An engineering firm failed on three separate occasions to make sure that a drill had adequate guarding before it was used by an employee.
Michael O’Brien, 60, suffered permanent loss of movement to three fingers in his left hand after his glove was drawn into the chuck of a drill, while working as an engineer on only his second day at Jex Engineering Company Ltd.
A court heard that the incident took place on 1 December 2009, while Mr O’Brien was installing a machine during the construction of a waste-transfer station in Leyland, Preston.
He was drilling holes into a steel plate as part of the installation of a conveyor belt, which was being built to transfer waste at the site. Jex Engineering had hired a magnetic drill stand and drill unit but didn’t check that the machine’s guard was in place. As Mr O’Brien began drilling, the back of his left glove touched the rotating drill and his hand was pulled into the machine. He spent four days in hospital and required several skin grafts. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.
HSE inspector, Allen Shute, revealed that the company wasted several opportunities to make sure the drill had adequate guarding. It could have made appropriate checks when the drill was delivered, when it was issued to Mr O’Brien, and when it carried out a full-site risk assessment before the work began.
Inspector Shute said: “These injuries have had a devastating impact on an engineer who relies on being able to use his hands for his job. Sadly, he has been unable to find work since the incident.
“Jex had three separate opportunities to make sure the drill was fitted with a guard, but it failed to act on all three occasions. Even small drills have the potential to cause serious injuries if they are not fitted with a guard. It’s therefore vital that companies take the risk seriously.”
Jex Engineering Company appeared at South Ribble Magistrates’ Court, in Leyland, on 23 February and pleaded guilty to breaching Reg. 11(1)(a) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, for failing to prevent access to dangerous machine parts. It was fined £4000 and ordered to pay £3250 towards costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and it stopped using the drill immediately following the incident. It has introduced a company-wide policy stipulating that all hired machinery must be checked to make sure it is safe for use before being issued to staff. The company has also sent its senior managers on health and safety training.
Speaking after the case, Mr O’Brien commented: “I’d only been working for the company for a couple of days but you just expect employers to know what they’re doing when it comes to health and safety.
“Two of my fingers have been virtually paralysed and I now find it very difficult to grip with my left hand. Things I used to be able to do naturally, like holding a fork or opening a jar, now take real effort. I just hope the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else, as I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
Source: SHP 25/2/11