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Welwyn Garden City firm fined after worker’s injury

Date:
14 March 2014

A Welwyn Garden City manufacturing firm has been prosecuted after an agency worker suffered a hand injury whilst clearing a blockage on a poorly-guarded palletiser machine.

The 33-year-old worker, who does not wish to be named, was attempting to restart a machine at Sika Ltd’s factory after dealing with the blockage when his right hand was struck by a moving part.

He suffered multiple fractures of his hand and lacerations and was unable to return to work to perform a similar role for several months.

The incident, on 12 October 2012, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted the company today (14 March) at Watford Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard that the worker had bypassed an interlocked gate, which was common practice by staff, to clear the blockage in the machine. As he restarted the palletiser, his hand, which was resting on the top frame of the machine, was struck by a moving part which operated the claw mechanism.

HSE found the machine guarding was inadequate to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the machine. It also found that Sika Ltd had failed to properly assess the risks from using the palletiser. In addition insufficient training and instruction had been provided to workers, and their supervision was inadequate.

The company, which makes speciality chemicals for the construction industry, revised its risk assessment and installed additional guarding to prevent workers from being able to access the machine unless it was suitably isolated.

Sika Ltd, of Watchmead, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, was fined a total of £17,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,219 after admitting two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing HSE Inspector James Wright said:

“Sika Ltd failed to implement effective measures to ensure workers were not exposed to dangerous parts of machinery.

“They failed to properly assess the risks, ensure the machine was adequately guarded, and that workers were effectively supervised. This has resulted in a worker suffering a serious injury which has greatly impacted on his ability to work.

“The hazards from automated machinery, notably palletisers, are well known and there is a history of serious and fatal accidents occurring at palletiser machinery. Clearing blockages can lead to sudden start-up or movement of machinery so adequate guarding and isolation procedures are essential.”

Further information and advice about safe working in manufacturing visit 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 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.”
  3. Section 3 (1) of the same Act states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  4. HSE information and news releases can be accessed at: press.hse.gov.uk

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