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Quilt and pillow firm in court over worker’s injuries

Date:
30 May 2014

A Middleton company has been fined after a worker suffered severe injuries when his right hand was trapped in a moving machine.

The 60-year-old, from Rochdale, who does not want to be named, was carrying out maintenance work on a pillow filling machine at Comfy Quilts Ltd in Stakehill when the incident happened on 2 July 2013.

The company, which designs and manufactures pillows, quilts and other bed linen, was prosecuted today (30 May) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had not provided suitable safe systems of work or adequate training for maintenance workers.

Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that the worker was attempting to rectify a problem with the pillow filler. The fixed guards had been removed to allow access, but correct procedures to isolate the power supply had not been followed and his right hand was trapped in the machine as a result.

He lost a significant amount of skin and badly fractured his thumb, which had to be pinned following surgery. He was unable to return to work for two months and could then only undertake light duties.

HSE served an Improvement Notice at the Stakehill site in the aftermath of the incident and also carried out an inspection of the company’s other site in Middleton. This resulted in further Improvement Notices being served, all highlighting the general lack of knowledge about the importance of machinery guarding.

The court was told Comfy Quilts Ltd made several changes to its working practices following the incident, including making and publishing risk assessments for working on each machine at the site, and formally implementing procedures and training for maintenance staff.

Comfy Quilts Ltd, of Stakehill Industrial Estate in Middleton, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £718.50 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emily Osborne said:

“An employee sustained a painful injury in the incident, but it could easily have been much worse.

“The fact we needed to serve Improvement Notices at both of the company’s Middleton sites shows that it did not properly understand the vital role guards play in keeping workers safe. Workers were put at a significant risk on a daily basis so it was almost inevitable that someone would eventually be injured.

“Comfy Quilts Ltd should have carried out a proper assessment of the risks faced by workers, and then acted to tackle the dangers. If the measures the company implemented following the incident had been in place sooner, then the worker’s injuries could have been avoided.”

Information on improving safety in the manufacturing sector is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.

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 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 press.hse.gov.uk

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