An Essex furniture manufacturer has been fined after a teenage worker suffered severe hand injuries whilst using a panel saw unsupervised.
The woodworking trainee, who does not wish to be named, was employed part time at Wood and Mott Ltd’s manufacturing plant in Brightlingsea, Essex, when the incident occurred on 19 February 2013.
The 17-year-old was working unsupervised in the company’s workshop and decided to use a panel saw to cut a sheet of MDF. As he was feeding the MDF through the saw by hand, he pushed down on the board with his right hand to keep the MDF sheet flat.
But his hand was too close to the saw and was caught by the revolving blade. He suffered severe lacerations across the palm, fingers and back of the hand.
The young worker, from Brightlingsea, had to undergo surgery to replace shattered bone and needed skin grafts to repair tissue damage. He will require further surgery to improve mobility in his hand as he is still unable to properly bend his hand and fingers.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (28 March) prosecuted Wood and Mott Ltd for serious safety failings.
Colchester Magistrates’ Court was told that on the day of the incident, many of the experienced employees – including the supervisor – were away attending an exhibition. The experienced woodworkers who remained had not been instructed to take responsibility for the supervision of young workers or to challenge any unsafe working practices they observed.
As a result, the teenager, who divided his week between his work training at the firm and a woodwork course at a local college, had been left on his own in the workshop with no replacement supervisor.
HSE found that despite having employed young people who were still in part-time education, the company: –
- failed to carry out a Young Persons’ risk assessment
- did not provide written safe-working instructions, and
- failed to implement any formal supervision or mentoring arrangements
Wood and Mott Ltd, of Morses Lane Industrial Estate, Brightlingsea, Essex, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £699 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 19(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Paul Grover, said:
“This young man has been left with a life-affecting injury to his right hand due to the firm’s neglect of their duties to safeguard him at work. Here was a young person who lacked experience of woodworking and its associated risks and had not undergone sufficient training to recognise and deal with such risks.
“The incident was a direct consequence of Wood and Mott’s failure to complete a specific assessment of the risks that a young person would encounter when carrying woodworking operations at their site. Had they done so, the vulnerability of the young worker, due to his immaturity, lack of training and appreciation of risk, would have been identified.
“This failing led in turn to another as the company then did not put in place appropriate measures, such as written instructions or safe working procedures, to control those risks.”
More details about working safely in the woodworking industry can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/woodworking
Notes to Editors
- 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. www.hse.gov.uk
- Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
- Regulation 19(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “Every employer shall ensure that young persons employed by him are protected at work from any risks to their health or safety which are a consequence of their lack of experience, or absence of awareness of existing or potential risks or the fact that young persons have not yet fully matured.”
- Further HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press