Monthly Archives: January 2013

Contractor ordered to Pay Fines After Worker Loses Fingers

Woodland Environmental Ltd, a contractor located on Hatch Pond Road, Poole in Dorset, has been ordered to pay fines by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for safety failings following an incident where a lorry driver sustained a severe hand injury while he was utilising equipment for wheel cleaning that was unsafe on a construction site near A1 Barnet By-Pass on 22 July 2010. The driver ended up losing his entire index finger, half of his middle finger and severed the end of his ring finger on his right hand in the incident which occurred at a golf driving range that was being renovated. Reattaching his lost fingers was not possible and he has been left with lifelong injury.

The driver was trying to use a wheel spinner, which is supposed to remove mud and debris from a vehicle’s wheels before driving again. However, the construction site’s equipment was in poor working order and had been adapted; this subsequently forced drivers to use equipment in an unsafe manner.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the incident and found that a rope was held taut in order to keep a brake lever in place. When the driver tried to release the rope it got stuck and severed his fingers. This rope had been attached to the brake lever for numerous months despite the fact that it was not supposed to be there. The condition of the wheel spinner was the responsibility of Woodland Environmental, but their management systems for monitoring equipment and procedures proved inadequate.

Woodland Environmental Ltd pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was ordered to pay a fine of £5,000 and £8,833 in costs

After the hearing,Stephron Baker Holmes, a HSE Inspector, said that the permanent injuries that the lorry driver sustained were entirely preventable. He then went on to say:

“Those who provide work equipment need to take effective steps to ensure that it continues to function properly, and to ensure that it is not subject to clumsy, make-do adaptations – as was the case here.

Paper Company Fined after Worker’s Hand is Crushed

Cotek Papers Ltd, a Gloucestershire paper producer, has been fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,483 in costs by Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court after an unguarded machine crushed a 43-year-old employees hand as they attempted to clean it. The worker, who does not want to be named, sustained severe cuts and bruising to his right hand when it was caught in a paper coating machine rollers on 2 April 2012. He was rendered unable to work for two months.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation following the incident and discovered that when the coating material was changed, the rollers often had to be cleaned several times a day. Generally risk guards protected the five rollers. These guards had to be removed for cleaning, however, which exposed employees to health and safety risks. The company should have provided an alternative, safer method of cleaning the rollers.

HSE Inspector Ann Linden said:

“This incident could have been prevented had there been a safe system of work for cleaning the rollers. Cotek Papers Ltd clearly failed to ensure the safety of its employees, with painful consequences for the injured worker.

“The law clearly states that employers should take all reasonably practicable steps to protect employees from harm arising from their work. In the case of machinery, moving parts that could cause injury should be guarded or made safe so that people cannot come into contact with them. Non-routine operations such as cleaning or maintenance are not exempt from this requirement.”

Garage Fined after Worker Suffers Burns

Windermere Auto Centre, Kankku Ltd, located on Victoria Street in Windermere has been ordered to pay fines by Kendal Magistrates’ Court following an incident on 27 July 2011 where a 26-year-old mechanic was burned severely when he tried to cut the top off an empty oil drum. The mechanic, who is a native of the town, was trying to remove the lid by using a propane torch. However, this set fire to the remaining oil inside the drum, which then caused an explosion. He had to spend five days in hospital after sustaining severe burns to his hands and arms.

The owner of Kankku Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident. It was discovered that about every three months garage employees would remove the tops of empty oil drums in order to use the drums as a place to store the scrap metal. The company failed to take into consideration the hazardous risks of these actions.

Kankku Ltd admitted guilt for their breach of Regulation 6(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. The company was ordered to pay fines of £6,000 and £4,746 in prosecution costs. The injured worker also received £500 in compensation from Kankku Ltd.

HSE Inspector Anthony Banks said that there were numerous other methods of cutting off the top of an oil drum that the company could have considered. He added that there were other, more sensible and safe ways of storing scrap metal.

He then said – “Sadly, these types of incidents are all too common, and it’s only luck that the mechanic wasn’t more seriously injured or even killed in the explosion.”

Council Fined after 29 Workers Develop Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council has been fined a total of £25,000 and ordered to pay £9,417 in costs after 29 employees were diagnosed with a debilitating condition that has left them with long-term hand issues. When employees in the Parks and Leisure Department of the council were affected by Hand Arm Vibration syndrome, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the council.

49-year-old Nick Bower, one of the council workers, developed hand problems after being the Head Green Keeper at Hoylake Golf Course for several years. His duties included regularly working with strimmers and mowers. In 2009 he was diagnosed with the condition and ever since he has had issues with dexterity and feels intense pain in cold weather.

Since being diagnosed he has changed jobs and now has duties that do not involve the use of vibrating equipment. Because of issues with blood flow to his hands and the nerve damage he has sustained, he will have to be on medication permanently. 28 other council other employees at the council also developed Hand Arm Vibration syndrome between July 2005 and December 2009.

Some of the consequences of Hand Arm Vibration syndrome are having a poor grip, experiencing numbness, tingling and suffering an acute sensitivity to cold which results in a great deal of pain. The damage it causes is largely irreversible, but the symptoms can subside somewhat once a person wth the condition isn’t exposed to vibrating tools, which was what the council workers primarily used when they worked. An investigation carried out by the HSE revealed that the council did not adequately assess the risks that the workers faced by using vibrating equipment on a regular basis. Furthermore, limiting use of such tools could have decreased the workers’ likelihood of developing the condition.

Mr Bower had this to say about the affair –

“Before I was diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration syndrome, I would often use vibrating machinery for long periods of time in the course of my job. When I began noticing symptoms and went to the doctor, he immediately asked what I did for a living and made the connection.

“I still have problems with loss of feeling and find it difficult to do everyday tasks such as fastening buttons. An attack can be triggered by everyday events such as a change of temperature or even taking food out of the freezer.

“Although I no longer work with vibrating tools, I will have the condition for life – the nerve and blood vessel damage is irreversible.”

Invetsigating HSE Inspector Christina Goddard said –

“Wirral Council failed to take action to prevent damage caused by vibrating tools, with the result that 29 workers now suffer from a debilitating condition.

“The council should have limited the amount of time workers spent using vibrating equipment or provided alternative tools. If appropriate action had been taken then the workers’ condition could have been prevented.”

Logistics Firm Admits Guilt after Worker Suffers Neck Injuries

Palletways (UK) Ltd, a Lichfield logistics firm located in Wood End Lane, Fradley, has been ordered to pay fines by Stafford Crown Court after a forklift driver, 60 year old Barry Hill, suffered neck injuries when, while trying to load a computer cabinet onto a truck, it fell on top of him. The accident occurred at Fradley Distribution Park after Mr. Hill discovered that one of the cabinets was rocking on the forks. Mr Hill subsequently got out of the forklift to prevent the cabinet from falling, but it fell forward and hit him on the head which knocked him to the ground. His neck and right wrist were broken and he has not worked since the incident on occurred 22 August 2008.

Following his accident Mr Hill was suffering from a visible head wound, however, the depot manager took him around the site to find help instead of leaving him to rest in the office with a colleague, as he did not know who the first aid people on the site were. A trained first aider did finally provide medical treatment to Mr Hill, however they did not realise how severe his injuries were. An ambulance was not called and Mr Hill was driven by the first aider to the local hospital which lacked an emergency room. Mr Hill was then airlifted to Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham. Mr Hill was in hospital for 6 weeks and 14 weeks in halo traction. To this day still suffers from neck discomfort. Because of the incident he is now partially disabled.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation and discovered that Palletways (UK) never assessed the health and safety risks of moving and loading goods and had failed to supervise employees properly. Furthermore, the company did lacked a system for treating employees who had been involved in an accident and sustained injury.

Palletways (UK) Ltd, admitted guilt to violating Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was ordered to pay a fine of £60,000 and £41,339 costs.

Lyn Spooner, a HSE inspector said that the accident Mr Hill was involved in was entirely preventable and could have left him paralysed or dead. She then went on to say –

“Any company that carries out lifting operations must assess the risks thoroughly, especially the need for proper training and supervision. There is no excuse for failing to do this, especially as free guidance is available from HSE.

“There was also a string of management failings in dealing with Mr Hill when he reported the incident. It was clear that he had suffered a head injury and Palletways (UK) should have treated this as a very serious incident and called an ambulance immediately.”

Healthcare Manufacturer Fined after Worker Loses Thumb

Synergy Health (UK) Ltd  a healthcare manufacturer has been fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,573 by Leyland Magistrates’ Court after a 39-year-old employee at their factory in Chorely trapped his thumb in machinery and lost part of it 27 November 2011 . Following the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation and discovered that the guards on the dry wipes machine that the employee was using were inadequate, in addition to the fact that the worker had not been given proper training.

As the worker was using the machine, he reached into the tunnel that comes out of machine to in order to prevent it from being blocked by incorrectly cut wipes. His hand was subsequently caught in the conveyor belt. The conveyer belt forced the workers thumb against a metal plate and it was severed to the first knuckle. It was found that the company had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment of the work that he was doing, so they were unaware of the risks his hands faced.

HSE Inspector Christina Goddard stated following the hearing –

“This incident could easily have been avoided if Synergy Health had carried out a proper assessment of the risks and made sure its employees were properly trained.

“The risk of workers hands becoming trapped by moving conveyor belts in well known in the industry and so it is important suitable guards are in place.

“If the guards the company installed following the incident had been there at the time then it is extremely unlikely the employee’s hand would have become trapped.”