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Real Life Saw Horror Sees Worker’s Arm Crushed

Doctor putting bandage on patient
17th December 2013

It would not be an unreasonable observation for accident compensation solicitors to make that reports of horrific incidents and subsequent accident claims for injuries caused by fingers, hands and arms, which become trapped by industrial machinery, are regular case subjects.

While slips or trips account for around 40 per cent of all workplace accidents, the average injury rates for those who work with plant, machinery, cutting and assembly line production are often shown to be significantly higher than average.

In too many cases, the accident, which occurred could have so easily been avoided if the company concerned had not failed to regularly carry out risk assessments, routine equipment maintenance and putting a safe system of work in place.

All the above actions had been neglected by a timber company when a worker’s arm was dragged into the rollers of a poorly-guarded conveyor belt, causing crush injuries and nerve damage.

Cover for mainly noise reduction

While most injuries caused to upper limbs are the result of a missing, defective or disabled machine guard, in this instance, the machine conveyor did have a cover. However, its function was mainly to reduce noise as well as act as a guard, and at the time of the incident, was not lockable ( as required by Equipment at Work regulations).

The chief reason for the accident was because the worker had attempted to remove a piece of wood from the “idling end roller” of the conveyor, which was interfering with the operation of the machine. In the subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was found that on the day of the incident the conveyor was affected by an increasing amount of accumulated wood debris, which not only could cause the machine to trip out but also the company had been aware of for at least three weeks previously.

Neglect of risk assessment and safe working system

At the court hearing, the company were found to have neglected to carry out a proper risk assessment associated with the conveyor belt, which resulted in a lack of suitable controls in place, such as fixed guarding or interlocks. In addition, the company did not possess a written safe system of work, which would have identified the need to isolate the conveyor before attempting to clear debris and eliminating the risk.

As result, the sawmill company pleaded guilty and was fined a total of nearly £58,000 ( inc costs) for a breach of:

• Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999 - for failing to assess the risks associated with the conveyor belt- and -
• Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 - for failing to prevent access to the machinery’s dangerous, moving parts.

According to HSE inspectors, conveyors of this type with dangerous moving parts are recognised in the industry as being high risk and require heavy-duty, safeguard devices. Companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are fitted and working effectively at all times.

Click here to read more about working safely with machinery at the HSE website.