Preventing Workplace Accidents: The Importance of Machinery Guarding and Employee Training

A manufacturing company has recently been fined after an employee lost parts of two fingers when their hand got caught in a machine.

After spotting a problem with one of the firm’s machines, the employee attempted to adjust the machine. They had noticed the material heading into the machine was folding itself and needed to be flat.

The worker opened the machine doors, which were already slightly opened, while it was still running and began adjusting the material.

This led to the employee’s right hand being caught by the machine resulting in most of their little finger and ring finger being ripped off. The employee was later hospitalised for three days with injuries now affecting their everyday life, causing debilitating pain and preventing them from doing manual work.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company had failed to provide suitable guarding around their machines. The company had also failed to undertake and prepare a risk assessment before the machines were used. Employees had not been properly trained on how to safely use the machines nor were they appropriately supervised and monitored while using the machines with its guards open.

The company was fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £5,440.70 in costs. Other costs will have been incurred by the company with loss of time, loss of production, accident investigation, and new processes to be put into place.

This injury was easily preventable, and the risk should have been identified. Employers should make sure they properly assess risk and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery.

Machinery guarding is imperative and should not be taken off or by-passed. It is also essential to ensure employees are adequately trained and that this training is documented. Supervision should be present and a good health and safety culture needs to be adopted by all employees, including senior management.

It would also be advisable to have a daily checklist in place to be carried out before the machines are used each day to check the condition of the machine, the guards are in place and effective, and emergency stop buttons work. This would also aid a Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) program for the company to adopt to ensure that accidents of this nature cease to exist.

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