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Health and safety breach in Gloucestershire leads to severed finger and fine

by Direct 2 Lawyers on November 20, 2012

A Gloucestershire paper and the Health and Safety Executive are reporting that a Gloucester-shire based industrial company has been fined £4,000 after a nasty-sounding accident in its Lydney factory.

The Albany Engineering Company Ltd, set up in 1900, owns the industrial factory in Lydney, which produces industrial pumps. To produce the pumps the factory uses a variety of industrial machinery, including milling cutters. The accident occurred on 3 May 2012 and involved one of these cutters. An unnamed 17-year-old worker was using the cutter along with another working, each supporting a side of the pipe, when the teenager’s glove became caught in the cutter. This dragged is hand into the cutter and resulted in the index and middle fingers of his right hand being cut to the first joint.

Read more: Worker has four fingers amputated in health and safety accident

A Health and Safety Executive investigation followed which discovered that the accident had been caused by a lack of industrial safety guards on the milling cutter. The presence of such a guard which have substantially reduced the probability of such an accident occurring. The result of the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) investigation was a prosecution by HSE. The court was informed of five previous enforcement notices that had been served on the company at its factory in Bradford in 2011. The company had complied with these enforcement notices and made the changes at the Bradford factory but had not implemented such changes in its Lydney factory.

At court the Albany Engineering company pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety legislation, including breaches of:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974; and
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

The court found that the company had failed to ensure the safety of workers and had failed to prevent access to dangerous machine parts. It was ordered to pay £4,000 as a fine and £1,962 in costs. The above reports do not specify whether the worker is considering making a claim for personal injury or whether he made a claim for constructive dismissal after resigning.

Read more: 10 tips on preparing your constructive dismissal claim

Having had a look at the circumstances of the breach of health and safety we’ll now examine the following issues:

  1. What obligations do businesses have under Health and Safety law?
  2. How could the accident have been avoided?

What obligations do businesses have under Health and Safety law?

Employers have duties to ensure the health and safety of their employees and third parties who are on their premises. The main piece of legislation that covers health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (which the company was prosecuted under above). Under the HSWA 197 employers must take reasonably practicable steps to provide:

  • A safe working environment
  • A safe system of work
  • Safe tools, appliances and equipment
  • Protection from hazards
  • Any necessary training and instruction to your staff

In addition to this employers also have a common law duty to prevent harm from occurring to employees and third parties.

How could the accident have been avoided?

The accident could obviously have been avoided by installing the necessary industrial guards on the machinery. However, such a statement isn’t really helpful. What the company should have done is:

  • Regularly carry out risk assessments of its factories to identify hazards
  • Implement any recommended changes
  • Comply with the enforcement notices of the Health and Safety Executive

Direct 2 Lawyers offer specialist representation by employment lawyers and have barristers and solicitors that can represent employers in Health and Safety prosecutions

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