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7th July 2014

Firm Fined £50K after Ignoring Consultant’s Advice

A Blackburn packaging firm has appeared in court after an investigation into a worker’s injury revealed safety standards described as ‘appalling’ by the Health and Safety Executive.

Europlast (Blackburn) Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE after an employee had part of a finger amputated after his left hand became trapped in unguarded machinery in June 2012. The firm was fined £50,010 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £23,102 after admitting breaches of legislation.

HSE discovered that two other workers had been injured in similar machinery incidents less than nine months earlier, numerous safety guards were missing or disabled on machines, and workers had not been given suitable training.

Preston Crown Court heard that the 26-year-old employee from Blackburn had been working on a machine used to produce bubble wrap when the incident happened at the plant at Shadsworth Business Park on 6 June 2012.

The worker was trying to remove small pieces of plastic which had become stuck when his hand was pulled in between two rollers. It remained trapped for several minutes before another employee eventually found the emergency stop button.

He suffered burns and crush injuries to his hand, required skin grafts and had to have the top half of his middle finger amputated. The court was told two other workers had also suffered injuries when their hands became trapped in machinery in April 2012 and September 2011.

HSE first made Europlast aware of the need to guard dangerous machine parts during a visit to the site in September 2009. This warning was repeated in July 2011 when an external health and safety consultant highlighted ‘intolerable risks’ from missing guards on machines at the factory.

The consultant stressed the importance of implementing his findings when he returned to the site later in the year, after it became clear that no action had been taken.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Mike Sebastian said:

“The injured worker has only ever carried out manual work but his prospects of employment are now severely affected, as he can no longer use to his hand to hold, grab or lift anything properly.

“When we visited the factory following the incident, we found an appalling state of health and safety with no safe system of work in place for any of the machines.

“What’s even more shocking is that the company had failed to take any action to improve safety despite receiving numerous warnings and at least two other workers also suffering injuries.

“There appears to have been a complete absence of any attempt to organise or control health and safety at the factory, with the company apparently showing a total lack of care about the safety of its employees.”

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