The worker was trying to remedy a fault on a hot tin slat conveyor belt at Warburtons’ factory on the Newburn Industrial Estate when the incident happened on October 22 last year. While lying on the floor with a torch in a bid to identify the source of the fault, it was knocked out of his hand by a conveyor.
As he reached to retrieve the torch, his hand was drawn into the roller on the underside of the machinery. The 41-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, suffered an open fracture to his right hand and tissue damage, which required surgery. The man was unable to work for more than two months and still suffers from side-effects caused by the accident.
An HSE investigation revealed the worker had access to dangerous parts of machinery because a crumb tray was being used as a guard, Newcastle Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday (November 27). The tray was removed easily from the conveyor by quick release catches.
‘A totally unsafe way’
The HSE judged this was “a totally unsafe way” to guard dangerous parts of machinery. Also, the machine should have been isolated from all power sources during maintenance.
Magistrates were told the removal of guards for maintenance activities was common at the bakery and not confined to the one machine.
The HSE inspection revealed the fault tracking on other conveyors had been undertaken while machines were running. Also maintenance staff routinely removed fixed guards to access tracking points, which were close to the moving machinery parts.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sal Brecken said the accident need not have happened. “This incident was easily preventable had Warburtons identified the risks from the maintenance activities and monitored the work undertaken by their employees,” she said.
“Guards and safety systems are there for a reason and companies have a legal duty to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times, especially during maintenance activities.
“Ideally, machines undergoing repair should be isolated from their power source. The measures Warburtons Ltd took following the incident, could have easily been implemented beforehand and prevented it from occurring.”
After the accident new guards were fitted to the machine, which meant they could be removed only using a specific tool. The firm also produced systems of work for regular maintenance activities and ensured staff were trained in the new systems.
Warburtons Ltd, of Back O’Th’ Bank House, Hereford Street, Bolton, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,162.50 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE advice about maintenance safety is available here.