28 May, 2021
A 17-year-old apprentice, who had been working at Amber Industries Limited in Oldham for 18 months, was reaming workpieces using an unguarded pillar drill whilst wearing gloves. The glove on his right hand became entangled in the drill bit resulting in three of his fingers being severed. The incident happened on 21 November 2018.
An HSE investigation found there were no guards in place to prevent access to rotating parts and that the company had failed to provide suitable information, instruction and training to the apprentice, including clear instructions not to wear gloves. They also failed to provide adequate supervision and monitoring.
Amber Industries Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £52,500 and ordered to pay costs of £14,442.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Jane Carroll said: "This injury was easily preventable, and the risk should have been identified. Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery".
This was a life-changing incident for a 17-year-old apprentice starting on his engineering career. Duties towards apprentices and young persons are no different to every other employee, but in some respects are more important as they are less likely to be as aware of the risks in the workplace as older more experienced employees may be.
All organisations have a 'health and safety culture' which is the way that all people within the organisation think and feel about health and safety and how this translates into behaviour. If organisations have a positive culture then the right messages are filtering down from management to employees. Negative culture tends to be a result of poor training, lack of direction from management and lack of foresight in relation to health and safety risks.
The culture of an organisation also has a direct influence on vulnerable groups of people through peer group pressure. In terms of young persons, they are more likely to be more vulnerable to particular hazards than others. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, defines a young person as anyone under the age of 18 years. Any risk assessment undertaken should provide special consideration having regard to their status.
Employers should think more carefully about the work that a young person is doing by ensuring that they are prohibited from undertaking high-risk activities, and ensuring that they are trained and supervised to a greater degree than other workers.
It is highly likely that a substantial claim for damages will also follow, meaning that this easily preventable accident will cost the company much more than the fine.