Real-life H&S incidents

Engineering company fined after worker suffers hand injury

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
7th July 2017

Thermal Engineering Ltd has been fined after a worker suffered a serious hand injury after a machinery incident.

Luton and South Bedfordshire Magistrates’ Court heard how on 15 December 2015, 63 year-old Chris Davis was working at the site in Royson, Hertfordshire using a manually operated metalworking lathe, when his hand became entangled with the rotating workpiece. This incident resulted in the worker later requiring surgical amputation to part of his left index finger. 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the machine operators were using an unsafe system of work. The company failed to identify workers were routinely using this dangerous work practice. The investigation also found the lathe Mr Davis used had a faulty emergency footbrake, which had been reported to the company at an early date, but had not been taken out of service. Thermal Engineering Ltd of Orchard Road, Royston has pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the company has been fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £834. 

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Sandra Dias:

“Thermal Engineering Ltd failed to identify that employees were routinely carrying out an unsafe work practice when hand applying emery cloth to a workpiece rotating at speed. “The company also failed to take the faulty lathe out of service, resulting in Mr Davis not being able to stop the lathe immediately. “All companies have a duty to ensure employees carry out work in a safe way and the machinery they are using is in good working order.”

Phoenix comments: 

Every year there are serious accidents involving the use of emery cloth on metalworking lathes. These accidents result in serious injuries such as broken bones, dislocations, lacerations, amputations and occasionally death. Accidents occur when hand-held emery cloth is entangled in the rotating parts of the machine or where the emery cloth is snagged on the rotating component dragging the operator into the danger zone. The HSE provide guidance on such activities and an acceptable method of applying emery cloth - ‘The use of emery cloth on metalworking lathes, Engineering Information Sheet No 2’. In addition to poor working practices, an unsafe lathe with a fault emergency stop was in operation, demonstrating a systematic failure in safe management systems that led to this unavoidable incident.