A leading workwear company has been fined £400,000 after an employee had the skin ripped off the palm of her left hand.
Sharon Chaplin, 51, was working an evening shift for Johnsons Textile Services Limited at the company’s site in Burbage, Hinckley on 16 December 2021.
The mother of two, from Barwell in Leicestershire, was trying to manually clean a sensor to initiate movement of a conveyor belt, but as she did so, her left hand was drawn into a gap where two conveyor belts meet.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Johnsons Textile Services Limited had inadequately guarded machinery, did not have a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the machinery that caused the injury and inadequate health and safety management systems in place.
Johnsons Textile Services Limited, of Logix Road, Burbage, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).
The company was fined £400,000 and was ordered to pay £5,919.63 costs at a hearing at Leicester Magistrates Court on 12 July 2023.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Nicholas Moreby said “This injury was easily preventable by applying known standards of machinery guarding and the risk should have been identified. Employers should make sure they properly assess risk and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery”.
“The fine imposed on them should underline to all employers that the courts, and HSE, take a failure to follow the regulations extremely seriously.
“We will not hesitate to take action against companies which do not do all that they should to keep people safe.”
This prosecution was supported by HSE enforcement lawyers Karen Park and Nathan Cook.
The absence of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and inadequate machine guarding is a glaring oversight by the workwear company. Safe Systems of Work including Risk Assessment and machine guarding are all key aspects of workplace and machine safety.
Undertaking a risk assessment is a crucial step in identifying potential hazards and implementing measures to prevent accidents and incidents. It involves identifying potential risks, evaluating their likelihood and severity and implementing controls to either eliminate hazards or mitigate the risks. In this case, the absence of a risk assessment indicates a breach of legislation by Johnsons Textile Services Limited for failing to adequately address safety concerns and protect their workers.
The incident itself, involving the skin being ripped off the palm of Sharon Chaplin’s left hand, raises questions about the lack of adequate safety measures such as protective guards and prevention of access to moving machine parts, which should have been in place to prevent the accident. Furthermore, the worker should have received appropriate training on how to operate and isolate the machinery.
It is essential for employers to understand that health and safety in the workplace is not an option. Employers have a legal duty to ensure suitable and sufficient risk assessments are carried out by a competent person and robust safety protocols, along with appropriate training is in place, to prevent accidents and protect the health and well-being of workers.
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