Hand Injury Leads To HSE Prosecution

Peterborough Leather Manufacturer Fined £18,480


A leather products manufacturer has been prosecuted over an incident in which one of its staff suffered a broken finger when her hand was caught in machinery.

The 25-year-old Polish employee, who does not wish to be named, suffered the injury while inspecting a machine at Peterborough-based E-Leather for a fault in October 2012.

Noticing small holes appearing in leather as it emerged from a buffing machine, she ran her hand along the powered roller feed in an attempt to find the cause, having first turned off the machine. Having been unable to do so, she switched the device back on to reverse the rotation of the rollers and repeated the exercise, at which point her fingers were caught and crushed.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the machine lacked a protective guard, leaving staff vulnerable to accidents like the one that took place. Furthermore, the company had already been prosecuted by the HSE in September 2010 for the same failing.

The company pleaded guilty at Peterborough Magistrates' Court to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations and one breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. It was fined £18,480 with costs of £1,144.

HSE inspector Graham Tompkins said: “A simple guard would have prevented this worker’s painful injury.

“E-Leather has been in court before for very similar safety breaches on its machines so the company was fully aware of the importance of safeguarding dangerous moving parts of machines. However they clearly did not learn from that previous conviction.”

The leather firm is not the first to be prosecuted for a repeated safety failing of this kind.

Last month, floral foam maker Smithers-Oasis UK was fined by Sunderland Magistrates’ Court over a case where a worker lost part of one finger and broke another when her hand was caught in an unguarded milling machine at its factory on the Crowther Estate in Washington, Tyne and Wear, in May 2012.

The HSE also noted that although the company complied with an enforcement notice after the incident, a later inspection at the site and the firm's other premises in Tilley Road found further instances of inadequate guards.

Expert Opinion
Workplace accidents can occur in any environment, but this incident highlights just how dangerous it can be in an industrial setting can be if all of the risks related to work are not properly assessed by employers.

“Health and safety should always be a priority in the workplace and this kind of incident shows how simple steps to implement regulations could make huge difference to the lives of workers.

“We hope all other companies involved in this kind of work can take steps to prevent an incident of this kind from occurring again.”
Neil Whiteley, Partner