Tuesday 29 May 2012

Machine’s safety interlock was deliberately disabled

A component engineering company in Cheltenham has admitted safety failings after a worker was injured inside a machine, which had had its safety mechanism deliberately disabled.

Grzegorz Chylenski, 33, was working as a machine operator at PG Components Ltd’s factory when the incident took place, on 22 August last year. He was operating a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine, which drills holes in components made for resale inside electrical goods.

The CNC machine was fitted with a safety mechanism, which stopped it running when its doors were opened. But the company had disabled its safety interlock by placing a male part into the female part of the lock. This allowed the doors to remain open while the machine was in operation, so workers could monitor the internal cycle.

On the day of the incident, Mr Chylenski accidentally dropped a component into the machine, through the open doors. He believed the machine had come to the end of a cycle, and he leaned inside to retrieve the part. As he did so, the moving parts of the machine reactivated and struck him on the head. He suffered a broken jaw and cuts to his face and ear. He was unable to return to work for five weeks owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector Dominic Goacher explained the company had put workers at risk by disabling the interlock. He said: “The law clearly states that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees, which includes ensuring machinery and systems of work are safe. In this instance, PG Components Ltd clearly failed to ensure the safety of Mr Chylenski, with unfortunate consequences. This incident could have been avoided had the manufacturer's safety device not been bypassed. Allowing the CNC machine to be used in this state puts operators at serious risk of injury, or even death.”

PG Components appeared at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court on 21 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.11(1) of PUWER 1998. It was fined £11,200 and ordered to pay £2778 in costs. It must also pay £2500 in compensation to Mr Chylenski. In mitigation, the firm said it reset the interlock immediately following the incident. It has subsequently installed a laser probe inside the machine, which feeds information to a control panel so workers can monitor each cycle. The company has no previous convictions.

Source: SHP

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