Company in court after apprentice loses finger04 April 2014

A Northumberland company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £894.95 costs after a worker's left hand was crushed in machinery leading to the amputation of one of his fingers.

The Bedlington man, who was 18 at the time, was a third year apprentice with Miller UK when the incident occurred at its Cramlington premises on 12 March 2013.

Bedlington Magistrates' Court heard that he was working on a large guillotine cutting a piece of metal, which was held in place between the blade and cutting table by mechanical clamps.

As the apprentice loaded a piece of metal into the machine, his left hand came into contact with the clamps in front of the blade trapping it. He suffered crush injuries to his hand leading to the amputation of his index finger below the second joint. His second finger was also broken.

He was in hospital for three days and remained off work for six months. He suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome and continues to suffer discomfort and fatigue in his hand. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the safety guard fitted on the machine was ineffective in its design and had been poorly maintained so was not working correctly.

Miller UK had also failed to carry out a sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the work and the fault had not been reported.

Miller UK of Bassington Industrial Estate, Bassington Lane, Cramlington pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector Laura Catterall said: "This young man is now living with a permanent impairment but his injuries could have easily been avoided had Miller UK Ltd adequately assessed the risks, which would have spotted that the guard was not effective.

"This failing was compounded by poor maintenance and a breakdown in the fault reporting system – which together led to one of its workers suffering severe injuries.

"Guards and safety systems are there for a reason and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times."

Ian Vallely

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