Following three separate incidents where factors workers sustained hand injuries from using unguarded machines, a Lincolnshire manufacturing firm of disposable paper products – Staples Disposables Ltd – has been ordered to pay fines and costs of £116,000. The company was prosecuted at Lincoln Crown Court on April 19 by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after they investigated the three incidents at its factory located in Fulbeck Heath of Hurlingham Business Park near Grantham.
The first victim was Bruno Jorge, a 32 year old man from Sleaford. His left thumb was amputated after unguarded machinery on a production line crushed it on July 26th 2011. Mr Jorge was left unable to work for several months but has recently returned to employment at the company and has been assigned other duties.
The next victim was Yelena Semenchenko, a 30 year old agency worker from of Lincoln. Her incident occurred only a month after Mr Jorge’s on August 25th. The blade of a napkin folding machine cut Ms Semenchenko’s finger and she has not subsequently returned to work for the company.
The third victim, Simon Burnett, aged 46 from Navenby, suffered the loss of all four fingers on his right hand a year later when it got caught between unguarded rollers. It is too soon to tell whether or not Mr Burnett will ever be able to return to work.
The court was told how Mr Jorge had been working on a new production line. When he went to clear a blockage in the machine – a common company practice – his hands got caught in the rollers. He not only suffered a crushed thumb but also a fractured palm. The HSE discovered that when the machine was being tested by engineers, the interlocked guards around the equipment had been overridden by the company for easy access. Management of the company were fully aware of this fact but failed to restore the interlocks.
With regards to the second accident it was found that an electrically-interlocked guard had been removed. This guard had been installed in 2007, after a similar incident had occurred where the company had been been prosecuted by the HSE. However, it was soon removed again within a few weeks of installing them.
The third accident occurred because of the company’s general practice to lock operators within an enclosure for the purpose of keeping them away from the hazardous aspects of the toilet paper production line. This dangerous practice was never noticed or stopped by the manufacturers or its management.
Staples Disposables Ltd pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching Sections 2(1) and one charge of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was ordered to pay a fine of £85,000 and are liable to pay costs of £31,380.
David Lefever, a HSE inspector, had this to say after the hearing –
“Staples Disposables Ltd had a poor health and safety management system and failed to suitably supervise factory operations. The company was well aware that machines should have interlocked guards in place to prevent people accessing dangerous moving parts of the machinery, yet it continued to put workers at risk over a prolonged period. Injury was inevitable.”