Fulbeck firm fined £85,000 after employees lost fingers

16-May-2013 A Lincolnshire firm which makes disposable paper products has been ordered to pay more than £116,000 in fines and costs after three workers suffered hand injuries using unguarded machines.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Staples Disposables Ltd at Lincoln Crown Court today (19 April) after investigating all three incidents at its Fulbeck Heath factory.

Bruno Jorge, 32, of Sleaford had to have his left thumb amputated after getting it crushed in unguarded machinery on a production line on 26 July 2011. Mr Jorge was off work for several months but has now returned to the company to work on other duties.

A month later, on 25 August, agency worker Yelena Semenchenko, 30, of Lincoln, cut her finger on the blade of a napkin folding machine. Ms Semenchenko did not return to work at the company.

Twelve months later, Simon Burnett, 46 of Navenby, lost all four fingers of his right hand after it was caught between unguarded rollers. It is not known whether Mr Burnett will be able to return to work.

Lincoln Crown Court heard how Mr Jorge was operating a new production line. He accessed the machine to clear a blockage, which was normal practice, but his hand was drawn into the rollers. As well as crushing his thumb, he also fractured his palm.

HSE found that the manufacturers had over-ridden interlocked guards on the enclosure surrounding the equipment during commissioning, so engineers could access the machine. Staple Disposables’ management knew about the missing guards but failed to take any action to reinstate the interlocks.

The investigation into the second incident found an electrically-interlocked guard had been removed.  The company had installed the guard on the napkin folding machine after a similar accident in 2007, for which it had been prosecuted by HSE, but had instigated a process to remove them for specific production runs within a matter of weeks.

The investigation into the third accident found that it was normal practice to lock operators within an enclosure designed to keep them away from the dangerous parts of a toilet roll manufacturing line. Supervisors and management had failed to identify and stop this highly dangerous practice.

Staples Disposables Ltd, of Hurlingham Business Park, Fulbeck Heath, near Grantham, pleaded guilty to three charges of breaching Sections 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and one of breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act.

The company was fined a total of £85,000 and ordered to pay costs of £31,380.

After the hearing HSE inspector David Lefever said:

"Staples Disposables Ltd had a poor health and safety management system and failed to suitably supervise factory operations.

"The company was well aware that machines should have interlocked guards in place to prevent people accessing dangerous moving parts of the machinery, yet it continued to put workers at risk over a prolonged period. Injury was inevitable."
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