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Written by
on 13 June 2013


construction equipmentWhilst there are times when accidents at work occur in previously unconsidered or unusual circumstances, there are also occasions when working practices simply beggar belief. There have been a couple of cases recently in which it seems that any consideration of health and safety didn’t just go out of the window, but actually got into the car and drove away.

It’s well known, or at least it should be, that machinery with moving parts often presents a potential danger, and that guard rails or grilles should always be put in place to shield workers from the potentially dangerous moving parts. These shields or grilles are typically made from metal, providing a secure level of protection. Metal is a good material for this – much better than, say, cardboard.

Cardboard Versus Metal – Which Offers More Protection?

But that piece of safety information seems to have passed one Rochdale based bedding manufacturer by. When inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) went in for a routine inspection they were astonished to find so many breaches of health and safety that it took them two days to note them all down.

One of the most astonishing things the HSE inspectors discovered was a large machine responsible for compacting bales of quilt had no effective grilles or railings shielding the moving parts from workers, but instead had been entirely wrapped in cardboard!

These flimsy sheets of cardboard held on with tape were the only things protecting workers from dangerous moving parts, and other items of machinery were protected only with loose pieces of wood.

As a result the company, Sartex Quilts and Textiles Ltd, were fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £14,614 in costs. Prohibition Notices were also issued shutting down some parts of the company immediately until appropriate changes had been made.

Intended And Unintended Uses Of Machinery

In a separate case a worker at a packaging firm in Merthyr Tydfil lost a finger as a result of machinery failing to be fitted with any guard at all. The worker was hand feeding metal sheets into a conveyor coating machine when his wedding ring got caught in the machinery and his finger was severed.

A subsequent inspection found that the manufacturer of the machine had only ever intended the machine to be used in conjunction with an automatic feeder, rather than being used manually, and so had not supplied it with a guard. This lack of guard allowed workers’ hands to enter the dangerous moving parts of the machinery. The metal packaging firm in their turn assumed that the machinery supplied was suitable for any use, not just the intended one.

Because of these two failings both the manufacturer of the equipment and the metal packaging firm were fined.

It’s too easy to assume that equipment supplied will always be used in the way intended, and equally easy to assume that equipment purchased and installed is suitable for all uses.

If you would like to discuss any concerns regarding the use of, supply of, or the safety of any machinery or equipment in the workplace talk to one of our health and safety consultants on 0800 1488 677, and they will be happy to help offer advice or arrange a site visit.

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.

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