Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Ends of 3 fingers lost in unguarded machine at chemical company

Omya UK Ltd., an East Yorkshire chemical company was fined £29,813 (inc. costs) after an employee lost the ends of three fingers in an unguarded part of a machine collecting calcium oxide dust.

The circumstances were:

  • Ductwork under the rotary valve on a collection unit had been dismantled so the fine oxide could be collected in bags underneath, which was an unusual method. 
  • The necks of the bags were placed under the valve but did not fit properly.
  • Omya UK Ltd., totally failed to assess the risks involved with running the machine without the ductwork in place.
  • Therefore, they had failed to make sure the dangerous parts were properly guarded.
  • On 14 Feb 2013, a worker noticed a build-up of powder on the outside of a bag, 
  • He tried to adjust the fit, his hand caught the valve and came into contact with a shear point created by a rotating valve.
  • The moving part severed the tips of his first, second and third fingers to the first joint. 
  • He has since recovered and been able to return to work.
The HSE inspector said:
“This case underlines the need for managers to consider risks before they get employees to carry out unusual or non-routine work. If that had happened, Omya could have prevented one of their employees being maimed for life. This is the essence of risk assessment – it is not pointless form-filling bureaucracy. Had Omya UK Ltd given some thought to this task, it would have been obvious that a guard was needed to stop accidental contact with a nasty shear trap inside the machine. Their poor planning meant workers getting near a dangerous part in order to try to make a bad plan work.”

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