Plastics manufacturer fined after a worker became entangled in unguarded machinery

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21 June, 2021

Printed plastics manufacturer Alfaplas Limited was fined after a worker became unconscious as a result of asphyxiation when his tabard was entangled in the rotating spindle of a print machine.

Kidderminster Magistrates' Court heard how on 29 January 2019, an employee who was a supervisor at Alfaplas Limited in Hereford, attempted to realign a reel of product on a print machine whilst it was running at half speed. The employee's high visibility tabard became entangled in an unguarded rotating spindle, drawing in his clothing. He became unconscious as a result of asphyxiation from the entangled clothing. An operator on an adjacent machine intervened to stop the print machine.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to prevent access to the dangerous parts of machinery or stop dangerous parts before access was gained. They later fitted electro sensitive protection devices, which stopped the machine when the roller was active in the operator zone and the light beam was broken.

Alfaplas Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999. They were fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,379.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sara Lumley said: "This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply ensuring that dangerous parts of machinery were guarded.

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."

Forbes Comment

Work equipment covers a wide range of hand-held tools, power tools and machinery. Any work equipment should be suitable for the task and the environment it is used on. More specifically, when it comes to access to dangerous parts of machinery, the PUWER regulations sets out the preventative and safeguards that should be applied having regard to a hierarchy of control measures.

On the issue of access to dangerous parts, this should be prevented having regard to the hierarchy set out at regulation 11 PUWER through the provision of fixed enclosed guards, other guards and protection device such as interlock guards etc, protection appliances and finally information, instruction, training and supervision.

The measures have to be used where and to the extent it is "practicable". This means if it can be done then it must be done.

Risk assessments on work related activities should ordinarily identify work equipment hazards and whether the existing control measures are sufficient. This should be updated and reviewed upon introduction of new work equipment or following complaints or minor incidents.

For more information contact Ridwaan Omar in our Insurance department via email or phone on 01254 222457. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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