H&S – Accident involving unguarded machine causes employee to suffer broken neck

A steel engineering company has been fined after a worker got the sleeve of his overalls caught in an unguarded drill bit, causing serious neck and arm injuries.

Shrewsbury Magistrates’ Court was told that the company failed to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the equipment at its premises on 6 December 2011.

The court heard that the 39-year-old employee from Shropshire was working with a twin pillar drill when the incident happened. While drilling holes into a metal box section, the sleeve on his overalls became entangled in the running drill spindle, which was unguarded.

He was pulled into the rotating spindle and as it continued to run, his arm and upper body were dragged into the machining area resulting in him being pinned to the machine bed. Unable to reach the stop button, he shouted for help and was eventually freed by a colleague.

The man suffered three fractures in his neck and serious cuts and burns on his right forearm. He was in hospital for seven weeks, went through ten weeks of physiotherapy and was in a neck brace for six months. The left side of his body has been weakened by his injuries.

The HSE found that the company had not provided any guards to prevent access to the rotating spindles and no formal systems of work were in place. It was left to operator experience and discretion how work should be set up and performed and there were no formal systems of supervision or training.

The company was fined £13,000 and ordered to pay £7,871 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Marie-Louise Riley-Roberts said:

“The risk of contact with rotating drills is a recognised hazard in the engineering industry and is supported by well-documented accident statistics.

“Incidents involving entanglement on rotating drills are easily avoided if manufacturers like CRF (UK) Ltd follow their risk assessments and provide guarding.

“The custom and practice of the company was to rely on experience rather than on the need for guarding with the addition of, supervision and further instruction and training, as necessary. These failings had existed for a considerable amount of time until the practise of using unguarded machines became normal working practice for the employees. The result was that this was an accident waiting to happen and the employee suffered serious injuries.

“This accident could have been prevented by the simple measure of providing guarding to prevent access to the rotating parts.

“Employers who neglect their duty to protect workers will continue to be held to account where they fail to do so.”

Spectra says:

Machines must have the correct guarding at all times. If guarding has been damaged or removed then that machine shouldn’t be used until the guards have been replaced, it is as simple as that. Unfortunately there are still businesses that don’t follow these rules and we see avoidable accidents like this happen all too often. Remember to check all your machines to ensure they are safe for purpose and have all safety devices fitted and in good condition.

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