International tyre firm fined after 17-year-old apprentice injured in lathe

Tyre manufacturer Pirelli Tyres Limited has been prosecuted after a 17-year-old apprentice suffered serious injuries to his hands while using a metalwork lathe. 

The teenager was making a trolley for a tool box on 19 August 2014 at the firm’s site in Burton where he was working as a mechanical maintenance apprentice. 

Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard the apprentice was making a spindle for the wheels of the trolley using emery cloth whilst wearing gloves to perfect the finish. The spindle was fitted to a lathe and the cloth snagged pulling Mr Powell into the lathe. He suffered several breaks to his fingers and wrist and one finger was partially severed. 

Following the incident the injured worker has had three operations on his hands including metal pins fitted and his partially severed finger may still need to be amputated. 

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found there were very few control measures in place to prevent this incident. It was common practice for employees to use emery cloth to polish using lathes but no risk assessment was in place for this activity. It also found the training of apprentices at Pirelli Tyres on this matter was insufficient. 

Pirelli Tyres Limited of Derby Road, Burton on Trent pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and section 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and were fined a total of £28,000. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £1418.60 and a victim surcharge of £120.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Wayne Owen said: “It is entirely foreseeable that if emery cloth is used on a lathe incorrectly then serious injury could occur.

“HSE has a specific information sheet on this practice and had this been followed by the company and a suitable risk assessment carried out, this incident could have been prevented. Every year there are serious accidents involving the use of emery cloth on metalworking lathes.

“Pirelli Tyres Limited has since taken action to deal with the deficiencies we identified during this investigation.”

HSE guidance warns of the risks of using emery cloth and of wearing gloves when operating lathes

Notes to Editors 

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at:
  3. HSE news releases are available at

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