Company Fined After Worker Suffers Severe Hand Injury

County Durham Firm Prosecuted For Safety Failings


A company based in the north-east of England has been prosecuted after an unsafe machine inflicted life-changing injuries on one of its staff.

Elite Composite Products, based in Trimdon Grange, County Durham, was taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the incident at its premises in September 2013, in which a 59-year-old was trying to clean the rollers of the glue rolling machine when his fingers became trapped by it.

This led to some of the skin being torn off his hand by the moving machinery, while he also sustained carpal tunnel damage to his wrist and damaged thumb muscles. He was in hospital for four days and needed physiotherapy for five months, spending seven months off work in total.

An HSE investigation found that he had accessed the machine by lifting a hinged guard to get to the rollers, which was connected to a safety device that should have cut off the power. However, it found this was broken, meaning the rollers did not stop working.

Critically, it transpired that the company lacked a system of maintenance and safety checks that, had it been in place, would have identified and corrected the fault, thus preventing the incident taking place.

The company accepted this finding as it pleaded guilty at Peterlee Magistrates' Court to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £6,000 with costs of £3,188.50.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Cain Mitchell noted: "This incident could have been easily prevented if Elite Composite Products Ltd had systems in place to identify faults on the machinery and its safety systems."

A lack of a safety check regime for machinery is often the cause of accidents, such as that of another case recently dealt with by the HSE in Oxfordshire.

That instance, concerning personal protective equipment maker JSP, also saw a worker suffer a hand injury due to the automatic system that was supposed to switch off a machine when the guard was removed failing to work.

JSP had failed to establish an inspection system despite its own assessment in 2007 identifying this safety shortcoming.

Expert Opinion
This case highlights the horrendous consequences of companies failing to adhere to maintenance and safety guidelines which are put in place to protect workers.

“This man suffered an awful injury that left him needing months off work to recover and it must be very difficult for him to come to terms with the fact that it could have been prevented.

“Sadly, we see many similar incidents occurring across the country as a result of shortcomings in health and safety by manufacturing companies and we hope that this prosecution by the HSE serves as a stark reminder to all that such failings will not be tolerated.”
Stephen Nye, Partner