Suffolk Firm Prosecuted Over Teenager's Arm Accident

Crush Injuries In Unsafe Machine Lead To Firm Being Fined


A manufacturer of horse bedding based in Suffolk has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an incident that left a 17-year-old needing two operations and a blood transfusion.

Christopher Barker, who was only 17 at the time when the accident occurred, was clearing wood shavings and dust from a blocked press plate at the premises of Equestrobed in Thetford when the machine was activated.

With the guard having been removed to enable him to access its inner workings, his arm was crushed between the plate and the hatch opening. He suffered damage to muscle, tendons and nerves in his left arm and both skin and muscle had to be removed during the operations, with skin grafts required.

The HSE investigation found Equestrobed had not followed the correct procedure for isolating power to the machine or adopted a safe system of working for clearing the machine.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court heard that the same machine had had a similar problem on a previous occasion, but this had been rectified in a different way by Mr Barker. Even so, the power had still not been isolated, making the operation dangerous.

Equestrobed pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £18,000 with costs of £6,929. Managing director Timothy David Howard was fined £1,800 for a breach of Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Steven Gill remarked: "The incident could easily have been avoided had there been proper safeguards in place when clearing the blockages on the baler including ensuring that it was properly isolated before starting work.

"This case highlights what can go wrong if robust procedures are not in place to manage interventions on large items of plant and machinery."

Among the laws relating to the safe use of machinery are the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which list "adequate means of isolation from sources of energy" in the stipulations of safe use.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury, our specialist personal injury solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Serious Injury Claims page for more information.

Expert Opinion
Machine guarding is a basic piece of equipment which can make a huge difference in the workplace, ensuring that employees are protected from potential risks which can emerge around mechanical systems.

"A case of this nature, like so many which we are involved in, demonstrates the terrible issues which can arise when such equipment is not in place – with the worker in this case being left with serious arm injuries which will have a significant impact on him in the long term.

"It is worrying to see so many HSE prosecutions emerge every year in relation to work accidents which could and should have been avoided. We would urge all employers to look at cases like this one and understand what they can do to prevent their workers from suffering similar problems."
Stephen Nye, Partner