An employer has been fined £70,000 after one of its workers severed three fingers cleaning a machine, in an incident that “could so easily have been avoided.”
Liverpool Magistrates Court recently heard how in September 2019, a production operative employed by sports nutrition product supplier Applied Nutrition Ltd, was cleaning a screw conveyor.
A screw conveyor, or auger conveyor is a mechanism that uses a rotating helical screw, called "flighting", typically to move liquid or granular materials.
The court heard how the operative had switched off the screw at the control panel, but had not switched off the machine at the main electricity supply. After cleaning the screw, the operative went to replace it. However, the power had inadvertently been turned back on and the screw began to operate when it came into contact with the drive motor. This resulted in the severing of three fingers and part of the palm of the operative’s right hand. He remained in hospital for eight days and has since undergone several operations.
According to the Health and Safety Exective (HSE), which investigated the incident, the injury has significantly altered the man’s life and has impacted on daily tasks and restricted leisure activities he previously took part in.
The HSE investigation revealed that the company had no risk assessments or safe systems of work in place. Also, they had failed to provide staff with adequate training or make them aware of the dangers associated with the machinery being cleaned. The court was told that had a risk assessment been performed, an industry standard lock off system at the power supply could have been installed preventing the incident.
Applied Nutrition Ltd of 2 Acornfield Road, Knowsley Industrial Park, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
HSE inspector David Bellis commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided. Employers should carry out an assessment of the risks and put in safe system of works for the operation of all machinery, including tasks such as cleaning. Employers should also ensure that adequate information, instruction and training is provided to all who use it.”
RiskSTOP Risk Management Consultant, Shaun Small, added: “This case highlights the importance of checking whether employers are fulfilling their statutory obligations around safety, particularly carrying out adequate risk assessments and responding appropriately to any findings.”