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Fine for company after worker loses finger in industrial accident

by Redmans Solicitors on May 23, 2013

A Dagenham-based business has been fined and ordered to pay costs after one of its employees lost a finger in an accident at work.

An unidentified 39 year-old man from Greenwich, South-East London, was employed as a wood machinist by his employer, K & D Joinery, when the accident happened on 19 November 2010.

The incident occurred when the worker was using a wood-cutting machine on 19 November. He pushed the plank of wood that he was cutting towards the hand-fed machine but pushed too far and his fingers were caught in the machine. This resulted in sever lacertaions to his middle, ring and index fingers, with the middle finger having to be amputated because the injuries were so bad.

The incident was reported and the Health and Safety Executive were notified. An investigation was subsequently undertaken and this investigation recommended that the employer be prosecuted for an alleged breach of health and safety regulations.

The case came before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this week. The court heard that the worker had not been able to move the adjustable guard that was supposed to be protecting his fingers as it was faulty. It had apparently been defective for a number of months prior to the accident. The court found that K & D Joinery – who admitted breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (“PUWER 1998”) – was guilty of the charges. The company was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,500 costs. The company was also ordered to pay £3,000 in damages to the unidentified injured man.

It is not known currently whether the unidentified worker is going to claim personal injury in the courts.

Chris Hadrill, employment law solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case that “this case shows how easily serious accidents can happen in the workplace and serves to reinforce the fact that – legally and morally – employers have an obligation to ensure the health and welfare of their employees at work. The Health and Safety Executive is essential to ensuring that bad workplace practices are brought to light and poor health and safety practices punished”.

HSE Inspector Mr Mortuza stated after the hearing that “the failure by K & D Joinery to ensure the cutting block was properly guarded put any worker using it at significant risk of serious injury. he fact that the company was aware of the safety issues of the machine for many months before the incident, but continued to expose its employees to the risks involved in using the machine only adds gravity to the offence.”

Under the PUWER Regulations employers must ensure that measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery are put in place or that the movement of any dangerous part of the machines is stopped before any person enters a “danger zone” (Regulation 11(1)). In this case, the employer had failed to do this and was therefore guilty of a breach of PUWER.

Redmans Solicitors are employment law solicitors offering compromise agreement advice based in London

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