A West Midlands glass-processing company has been fined after it was prosecuted for health and safety failings in the workplace which led to serious injuries to an employee.
Mr Asif Hussain, 32, was working at Bloomsbury Glass Limited’s factory in Kelvin Way, West Bromwich, on 18 January 2012 when the injury occurred. A piece of glass became stuck in one of the machines in the factory and Mr Hussain helped a colleague to extract the piece of glass. He did this by entering the confines of the machine by slipping through a gap in the fencing that surrounded it. Whilst he discussed with a colleague how to remove the piece of glass, his glove was trapped by the rotating drive shaft and his right hand was pulled into the machine, resulting in the ring finger on his right hand being crushed so badly that it had to be amputated at hospital.
The injury was reported to the Health and Safety Executive and an investigation commenced. This investigation resulted in the prosecution of the company for a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Sandwell Magistrates Court heard that the machine in question had not been properly protected from entry since it relocated to its current site on 5 January 2013 and that its installation on the new site had left a gap in the guard panels. Sandwell Magistrates subequently found the company guilty of breaching Regulation 11 of PUWER 1998, fined it £2,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £4,928.
Under PUWER, an employer has general obligations to ensure that work equipment is :
- suitable for purpose
- safe to use
- used only by people with the necessary information, instruction and training
- accompanied by any appropriate safety measures
Regulation 11 of PUWER 1998 concerns dangerous parts of machinery. It requires an employer to ensure that access to dangerous parts of a machine is prevented or, if access is needed, to ensure that the machines is stopped before any part of an employee’s body reaches a “danger zone” (i.e. any part which poses to a risk of health or safety).
The HSE commented after the prosecution that “Guards and safety systems are there for a reason and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times. The importance of robust safeguards to protect works cannot be overstated”.
Analysing the above case, it’s important for employers to ensure that the state (and potential hazards) of machinery in the workplace is regularly reviewed and assessed. Steps should be taken to reduce potential hazards to employees, employees should be instructed to turn machines off if they have to access them, and employees should receive sufficient training on the machines to reasonably allow them to avoid risks to their health or safety from the machine.
It is not currently know whether Mr Hussain is pursuing a personal injury claim against his employer.