H&E Knowles (Lye) Limited, a West Midlands company in Waterfall Lane, Cradley Heath , has been ordered by Dudley and Halesowen magistrates to pay fines after a worker sustained serious head injuries because of a pneumatic metal press. Maintenance engineer, Wayne Hill, 42, of Lye, Stourbridge, was in the midst of repairing the press when suddenly it started working again and it had begun to crush his head. The press had him trapped for ten minutes before he was set free by colleagues. He suffered multiple severe injuries – he broke his nose and jaw, he ripped off his upper lip and his tongue was completely bitten through. In addition to these horrific injuries, Mr Hill also suffered lacerations to the back of his head and neck, arm muscle damage, excruciating neck pain and his left side was left bruised and scratched.
Much reconstructive surgery was necessary for Mr Hill. Furthermore, his upper lip and nose have increased sensitivity in addition to pain in his teeth and shoulder scarring suffered. Counselling was also necessary after Mr Hill started suffering emotionally with nightmares and flashbacks of the incident. He was rendered unable to work for nearly five months but now works at the company again. An investigation into the incident was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and it discovered that the machine had a defective interlocking guard.
The press is used to take a sheet of metal and mould it into a wheelbarrow body and should not be able to work correctly if the door is open. In the instance of Mr Hill, a fault with the machine meant the it did not detect an open door. Furthermore, it was found that the machine was created and built by the company 25 years ago. As a result, there are no technical drawings or any other documentation available and an adequate risk assessment had never been completed on the machine. The machine broke down on a regular basis and maintenance staff did not have access to proper instructions with regards to fixing it.
H&E Knowles (Lye) admitted guilt to violating Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was ordered to pay a fine of £18,000 with £7,220 costs.
Following the hearing, John Glynn, a HSE inspector said:
“Mr Hill was extremely lucky not to have lost his life in this entirely preventable incident. The company should have provided safe equipment and a safe system of work for its staff. Instead, it failed almost entirely to comply with health and safety legislation in that it designed, built and operated a dangerous piece of machinery.
“There was a grossly inefficient assessment of risk, inadequate controls and a lack of supervisory oversight that exposed staff to terrible risks and left a man with horrific injuries.”