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Man Loses Arm after Accident with Hydraulic Press
Posted by David Cant on April 3, 2012

A 47 year old employee had his armed crushed by a hydraulic press while working at Helmet Integration Systems Ltd. Due to the severity of James McKay’s injuries he had to have his arm amputated. The hydraulic press was designed by Composite Integration Limited specifically to create fire helmets, as a result of the accident Composite Integration Ltd were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive.

Safety Gates Failed to Stop the Hydraulic Press

The incident happened in November 2007. Mr McKay was working on a typical night shift operating the press alone. The machine connects two halves of a fire helmet made from fibre glass together, resin is injected into the mould as it is closed together and heated in order to create a finished helmet. While Mr McKay operated the machine one of the moulds slipped out of press. To resolve the problem he opened the safety gate in order to gain access to the mould, believing that the press would automatically stop. The top cavity continued to lower due to gravitational pull which trapped, crushed and burnt Mr McKay’s arm inside the press.

It took ten or fifteen minutes for Mr McKay’s screams for help to be heard. A work colleague pressed the emergency stop button but the machine did not stop, instead the cavity continued to lower and crush the arm further. The only way to stop the machine was to remove the hydraulic hose which stopped the pressure and allowed the fire fighters present to release Mr McKay. A lot of damage to the arm meant Mr McKay needed many operations in order to try and repair the damage, unfortunately after an infection in January 2008 the arm needed to be amputated.

Flaws in the Design of the Press Discovered

The Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident and they found that there were problems in the design of the hydraulic press which had been designed by Composite Hydraulic Ltd.  Opening the safety guard should have stopped the machine from functioning, and so should pressing the emergency stop button.  There should have been a system in place to make sure that when the machine was stopped using the guard or the button the cavity at the top stopped moving downwards due to gravity.

Due to the poor design of the press Composite Integration Ltd were fined £25,000 when they pleaded guilty at Stranrear Sheriff Court.  They breached three sections of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations which were Sections 11, 12(1) (e) and 29(a) which state that machinery should not be supplied unless it is safe.

Health and Safety Consultants Ready to Help

There are multiple health and safety services available if you are finding it difficult to get your head around health and safety in your place of work. With so many regulations and legislations it can be easy to get too tied up in red tape and miss vital areas. Using health and safety consultants can be useful to ensure you are meeting your duties. Call 0800 1488 677 today to speak directly to health and safety consultants.


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.

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This post has been filed in: Health and Safety at Work, Health and Safety Services, Health and Safety Tests, Health Safety and Environmental Test, Workplace Health and Safety

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