A life-changing hand injury to a young employee could have been avoided had a coach-building company properly managed its safety systems, a court has heard.
The unnamed 21-year-old suffered injuries which led to his right little finger being amputated the first time he used a planing machine on his own.
The planer was unguarded and this and other safety failures led to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation. This resulted in Trafford magistrates fining Cheshire-based S. Cartwright and Sons (Coachbuilders) Ltd £5,000.
The accident happened in December 2013, when the employee’s fingers came into contact with the planer’s blades as he fed wood into the machine. He also sustained other injuries to the same hand which later necessitated skin grafts.
Unguarded machine risk identified
The planer was effectively an unguarded machine because the protective devices were not properly positioned, the court was told.
The victim had only used it before under the supervision of colleagues, who helped him to guide the wood.
S. Cartwright’s risk assessment had identified the unguarded machinery as a possible danger. But it did not make sure that they put in place effective management systems to allow safety steps to be continually complied with.
In addition, the coach-builder did not oversee and monitor inexperienced staff in the woodwork shop.
Firm had history of work accidents
Altrincham-based S. Cartwright is no stranger to work accidents or HSE interventions, Trafford magistrates heard. The Executive has already prosecuted the firm three times, including two fatalities.
The HSE has also served a dozen enforcement notices on the company over the past 15 years. These include a special Improvement Notice 10 years ago pertaining to lack of sufficient and suitable risk assessment.
In the latest case, S. Cartwright was also ordered to pay costs of £5,890 after admitting to breaking Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Adam McMahon, an HSE inspector, says a properly managed safety system could have prevented the man’s ‘life-changing’ injuries. He describes the management of safety systems as “paramount” for firms to ensure staff well-being, morale and safety.
Source: Health & Safety Executive