Firm fined for putting workers at risk

A Tyne and Wear firm has been fined for putting workers at risk of serious injury after numerous potentially dangerous machines were found to be poorly guarded.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an inspection at two premises belonging to floral foam manufacturers Smithers-Oasis UK Ltd on the Crowther Industrial Estate, Washington. It followed an incident in which a machine operator suffered a partial amputation of her left middle finger and a broken left index finger while operating a milling machine.

Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard today (25 April) that at the time of the incident, on 9 May 2012, HSE found there were no protective measures in place to stop workers getting too close to a specific dangerous moving part of the milling machine.

After the incident Smithers-Oasis UK Ltd did fit guarding to this area, but it was not fully effective and HSE served an enforcement notice requiring the firm to further improve the safety guards, which was complied with.

In October 2012 HSE Inspector Paul Miller carried out a general inspection of the company’s Tilley Road and Crowther Road sites and a significant number of machinery guarding defects were identified on several machines.

HSE served another Improvement Notice requiring action where the existing machinery guarding arrangements were found to be deficient. Again, this notice was complied with.

Smithers-Oasis UK Ltd, of Crowther Road, Washington, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £6,630 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Miller said:

“For a number of months employees at two sites had been put at risk of serious injuries due to Smithers-Oasis UK Ltd failing to prevent access to dangerous parts on a substantial number of machines. This was despite a worker’s injury and visits by HSE.

“These failings could have led to further injuries to workers including cuts, amputations and crush injuries. The company was simply lucky that a more serious incident to the one in May 2012 did not occur.

“Employers must take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible – such as with the blade of a circular saw – it must be guarded as far as is reasonably practicable and a safe system of work used.”

More information about the safe use of machinery can be found at

Notes to Editors

1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.

2. Reg 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.

3. Further HSE news releases are available at

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