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Written by
on 27 May 2011


An employee was severely injured while working at a Cambridgeshire pharmaceuticals packing company on 18 November 2009.  Due to the circumstances surrounding the accident the firm was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

Terrible Injuries Sustained by Worker

The 63 year old, John Armstrong, was busy supervising a machine which is used to prepare the cardboard boxes to be sent to pharmaceutical companies which then use them to pack medicines in. The machine makes sure the boxes are folded and flat.  It was during his shift that he saw that one of the boxes had been pushed out of the machine and was coming out on the rollers.  Mr Armstrong used a broomstick to try and clear the box off the rollers, but the machine suffered a malfunction.

Mr Armstrong tried to reach the stop button but before he could his arm was pulled into the machine.  The rollers caused a lot of damage to his arm, wrist and hand.  The crushing caused by the unguarded rollers resulted in Mr Armstrong having to receive approximately one hundred stitches.

Court Heard the Failings of the Packaging Firm

After the incident the firm were found to have some failings in their health and safety measures.  Huntington Magistrates Court were told that the company did not make sure that employees were protected from the parts of the machine which posed any danger.

A simple risk assessment or audit performed by health and safety consultants could have highlighted the hazards involved when working with unguarded machinery. Although the court was made aware that Mr Armstrong was not acting in a sensible manner, they accident could have been completely avoided if there had been the appropriate guard in place.

Stephen Faulkner, a Health and Safety Executive inspector, spoke to the press after the case against Firstan Limited had closed. He said that another of the problems which often surrounds injuries with heavy machinery involves the lack of training and supervision.  Rollers are known to cause many injuries as the rotating sections cause what is known as a ‘nip point’. This is why training, which can be obtained through health and safety services, is necessary and guards should be placed on all machines with mills, rollers and gears.

Fines for the Injuries resulting from Unguarded Machinery

At the court, Firstan Limited put in a guilty plea for failing to prevent access to dangerous machinery parts or rotating stock bar and failing to stop the machinery before a person is in close proximity of the dangerous areas.  They were fined £5,000 and charged a further £2,521.50 in costs for breaching Regulation (1) a of the Provision and Use of Work Regulations 1998.

Injuries like these can be avoided by using the health and safety services provided by Veritas Consultants.  Audits can be effective at helping expose hazards which have been over looked in your company. If you have machines which are unguarded, an Health and Safety Audit can be used to show these findings, and reports can discuss the ways that accidents can be prevented.  Call 0800 1488 677 to find out more about audits and workplace health and safety.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.