A timber company has been fined after a worker amputated his thumb when coming into contact with a moving saw blade. How did this happen and what should you do to protect workers from dangerous moving parts?

What happened

The Floor-mounted band saw was set up for a production run,  with the power feed on, his hand was drawn towards the blade. The thumb was severed when it made contact with an unguarded blade.

The investigation

The HSE’s investigation found that Watford Timber Company Ltd. failed to take the machine out of use when the guard stopped working. Therefore, adequate arrangements weren’t  in place to check and monitor their machines, ensuring the guards and other protective devices were kept in good working order.

In court

They pleaded guilty to breaching Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Therefore, they were fined £13,400 and ordered to pay costs of £5,358.05.

Note. These are the uninsurable costs  paid from the company’s profits. In Addition, there will most likely be a personal injury claim from the employee compensating for the loss of his thumb. Also, even though covered by insurance there will still be costs, e.g., legal fees, investigation time, increased insurance premiums in subsequent years etc.

What should have happened?

Machine should have been out of use and the guard repaired, as soon as it became inoperable.

Additionally, Employers must ensure that machinery guarding is kept in good working order. Therefore, Using tight work schedules, or ignorance, is not an excuse to allow unsafe machinery to be operated.

Common problems

Although machine guarding is regulated under PUWER, there is limited working knowledge of this in the workplace. Which means, there’s a common misconception that guarding is there to “make life awkward”. Therefore, It can be easily overridden to speed up work. As seen in this case, guarding can often fail leading to an increased risk if not fixed as soon as possible.

Avoid making the same mistakes

There are some simple controls that can be quickly applied in your workplace. Firstly,  make sure that any worker who operates machinery has a working knowledge of PUWER. Including,  maintenance, inspection, and knowledge of dangerous parts of equipment as well as suitable information and training on what the equipment is and how it is to be used.

Further controls

Furthermore, the company failed to manage the issue of broken guarding, leading to a life-changing injury.  Staff should be fully trained in the operation of equipment and know what to do in the event of damage or failures. in addition, Check your guarding regularly.

In conclusion, Implement a process guiding workers through what to do if there is damaged guarding. Implement a guard check sheet at the beginning of each shift. This will note any broken or overridden guards and include a process to remove or repair immediately.

Tip. Use a safe system of work as a starting point for training staff in a breakdown/repair procedure.

At Safety Aide, we provide our clients with safe working procedures for all their equipment and inhouse safety check sheets. (08000 806801)