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West Midlands Police fined over officer injury

Date:
26 January 2016

The Office of Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has been sentenced for a health and safety offence after a serving officer was injured while disposing of weaponry.

Birmingham Crown Court heard a trained firearms officer lost the tip of his trigger finger while operating a hydraulic shearing machine used to destroy weapons.

The injured officer was an authorised firearms officer, specially trained in counter-terrorism operations, who was on a period of light duties while recovering from an injury.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found he and a colleague, also on light duty, were asked to assist in the destruction of weapons, using a hydraulic shear machine to cut them up for disposal.

The court heard that on the 16 July 2014 the officer was using the shear machine to destroy a sub-machine gun. The weapon kicked up under the operation of the shear, trapping the injured man’s right index finger against the underside of a combined clamp and guard, severing the fingertip.

HSE told the court the incident could have been prevented by using other methods to destroy the weapons to be disposed of, which did not involve officers using unfamiliar and dangerous machines.

Failing that, the police force should have devised a safe system of work, ensured the machine’s combined infeed clamp and guard was properly adjusted before use (in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions). It should also have provided comprehensive training on the use of the machine, including its key safety measures, all of which was set out in the machine’s instruction manual, and adequately supervised the use of the machine.  These were not in place until after the incident.

The Office of Chief Constable of West Midlands Police (a Corporation Sole) of Colmore Circus, Queensway, Birmingham, admitted breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £50,000 with £11,558 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Clive Neil said: “This case should act as an important reminder that anyone using machinery, whether it is part of their core work or not, must ensure it is safe to use, properly guarded, and that adequate information, instruction, training and supervision is given to any employee expected to use the machinery.

“This requires the machinery to be risk assessed and the findings of the risk assessment incorporated into a safe system of work for using the machinery.

“On this occasion West Midlands Police fell significantly short of what the law requires, with a police officer seriously injured as a result. Had the police complied with its legal duty the officer would not have been injured.”

For further information visit: http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/machinery/safety.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. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk/
  3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk

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