Severed Arm Leads to Metal Recycling Company Being Fined £200,000

A scrap metal recycling company in Essex, F.J. Church and Sons Ltd, has been given a hefty fine of £200,000 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The penalty follows an incident on 12th June 2021, where employee Elena Troia suffered the severing of her arm while operating a catalytic converter sampling machine at the company’s facility in Rainham, Essex.

The dreadful accident occurred when Ms Troia attempted to clear a blockage by passing her hand through an unguarded rotary valve within the machinery. Tragically, the valve closed suddenly, entrapping and severing her right arm. The severity of the injury led to the subsequent amputation of her right arm, rendering her unable to work since.

An investigation conducted by the HSE revealed a glaring failure on the part of F.J. Church and Sons Ltd to implement adequate safety measures to prevent access to hazardous machinery components, particularly the rotating parts of the rotary valve in the sampling machine. HSE guidance stipulates that employers must take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous machinery parts, typically through fixed guarding or, where necessary, interlocked guards with guard-locking mechanisms to halt the movement of hazardous parts before personnel can reach them.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which requires the prevention of access to dangerous parts of machinery. As a consequence, F.J. Church and Sons Ltd was fined £200,000 and directed to pay £5,125.37 in costs at Stratford Magistrates’ Court on 5th March 2024.

HSE Inspector Marcus Pope emphasised the preventable nature of the incident, highlighting that a significant number of accidents, many of them severe and sometimes fatal, occur due to inadequately guarded work equipment. He stressed that proper guarding of dangerous parts could have averted this life-altering injury. Indeed, had the company installed suitable guarding at the outlet of the machine, this devastating incident could have been avoided.

Key Takeaways for Employers

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), a crucial set of regulations, impose obligations on individuals and entities that own, operate, or oversee work equipment. 

PUWER assigns responsibilities to businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, regardless of ownership. These regulations require that equipment provided for work purposes must be suitable for its intended use, maintained in a safe condition, and regularly inspected to ensure proper installation and prevent deterioration. 

PUWER states that only adequately trained individuals should operate such equipment, and it stipulates the provision of appropriate health and safety measures, including protective devices and controls such as guarding and emergency stop devices. Compliance also means using equipment in accordance with specific requirements, especially for mobile work equipment and power presses, ensuring comprehensive workplace safety.

Adequate health and safety information must be provided to all personnel using, supervising, or managing the use of work equipment, along with comprehensive training covering correct usage, associated risks, and precautions. 

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