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Laundry fined after teen worker was trapped in machine

Date:
19 November 2014

A Shropshire laundry company has been prosecuted for serious safety breaches after a teenage worker suffered severe injuries when he became trapped in machinery.

Matthew Brown, 19, from Telford, suffered leg and spinal injuries when trying to retrieve an item of clothing from an industrial laundry machine at Cleantex Ltd in Telford on 22 October 2013.

He suffered a broken ankle which required emergency surgery and fractures to four vertebrae. He spent nine days in hospital and was off work for seven months while recuperating and completing a course of physiotherapy. He has since returned to work on light duties.

Telford Magistrates’ Court heard today (19 November) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous moving parts, in this case a conveyor belt.

The court heard that Mr Brown mistakenly thought that all movement of the machine had been stopped when he entered the vertical shuttle conveyor belt area of a tunnel batch washing machine to retrieve a fallen item of laundry.

While he was inside, a moveable conveyor belt unit above his head completed its cycle and began to return to ground level, trapping Mr Brown against the floor.

HSE found the gate to the dangerous area was neither fixed in place nor interlocked, meaning there was free access to and around the dangerous moving parts of the conveyor belt unit. The other access door was fitted with an interlock.

Cleantex Ltd of Stafford Park, Telford, was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £750 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lyn Mizen said:

“At the early stages of his working life,  Mr Brown’s future has been severely affected by the serious injuries he sustained as a result of Cleantex failing to effectively prevent access to dangerous moving machinery.

“If the gate used by Mr Brown to access the area had had an interlock fitted to it, like the access door to the front of the machine, this incident could easily have been avoided.

“Cleantex Ltd failed to take simple steps to prevent its workforce from accessing dangerous moving parts of machinery. Companies need to ensure that suitable and sufficient safe systems of work, information, instruction and training are in place to manage and control the risks posed to their employees.”

British employers would save around 250,000 work days each year if they could just keep people safe on machinery. For further information on machinery safety, go to http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/machinery/safety.htm

Notes to editors

  1. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”

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