Thursday 24 May 2012

Worker’s arm ripped off inside unguarded machine

A waste management company has admitted safety failings after a worker lost most of his arm when it was pulled into an unguarded conveyor.

Agency worker Vladislavs Golovacs was attempting to clear a blockage on a conveyor, when the incident took place at Pinden Ltd’s quarry in Longfield, near Dartford. The conveyor, which was used to transfer waste into a sorting shed, had a tear on a conveyor belt that was positioned above the machine’s roller. This allowed stones to fall into the roller, which caused it to judder and on some occasions created blockages.

On 20 December 2012, Mr Golovacs was part of a team who were operating the machine. A stone became caught in between the roller and its metal housing. During previous blockages, workers stopped the machine to remove the debris. But bosses as the site became frustrated, as this caused production to slow down, and created a backlog of waste at the start of the line. Mr Golovacs attempted to remove the blockage while the machine was still in operation, and his glove got snagged on the roller and his arm was pulled into the machine. He feared that his head would be pulled into the machine, so he pulled against the force, and his arm was ripped from his body between his shoulder and elbow – leaving just a quarter of the limb intact. He was airlifted to hospital, where surgeons were unable to reattach his arm. He has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

The HSE found the machine did not have any guards to prevent access to the roller. The company had not carried out an adequate risk assessment and Mr Golovacs had not been trained in how to remove blockages.

HSE inspector Andrew McGill said: “This was a horrific incident that was entirely preventable had appropriate guarding been fitted, and had Mr Golovacs been properly trained in how to clear a blockage. He knows to his cost that dangerous moving parts should be properly restricted when in operation, and isolated if access is required. However, it was the responsibility of Pinden Ltd to ensure that happened - which it clearly didn't on this occasion. Safe systems of work must be of paramount importance at all times.”

Pinden Ltd appeared at Dartford Magistrates’ Court on 17 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £11,506 in costs. In mitigation, the firm said it installed a guard to the machine hours after the incident. It also claimed that the risks posed by the machine weren’t identified by a health and safety consultancy who had been contracted to carry out monthly inspections at the site.

Source: SHP

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