Thursday, 3 July 2014

Overridden interlocks causes loss of 2 fingers. Company did not report it under RIDDOR.

MTI Welding Technologies Ltd., a Dudley-based welding machine manufacturer was fined £56,100 (inc.costs) on 2 July 2014 after a worker lost 2 fingers in a machine. 
The circumstances were:
  • MTI had acquired a high-friction welding machine from another firm that had modified it from a safe, robot-loaded one.
  • The modifications had defeated safety interlocks on the enclosure so it was now possible to be within the danger area when the machine was running.
  • They introduced manual controls so it could be loaded by an operator within the enclosure.
  • These were located dangerously close to the fixture, allowing operators to initiate powered machine movements while still within the danger zone.
  • No secondary guarding had been fitted to protect the operator during manual operations and no emergency stops were provided at the manual operating position.
  • MTI continued to use it in its dangerous manual mode without assessing the risks.
  • A self-employed electrical contractor, Ian Mowbray, was working on the machine on
    23 August 2013.
  • He was trying to rectify a loading problem when he pressed an incorrect button, closing the powerful hydraulic holding fixture on to his left hand.
  • His middle and ring fingers were so badly crushed they had to be amputated in hospital. He was off work for three weeks and has since returned to the company.
  • MTI  failed to report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 
  • It came to light four weeks later when HSE received an anonymous complaint which led to an unannounced inspection.

During the HSE visit a radial arm drill was running without a suitably maintained safety switch, leaving operators inadequately protected. A Prohibition Notice was issued banning its use with immediate effect until the fault was repaired.
The HSE inspector said:
“The company builds and sells its welding machines to major manufacturing companies worldwide. As original manufacturers they are fully aware of the legal requirements to supply machines with all the required safety measures. They were therefore grossly negligent to allow the use of this machine within their own premises in its modified state. MTI Welding Technologies Ltd entirely failed to consider the risk to workers while engaged in manual operations. Had they done so a man would not have suffered a serious, painful injury.”

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