A UK packaging company has been fined after one of its employees sustained a serious hand injury on an unguarded laminating machine.
Gary Dean of Redstock Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, had the skin on the palm of his left hand torn away in the incident at Frith's Flexible Packaging, in Southend, on 26 September 2011. The firm makes printed aluminium foil products for confectionery and dairy markets.
Southend Magistrates' Court heard that Dean was using a glue laminating machine when he noticed an indent mark on a finished product.
He put his left hand into the machine via an unguarded portal to scrape away dried glue residue from a roller that had caused the blemish. But his whole hand was drawn into the roller and the palm of his left hand was de-gloved.
Dean was hospitalised for two days and required emergency surgery. This was followed by several months of physiotherapy to regain movement between his thumb and first finger, before he finally returned to work after two and a half months.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that Dean had removed an interlocked guard on the laminating machine some six years earlier to allow him to set the machine up more easily.
Dangerous moving parts
“He and other employees, including his supervisor, had used the machine without the guard ever since,” said the HSE. “Had the guard been in place they would have been unable to access dangerous moving parts, including the roller, while the machine was in operation.”
HSE inspectors also found that although a risk assessment and a safe system of work were available for the laminator they were very basic.
They did not adequately set out the control measures or troubleshooting guidance; and staff were largely unaware they existed, the inspectors concluded.
Frith's Flexible Packaging was served an Improvement Notice by HSE to review their training plan, incorporating revised risk assessments and a safe system of work.
Follow-up enquiries revealed that a second laminating machine at the site had also had its guard removed, and that the company had failed to address this issue following Dean's incident.
HSE therefore served another Improvement Notice for guarding requirements and a third requiring 'competent person' training to enable the company to properly manage its health and safety responsibilities.
Frith's Flexible Packaging Ltd, of Coopers Way, Temple Farm Industrial Estate, Southend-on-Sea, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £2,046 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.