Firm Prosecuted Over Worker Arm Injury

Company Fined After Unguarded Machine Leads to Serious Accident


A waste and recycling firm has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over an incident in which a member of staff suffered crush injuries to his arm.

The 30-year old was working for GBN Services at its plant on the Maple River Industrial Estate in Harlow, Essex in May 2013 when he set about realigning the in-feed conveyor belt on a newly-installed waste separating machine.

Although the work was carried out with the power off, the worker had to remove the safety guard to carry out the task. When he switched the power back on his left arm was caught between the two belts, causing serious injury as it was drawn into the machine.

The HSE investigation found this happened because the company had not followed its own procedures for isolating and locking off devices during repair work. It also inspected other sites owned by the firm and issued three prohibition notices at the firm's Southend plant after discovering dangerous practices.

In the hearing at Colchester Magistrates’ Court, the HSE revealed it had served GBN with a number of enforcement notices in the past, including one for a similar machine guard failing at a site in London.

GBN pleaded guilty to breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £28,000 with £2,777 in costs.

HSE inspector Corinne Godfrey commented: "Incidents involving unguarded machinery are all too common and the onus is on employers to ensure safe and robust systems of work are in place to protect workers from dangerous moving parts of machinery. GBN Services failed to heed previous advice from HSE relating to conveyor guarding at its other sites."

She added that in the case of the machine at the Harlow plant, it was actually not necessary to remove the guard in order to carry out the work, but noted the injured member of staff had not been trained in how to complete the task safely.

HSE figures on handling injuries - which also include accidents involving carrying or pulling items - fell in 2012-13, with the tally of 17,470 being 22 per cent lower than the average over the previous five years.

Expert Opinion
Health and safety should always be the priority in the workplace, yet time and time again we see cases like the one reported here where people suffer serious injuries as a result of basic safety failings.

"Employers have a duty of care towards their workers and this includes ensuring machinery is properly maintained and safe for staff to use without them facing any unnecessary risks. It is vital that all employers learn lessons from a case of this nature, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that safety standards can be raised – which in turn will prevent more people from being injured at work."
Stephen Nye, Partner