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Manufacturer in court after worker’s arm pulled into machinery

Date:
26 March 2015

A manufacturing firm has been fined for serious safety failings after a worker was injured when his arm was caught between a conveyor belt and roller in a Glasgow factory.

Gordon Blackwood, then aged 43, an employee of the firm, suffered a compound fracture to his wrist and tendon damage to two fingers in the incident at Promat Glasgow Ltd, in Petershill Road, Springburn, on 30 August 2012. He had to have surgery to insert a metal plate in his wrist, which has left him weakened as a result. He still suffers pain in his wrist and fingers.

Mr Blackwood was working with a colleague cleaning a conveyor in the press area at the company’s premises, where fire retardant boards are manufactured, before starting work on a new batch of the boards. His colleague had gone into a cabin to start the conveyor in order to re-align the belt, when Mr Blackwood spotted some mix on the moving conveyor that had been missed.

He attempted to scrape it off using his gloved right hand, but as his hand touched the conveyor it was pulled into an in-running nip point – the gap between the roller and underside of the belt conveyor.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that while Promat Glasgow Ltd had assessed the risks of various tasks within the factory, it had failed to identify the hazard from the in-running nip point on the belt conveyor in the press area.

As a result, there were no control measures in place, such as safety guards, to prevent workers gaining access to the danger zone represented by the in – running nip point.

Glasgow Sheriff Court was told today (26 March) that the cleaning cycle required the operators to start a cleaning programme on the computer in the press cabin, after which the machine would be stopped and the operator would go into the press area to hose down the press and clean off any spilled mix.

The operator would then return to the cabin to run a ‘felt’ wash programme, while at the same time keeping an eye on the felt to ensure it was tracking correctly.

Mr Blackwood and his colleague had reached the felt wash part of the process when it was noticed the belt was not running centrally. Mr Blackwood remained in the press area while his colleague went into the cabin to start the conveyor to realign it.

They signalled each other before the machine was switched on, but when the belt was moving Mr Blackwood then spotted the spilled mix and attempted to clear it manually before the machine was switched off.

Following the incident a fixed guard was installed around the in-running nip point.

Promat Glasgow Ltd, of Sterling Centre, Eastern Road, Bracknell, Berkshire, was fined a total of £4,000 after pleading guilty to one charge of breaching Regulation 11(1) and (2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Callum MacDonald said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident. The dangers of nip points, or the gaps between a moving belt and a stationary part of a machine, are well-known.

“Promat Glasgow Limited should have carried out a full assessment of the risks to workers for all the tasks involved in the production of the insulation boards. That would have identified the hazards in the press area and the right action, such as introducing guards, could have been added as necessary.

“As a result of the company’s failings, Mr Blackwood suffered injuries to his right arm which still cause him problems.”

For more information about work equipment and machinery safety log onto the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/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. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken to (a) 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.”

4. Regulation 11(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “The measures required by paragraph (1) shall consist of: (a) the provision of fixed guards enclosing every dangerous part or rotating stock-bar where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then; (b) the provision of other guards or protection devices where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then; (c) the provision of jigs, holders, push-sticks or similar protection appliances used in conjunction with the machinery where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then; (d) the provision of information, instruction, training and supervision.”

5. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk/

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