. 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.”

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

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