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You Should Know The Drill By Now - Unguarded Machinery Can Cause Serious Injuries!

17th December 2013
It might be thought that the injuries caused by unguarded moving machinery, drive belts and serviceable parts, which appear constantly in reported accidents and accident claims cases, would simply not apply to a fundamental engineering activity involving the use of the traditional pillar drill.

While slips or trips account for 4 in 10 of all workplace incidents, those workers who operate tools, moving machinery and plant are shown to have statistically significantly higher than average injury rates. Accident solicitors most frequently act on behalf of clients who are seriously injured because they became trapped by their hair / work clothes or lose parts of their fingers, hands, or arms to unguarded moving machinery.

Following an accident, it is often found that fixed guards are defective, missing or simply disabled to maintain production schedules and minimise stoppages. Operatives can soon master a simple assembly line procedure and it may simply be “quicker and easier” to just use a “stick” to clear routine blockages. In many cases, a machine may still be technically running and power not isolated when quickly dealing with “snarl ups”.

Pillar Drills And Safety Precautions...

Electric pillar drills have been a common fixture in workshops and factories for more than a 100 years ( first invented in Germany, 1895). The safety procedures involve always wearing safety goggles, and when necessary, a dust mask. Most importantly, long hair should be tied back, loose shirt sleeves rolled up or loose clothing /gloves kept well away to avoid being caught by the drill bit.

Most drill assemblies also have a movable, see-through shield, which should be lowered into place before each operation. Larger industrial geared mill drills will have larger guards. Accidents and injuries can take place when high speed drilling, which can cause vibration / air turbulence is combined with lack of sufficient vigilance and loose clothing.

A recent example of how this deadly combination caused a worker to suffer horrific injuries took place when the sleeve of a 39-year-old employee of a Shropshire firm became entangled in the running drill spindle of an unguarded twin pillar drill while holes were being drilled into a metal box section.

Held fast in the rotating spindle...

Unable to reach the “stop” button, the workers arm and upper body were dragged and held fast in the rotating spindle as it continued to rotate. Hospitalised for seven weeks with three fractures to the neck and serious cuts and burns on the right forearm, the worker needed ten weeks of physiotherapy, and the head was required to be in a neck brace for six months.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “ The risk of contact with rotating drills is a recognised hazard in the engineering industry”, yet their subsequent investigation found that the company had not provided any guards to prevent access to the rotating spindles, no formal systems of work put into place, supervision or training.

At the court hearing, a fine of £ 21,000 including costs was imposed after the company pleaded guilty of Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states that 1) Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; 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. (HSE)