Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Belvoir Associates fined £24,500 after serious hand injuries due to makeshift vacuum extraction.

Belvoir Associates Ltd., a Rutland company which manufactures children’s bedroom furniture, was fined £24,449 (inc. costs) after a machine operator suffered serious hand injuries in a makeshift vacuum cleaner.
The circumstances were:
  • The company had modified a portable dust extraction system using pipes and connections to secure a long flexible hose to the extractor’s inlet.
  • The system regularly became blocked with wooden off-cuts.
  • The company failed to assess what risks the machine posed to those using it. 
  • No training or information had been provided to employees.
  • The person who was subsequently injured was unaware of the location of any rotating fan blades.
  • On 4 April 2013, the portable dust extraction system had been used to clean down both wood processing machinery and the floor. 
  • Eventually, it became blocked.
  • Three operatives attempted to unblock it using two tried and tested methods, including the removal of an end cap. 
  • When these failed one of them put his left hand into the opening, where the flexible and solid pipes joined, to try clear the blockage, but his hand was drawn directly into the blades of the machine.
  • He suffered multiple finger fractures and dislocations and required a number of operations. He has undergone physiotherapy but has lost 40 per cent of the use of his hand and is not expected to regain full use of his fingers.
  • He was off work for ten months but has returned to Belvoir Associates albeit in a different role as he no longer has the manual dexterity to undertake physical work.

The HSE inspector said:
“This incident was foreseeable and preventable. As soon as the unit was converted, several significant risks resulted. It was, in effect, a Heath Robinson arrangement of domestic pipe fittings, flexible hoses and duct tape, none of which constituted the provision of fixed guards. The use of domestic pipe fittings created an obvious place for blockages to occur and using the machine to vacuum not only wood dust but also solid wood waste and off-cuts, as well as general debris from the floor, increased the risk of blockage considerably. Belvoir Associates failed to see any of the potential dangers arising from the new use of the unit because it neglected to properly judge the risks. It also failed to act once it became aware of the blockages in the machinery and instead left individual operators to unblock the unit resulting in the development of unsafe methods.”

No comments:

Post a Comment