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Suffolk firm in court after teenage worker’s arm crushed

Date:
3 July 2014

A Suffolk horse bedding manufacturer and its managing director have been fined after a young employee’s arm was crushed when he was removing compacted dust from a baling machine.

Christopher Barker, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident, was working on the machine with the side guard removed to clear dust and wood shavings from a press plate which had blocked, preventing the machine from operating properly. As he was removing the debris the machine was activated, crushing his arm between the plate and the hatch opening.

Mr Barker suffered damage to the muscle, tendons and nerves in his left arm which required two surgical procedures and a blood transfusion. Muscle and skin had to be removed from his arm due to the extent of the injury with subsequent skin grafts required. He suffers from nightmares and flashbacks as a result of the incident.

Thetford-based Equestrobed was prosecuted today (3 July) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the incident, on 5 March 2013, could have been prevented had the firm followed the correct procedure for isolating power to the machine and adopted a safe system of work for clearing the blockage.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court heard the baler machine had suffered a similar fault on a previous occasion which had been rectified by Mr Barker and another colleague in a similar way.

HSE’s investigation revealed that on both occasions, the machine was not adequately isolated from power whilst access was being made to the press. In addition, a suitable system of work was not in place to prevent access to dangerous moving parts.

Equestrobed Ltd of Unit 6, Little Heath, Barnham, Thetford, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £6,929 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Timothy David Howard, managing director, was fined £1,800 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the case, HSE Inspector Steven Gill said:

“Christopher Barker suffered a serious life changing injury and has been left with serious damage to his arm. He was just 17 at the time, when youth and lack of experience should have prompted extra vigilance by his employer.

“The incident could easily have been avoided had there been proper safeguards in place when clearing the blockages on the baler including ensuring that it was properly isolated before starting work.

“This case highlights what can go wrong if robust procedures are not in place to manage interventions on large items of plant and machinery.”

Further information on the safe use of machinery can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/

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 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 states: “Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”
  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 press.hse.gov.uk

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