A Rochdale bedding manufacturer has been fined £50,000 after a health and safety inspection found the majority of its machines were unsafe to use.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had to return to Sartex Quilts and Textiles Ltd for a second day after finding dozens of missing or inadequate guards on machines.
The company, which owns the Maison Le Vie and Night Comfort brands and employs 80 people at its plant on Queensway, was prosecuted following the inspection on 27 and 28 October 2011.
Manchester Crown Court was told that one machine, used to compact bales of quilt, had been wrapped with pieces of cardboard as the only way of protecting workers from the dangerous moving parts inside.
A lose board had been placed over a large electric motor and pulley system on another machine, and guards were generally found to be in a poor condition or missing altogether.
Inspectors issued three Prohibition Notices stopping some work immediately, and 12 Improvement Notices requiring changes to be made.
Sartex Quilts and Textiles Ltd, which manufactures duvets, pillows and mattress protectors, admitted a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of its employees. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £14,614 in prosecution costs on 12 June 2013.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Helen Mansfield said:
“This was one of the worst cases of missing or inadequate guards I or my colleagues have ever seen. Every corner we turned, we found another issue.
“The company put production before health and safety and put the lives of its employees in danger as a result. Common sense should have meant they didn’t use cardboard to cover dangerous moving parts, but that’s exactly what we found on one machine.
“Hundreds of injuries are reported every year across Great Britain caused by poor or missing guards, and it’s only luck that no one has been seriously injured or even killed at Sartex Quilts’ factory in Rochdale.”
A quarter of all workplace deaths occurred in the manufacturing industry in 2011/12, despite the sector only accounting for around 10% of the British workforce. A total of 31 people lost their lives while working in the sector, and more than 17,000 injuries were reported.