A LEEK company that weaves and dyes webbing for seatbelts and harnesses has been fined £35,000 after an employee seriously injured his arm in an unguarded machine.
Andrew Thomas, age 50, from Leek, shattered his left forearm in the incident at Marling Leek Ltd on August 13, 2012, and needed five operations to pin and plate it.
He returned to work in May 2013, but has been left with permanent scarring and reduced strength and feeling in his arm due to muscle loss and nerve damage.
On December 11, Stafford Magistrates' Court heard that Mr Thomas was operating a warping machine, which runs at between 150 and 220rpm to take single ends of yarn from dozens of bobbins to warp them onto a single bobbin called a beam. This happens under tension through a series of rollers.
Mr Thomas was trying to retrieve a piece of loose yarn to stop it being wound on to the beam when his arm was dragged and crushed between two pre-tension rollers.
He was trapped for approximately 30 minutes before the fire brigade dismantled the rollers to free him. He was then flown by air ambulance to hospital.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the warping machine was installed in 1988, but that at no time did the company recognise the need to guard it - exposing employees to significant risk for many years.
Although a risk assessment had been carried out, it was not suitable or sufficient as it failed to identify the risk from the tension rollers, or that under specific legislation they were required by law to be guarded. The risk assessment also failed to identify a risk of strangulation, as employees often crouched under up to 400 ends of strong yarn to get from one side of the machine to the other.
The court was told that Marling Leek Ltd was prosecuted on June 20, 2012, for a similar incident in its dye house in August 2011.
The company resolved the issues in the dye house after being served with an Improvement Notice, but did not review other areas of the business where near identical failings existed.
Since the 2012 incident full, interlocked perimeter guards have been provided and the risk assessment has been updated.
Marling Leek Limited, of Marling Mills, Nelson Street, was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay a further £5,257 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11 (1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1)(a) the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. After the hearing, HSE Inspector Lyn Spooner said: "It is very disappointing that this company had not learned the lessons following a prosecution for a very similar incident and allowed the same failings to continue to exist in a neighbouring department.
"The process of risk assessment is a vital process to allow a company to identify significant risk and ensure it is complying with the relevant statutory provisions.
"In this case the process of risk assessment was not suitable or sufficient and this, together with the company's failure to heed warnings, has meant that a very obvious risk has been left to exist for many years.
"Preventing access to dangerous parts of machinery is long established and there are ample guidance and industry standards to allow dutyholders to achieve compliance with the law.
"This incident was entirely avoidable and Mr Thomas should have been better protected by his employer."