Furniture manufacturer sentenced over worker’s hand injury

Furniture manufacturer Ercol has been fined for safety failings after an employee suffered severe injuries when his hand was caught in poorly-guarded machinery.

The 42-year old from High Wycombe, who does not wish to be named, was using a lathe machine to produce chair legs at Ercol Furniture Ltd’s factory in Buckinghamshire on 4 October 2013.

When he decided to change the felt on the drill locators, he reached across the machine to access a vertical drill at the rear. However, the drill started to operate, caught his hand and completely pierced his right palm

He managed to free himself by pushing his right arm down with his left hand and was taken to hospital. He needed an operation to repair the wound and was unable to work for around three months. He has now returned to Ercol, although not on the lathe machine.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and today (26 Nov) prosecuted Ercol Furniture Ltd for safety breaches at High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court. 

The court heard that HSE found the lathe machine was inadequately guarded, leaving employees at risk of getting caught in dangerous moving parts. Ercol had also failed to properly assess the risks associated with operating the machine, especially as the worker had only started using the lathe two months prior to the incident.

Ercol had since installed a perimeter fence around the machine which now prevents access to the drill.

Ercol Furniture Ltd, of Summerleys Road, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £816 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Following the case, HSE inspector Karl Howes said:

“Incidents involving this type of machinery can cause serious, life-changing injuries, which is why onus is on employers to ensure that appropriate guards and systems of work are in place to protect workers from dangerous moving parts.

“The painful injury to this employee could easily have been avoided but Ercol failed in its responsibilities to assess what risks this piece of equipment presented and to put measures in place to address them.

“There are several deaths and many more injuries each year due to incidents where workers have been using unguarded or poorly-guarded machines, and most of these are easily prevented. Companies have a legal duty to ensure dangerous parts are effectively guarded before a machine is used, whether or not these are provided by the manufacturer.”

For more information about the use of workplace machinery visit

Notes to Editors:

  1. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states:  “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”
  2. Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking, for the purpose of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions and by Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at

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