Firm Fined For Machine-Guarding Omission
Jan 1, 2010
A manufacturer has been hit with a six-figure fine over machine-guarding failures that led to a worker being crushed to death inside a food processing machine.
A worker was operating a semi-automatic ‘off-load machine’, which is used to transfer finished cartons from a stack of trays on to a conveyor. When the machine jammed, the worker crawled inside to clear the blockage.
Whilst inside the machine, a pneumatic pick-up unit came down and pinned him against the stack of trays. The unit continued to exert downward pressure onto his chest and he died from asphyxiation.
The entrances at both ends of the machine are guarded by photo-electric light curtains, which act as sensors to de-activate the device if a person attempts to enter it. Both of the guards had been wired out, allowing workers to gain whole-body access to the dangerous parts of the machine. In addition, the interlock on the access gate to the machine enclosure had been by-passed, allowing the machine to run with the guard door open.
Upon investigation, a number of serious and deliberate deficiencies in the safeguarding of the machine were discovered. Other machines at the site were also found to have safeguards by-passed, therefore a number of Prohibition Notices were served.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £157,500, no costs were awarded.
The ultimate cost of these deficiencies was borne by the worker, who tragically paid for them with his life. This incident was entirely foreseeable and entirely preventable. The poor standards of machinery guarding on site meant that it was only a matter of time before the risk of serious personal injury was realised. Employers are reminded that health and safety legislation requires all dangerous parts of machinery to be guarded.