On Monday, the Swindon Magistrates Court (UK) fined the UK importer of a stone cutting machine as well as the company that put the machine into service. The fine for safety failings follows an incident that happened on 12 March 2013.
On that day, a worker of the Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd in Melksham, Wiltshire suffered serious injuries to his left hand when it was caught in the machine while cleaning it. The glove on his left hand was caught and dragged by the corner of a moving blade motor carriage into the narrow gap between that and a support frame. His hand was trapped for around an hour until emergency services were able to release him.
The skin, muscles and tendons were stripped from the back of his left hand and he was admitted to hospital to undergo surgery. This was only partially successful and the victime still suffers stiffness in his hand, restricted finger movement and a bent middle finger, although he has returned to work.
The HSE investigation showed that the machine had been imported by Waters Group Ltd, of Cornwall, having initially been produced for an Australian company. The machine came with a CE marking indicating that it complied with European safety standards. However, it was not fitted with adequate safeguards to prevent employees putting their hands into the traps between dangerous moving and fixed parts underneath the machine.
HSE found that Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd had not checked to ensure the machine they had bought was in fact safe for employees to use.
The court also heard that Waters Group Ltd had failed to supply a machine that was safe.
The court fined Windsmere Stone & Granite Ltd £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,337 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The UK importer of the stone cutting machine, Waters Group Ltd, was fined a total of £2,000 and ordered to pay £5,020 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.
This case illustrates that importers and companies using machinery and equipment responsibilities reach further than merely asking for the CE marking. Importers are fully responsible for non-compliance of products they import, while employers have their own responsibility for assessing the risks of machinery irrespective of the CE marking.
This case highlights the need for employers to take reasonable steps to ensure that machines they buy and put into use are actually safe, whatever the manufacturers or suppliers may claim in documentation, or through CE marking.
Employers have a duty to assess the risks from machinery they use at work and should not assume that a machine will be safe as supplied or as installed – a risk assessment still needs to be carried out.Andy Shaw, HSE inspector
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