HSE – Employers prosecuted for failing to safeguard machinery


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During the first half of 2009, there were numerous prosecutions relating to inadequate machinery safety. This is not as a result of a targeted clamp-down but follows a series of accidents that have led to workers being injured.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding each accident, prosecutions have been brought under Sections 2 (1), 2 (2), 33 (1) and 37 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, and Regulations 11 (1) and 11 (3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998. Essentially, therefore, the prosecutions relate to employers failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of employees; failing to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; failing to ensure that measures are taken which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery before any part of a person enters a danger zone; and failing to ensure those guards are fit for purpose. In most cases it is the company that has been prosecuted but, where appropriate, individuals have also been prosecuted.

At the lower end of the scale, a company was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £2287.76 after an employee’s little finger was amputated in the unguarded rotating part of a pedestal drill. A far heavier fine of £75,000 and costs of £23,721 was imposed on a company after it was prosecuted by the HSE for the third time. On this occasion, an employee was working on a calendaring machine used to stretch flooring material. A strip of material failed to fall onto a return conveyor and the employee attempted to cut it away by gaining access to an unguarded part of the machine. When his glove became caught between the high-speed rollers, the employee lost one finger and suffered crushing and burn injuries to his other fingers and forearm.

Other machine-related accidents prosecuted during the first half of 2009 resulted in workers suffering broken limbs, bruising, tendon damage, finger amputations and broken fingers. Each incident was investigated by an HSE inspector and some of these investigations uncovered not only problems with the machine where the accident occurred, but also with other machinery and work equipment at the same premises. One company had even had Enforcement Notices served on it on two previous occasions and, although the machine tool guards had been installed as required, they had been removed or put out of use again within a few months.

In the wake of one prosecution, which resulted in the company being fined £4000 and ordered to pay £2423 costs, the HSE pointed out that the accident involving a pedestal drill could have been prevented by installing a £60 safety guard.

Inadequate machine guarding and safety measures (such as emergency trip devices) are a factor in many of the prosecutions, but other machinery safety issues raised by the court cases include a failure to undertake sufficient risk assessments, and not having procedures in place to ensure machinery can be properly isolated while being repaired.

If companies are in any doubt as to the adequacy of their machinery safety, Procter Machine Guarding can provide assistance in several different ways. Firstly, the company can undertake free guarding compliance surveys; after an initial telephone consultation, a site visit can be arranged to assess the machinery safeguards. The safety engineers provide a short written report that identifies areas of non-compliance and actions that can be taken to reduce risk, improve safety and comply with PUWER.

In addition to these surveys, Procter offers several free software-based tools and publications. These are a Risk Assessment Calculator, a Safety Distance Calculator, a Guide to Guarding Standards, and a Guide to Workshop Safety. For companies that have suffered the misfortune of an accident, or who wish to be prepared for one ‘just in case,’ there is a Machine Accident Investigation Kit.

Most importantly, Procter Machine Guarding is the UK’s leading machinery guarding specialist and can design, manufacture and install bespoke guards very cost-effectively. In addition, Procter is now manufacturing the Nelsa range of standard machine tool guards, and can also supply and install the Satech low-cost modular perimeter guarding system. All guards are designed to comply with EC and HSE requirements.

To request more information about any of the services available, or to request free software tools or publications, email info@machinesafety.co.uk or telephone us.