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Maintenance worker has foot crushed by large toothed cogs of unguarded machine
29 January 2014
An engineering firm has been fined after a worker’s lower leg was badly crushed in an unguarded machine.
Gateshead Magistrates’ Court heard how the maintenance worker had been instructed to investigate and repair a fault on a mechanical power press that had been stopped as it was not working properly.
The engineering mechanism on top of the press included a large gear train – a series of large toothed cogs that mesh together and move only when the press completes a stroke. The gears were not guarded at the time.
In order to repair the machine, the worker had to reset a solenoid valve on top of the press, very close to the unguarded gear train. He had little space in which to work and his right leg trailed over the gear train into the danger area.
When the valve was reset, the press operated and the gear train turned. His right foot was pulled into the gears as the cogs meshed together, crushing it.
The HSE investigation found that there had been no guard on the gear train for a period of two to three years prior to the incident and, despite staff being required to work close to the danger area, the company had continuously failed to properly assess the risks.
The court was told that guards were available and easily fixed, but the company had failed to identify the risk and take appropriate action to repair and replace the guards.
The 49-year-old man from Stanley suffered such severe injuries to his right foot that he had to have the lower part of his leg amputated.
He had to undergo a lengthy stay in hospital, now has a prosthetic leg and still needs ongoing physiotherapy. He has since returned to work in his maintenance role at the company, although with some restrictions on the tasks he can now undertake.
"He had little space in which to work and his right leg trailed over the gear train into the danger area. When the valve was reset, the press operated and the gear train turned. His right foot was pulled into the gears as the cogs meshed together, crushing it.”
The incident happened on 11 October 2012, when the man was employed by Marrill, at its premises in Neilson Road, Gateshead.
Marrill was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious safety failings.
Marrill, of Waterman Road, Coventry, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £904 in costs and £100 Victim Surcharge.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Paul Wilson said: "It was the company’s responsibility to ensure that work equipment was safe and that dangerous moving parts were guarded. But for two to three years, Marrill required staff to approach the danger area around the gears, yet continuously failed to identify and address the matter of the missing guards.
"This neglect put people at needless risk and sadly, this led to the serious life-changing injuries suffered by the maintenance worker who has had to have the lower part of his leg amputated.
"Too many incidents occur during the setting up and the undertaking of maintenance tasks on machinery where often guards or other protective devices are moved or removed. They are easily avoided if suitable precautions are taken to prevent access to dangerous moving parts.”