Air conditioning manufacturer fined after not protecting employees sufficiently from dangerous machinery… A man had his fingertip cut off by a circular saw in an accident at an air condition manufacturer’s plant in Stoke-on-Trent on 16 February 2011.
A Magistrates’ Court in Fenton heard that the 41 year-old employee had been using the saw to cut metal parts for a louvred screen when the blade of the saw came into contact with the top part of his hand cutting the tip of his right middle finger clean off. Fortunately doctors were able to surgically reattach the finger-tip but a permanent scar remains as a reminder of the accident for the workman.
The subsequent HSE investigation discovered many failings in the company’s health and safety protocols. These included the incorrectly positioned top guard on the saw, the lack of basic protection mechanisms like jigs and push sticks and the faulty stop button and inefficient braking control causing the blade to continue spinning for some time after it should have been shut down.
The HSE also recommended that the company improve their communication efforts with workers, especially those who work with dangerous machinery. The court heard that employees had not received sufficient information, training, risk assessment, guidance or supervision in operating the saw.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,105 costs.
Dave Kivlin, the HSE Inspector who investigated the case spoke after the hearing:
“This incident would never have happened if Eaton Williams Group Ltd had taken the time to look at the risks involved in operating the circular saw.
“Although the company had completed a risk assessment, it did not cover all the operations being carried out by its employees. A simple assessment of these additional tasks would have identified the need to provide protection devices in addition to the top guard.
“Companies must also make sure that all safety features, especially emergency stops, work properly on these potentially dangerous machines.
“HSE provides free guidance on the operation of circular saws, which specifically covers the issues of guarding and additional protection devices, and explains the need to provide suitable training, instruction and supervision.”