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Failure Of Risk Assessment And Workforce Safety In Manufacturing Industry

17th December 2013
The problems of inadequately guarded machinery, company neglect of risk assessments and employer failure to heed repeated warnings to make urgent safety improvements are a constant feature of workplace accident news reports and subsequent injury claims.

According to latest Health & Safety Executive (HSE) figures, between 2011 and 2012, there were 3,427 reported major injuries to employees. While showing a slight decrease from the 3,800 injuries which occurred in UK manufacturing between 2010 and 2011, a Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates that around 12 per cent of all non-fatal injuries occurred in manufacturing based on a three-year average 2009/10 to 2011/12.

Recently, a food processing machinery dealership from Bury St Edmonds was fined £8,000 after a worker’s arm was crushed in a bacon press as a result of an over-ridden safety feature, which enabled the air and power supply to remain connected. According to the HSE, the company failed in its duty to “provide a system of work that was safe and without risks to health", despite receiving previous warnings over insufficient risk assessments.

Another manufacturer within the food industry from Doncaster was fined £ 7,500 (including costs) following the loss of a worker’s fingertip in a poorly-guarded packing machine. The court heard how the machinery would repeatedly become blocked and the HSE later found that the fixed guard had been modified so that it was secured at only two corners, allowing it to be lifted for access while the machine was in operation.

It was determined that the accident would not have occurred had the fixed guard not been modified and a safe system of work for clearing blockages put into place. Once again, failure and inadequate controls to safeguard employees against serious safety risks was a major cause of a serious injury.

Between 2011 and 2102, the HSE reported the following number of non-fatal employee injuries by main occupations in manufacturing:

• Process operatives: 401
• Food, drink and tobacco process operatives: 302
• Metal working prod. & maintenance fitters: 270
• Metal making and treating process operatives: 193
• Elementary storage occupations: 192
• Welding trades: 126
• Paper and wood machine operatives: 109
• Metal working machine operatives: 102
• Large goods vehicle drivers: 94
• Plastics process operatives: 71
• Plant and machine operatives: 70
• Packers, bottlers, canners and fillers: 62
• Assemblers (vehicles and metal goods): 47