Thursday 5 December 2013

Lack of guarding causes loss of 2 fingers in plastics silo

A worker had two fingers pulled from their sockets as he cleaned a silo because inadequate guarding.
The circumstances were:
  • The accident occurred on 21 December 2012 at a plastic recycling firm, Regain Polymers Ltd.
  • The machine involved was a silo that uses a large stirrer with rotating angled blades to blend plastic flake.
  • Below the silo was a chute with a metal slide valve.
  • A switch on the valve was broken and a piece of metal had been attached over one of the contacts of the switch. This meant the stirrer could rotate whilst the slide valve was open.
  • Regain Polymers had failed to make sure there was effective protection on the machine to prevent access by workers to dangerous moving parts.
  • A worker, Kevin Sharp,  opened the valve to empty the silo, but the chute was blocked with compacted flake.
  • As he put his arm up into the chute to clear the blockage, his right hand made contact with the moving stirrer.
  • His middle and ring fingers were pulled out, complete with tendons; the skin was torn from his index finger and the little finger was severely damaged. Surgeons were unable to reattach the fingers.

On 29th November 2013, Regain Polymers Ltd was fined £8634 (inc. costs).
The HSE Inspector :
“Mr Sharp is still struggling to come to terms with this life-changing injury. He is right handed so basic tasks such as writing, cutting up food – many things you take for granted – now cause him considerable difficulty. Although some effort had been made by Regain Polymers to address access to the silo stirrer, it was not adequate and was easily defeated. Companies should ensure that the measures they take to guard dangerous parts of machines are effective and maintained in working condition. Visual and functional checks of machinery and guarding arrangements need to be carried out and documented on a regular basis. Had these measures been in place, Mr Sharp may not have suffered the injury that will now affect him for the rest of his life.”

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