Using any type of industrial saw can pose many health and safety risks, and the woodworking industry has one of the highest accident rates. This kind of machinery should always be well maintained and have the correct safeguards.
Hazards must be identified and risk assessments completed before use. Without these procedures in place, employees are at serious risk of being cut by the saw blade or being trapped between the beam and panels.
A recent investigation led by the Health and Safety Executive found that West Yorkshire building products supplier, Laminated Products Limited, failed to notice a hazard which caused life-changing injuries to an employee.
The worker was badly injured whilst using an industrial saw to cut sheets of MDF. He reached into a hole in the fixed guarding, which he believed to have been a viewing hole, and his fingers became trapped under the drive chain and sprocket. As he pulled his hand out, three fingers were lost.
The Health and Safety Executive found that, although suitable guarding was in place on other areas of the machine, the company failed to recognise the hazard caused by the open hole where access to the dangerous moving parts was possible.
Laminated Products Limited was found guilty of breaching Regulation 11 (1) of the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulation 1998. This act states that every employer should ensure to prevent access to or stop the movement of any dangerous parts of machinery before any part of a person enters a danger zone. The company was fined £45,225 and ordered to pay costs of £1,612.
This incident could have been avoided if the hole had been covered with a fixed plate. As a company, it is the company’s responsibility to ensure health and safety training is up to date so that employees aren’t at risk.
In the woodwork industry, the Health and Safety Executive inspectors will ask to see COSHH assessments, risk assessments and health surveillance records as well as checking health risks such as wood dust, noise, manual handling and hazardous substances.
It is also important to provide employees with written instructions, including training and supervision for machinery and information on health hazards as well as how to control the risks so incidents like this can be avoided in the future.