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More Hands To The Unguarded Wheel!

17th December 2013

Hands up all those who know what part of the human anatomy is involved in around 1 in ten of all UK workplace injuries, which require a visit to the local A & E?

Correct – it’s the hand! Sometimes it feels like it's the most common of accident compensation cases that arise from the workplace and is regularly featured here on the Camps Solicitors' blog. Far from being a minor incident, injury to any part of the hand, wrist and especially one or more fingertips can actually be one of the most debilitating of all workplace accidents.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, an employer has a duty to their employees to provide a safe-working environment in a ‘reasonably practicable’ manner, yet time and time again workers fingers, hands, or arms are being seriously injured because of unguarded, moving machinery.

Workers who operate moving machinery or hand tools have statistically, a significantly higher than average injury rate. However, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigations repeatedly find that a machine’s fixed guards are either defective, missing or in many cases, actually disabled for minimal workflow disruption.

Deliberate dismantling...

The deliberate dismantling of a fixed guard from dangerous equipment recently led a Gloucestershire engineering firm being fined more than £6,100 (inc. court costs) for breaching Section 1(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Under the Regulations,”.... Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery ... or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”

In the present case, a right hand index finger was almost completely severed by a rotating cutter when an experienced machine operator was trying to clear metal debris from a large industrial component milling machine.

Employers' legal responsibility...

HSE investigators discovered that for more than two years an interlock switch to the machinery’s sliding door, which would have prevented access, had been deliberately and permanently disabled.

HSE stipulate that interlock switches, which are installed to protect machine operators, should not be removed, overridden, or otherwise disabled. Company employers have a legal responsibility to ensure compliance and to not neglect or simply ignore dangerous practices.

Recent figures released by HSE show that despite a 10 per cent reduction in reported serious injuries from 24, 726 to 22,433 between 2010/11 and 2011/12, a total of 111,164 reported non-fatal injuries and 49 fatalities were still reported.