An operations manager who was attempting to deal with a production problem suffered fatal injuries after he was dragged into an unguarded conveyor belt.
The court heard that the 42 year old manager at a west country paper mill was trying to identify the reason why creases were appearing in large rolls of industrial paper during a production run.
Following the practice adopted by some other workers at the mill when similar problems occur, the manager climbed onto an inspection platform to straighten out a large, moving belt made of felt, which squeezes water out from the pulp mixture. The belt suddenly ripped apart and the manager was fatally crushed when he fell into the machinery.
No appropriate risk assessment for the inspection work
A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to install any safety guard around the conveyor belt. In addition, the employers did not have an appropriate risk assessment for the inspection work needed for finding out the cause of creases on the conveyor belt during a production run and for working on the platform.
The company pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and was fined a total of £400,000 and ordered to pay £34,761.67 in costs.
Following the hearing, an HSE inspector said, ““Potentially dangerous machinery should always be guarded and turned off when workers need access to repair faults. A proper risk assessment would have highlighted the dangers and established safe practices for staff instead of putting their lives at risk.”
Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), every employer shall ensure that measures are taken to ‘prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery’ and ‘stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery (or rotating stock-bar) before any part of a person enters a danger zone’.