Surrey laundry firm fined after woman loses fingers

A Woking laundry company has appeared in court after an employee lost four fingers when her hand was drawn into a poorly-guarded ironing machine.

The 57-year-old worker, from Old Woking, who had worked at White Knight Laundry for 15 years, suffered extensive crush and burn injuries to her right hand and needed surgery to amputate the damaged fingers and part of her hand.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, which happened on 30 September 2013 at the laundry in Horsell Moor, and prosecuted the company for safety breaches.

Redhill Magistrates’ Court today (2 Dec) heard that the woman, who has asked not to be named, had been advised she will need further surgery to remove more of her hand and will need a prosthetic to assist her in future.  She has been unable to return to work.

HSE’s investigation found the front finger-guard on the industrial feed-in ironing machine had not been properly adjusted for the task of hand-feeding linen. As a result the gap was too wide and offered inadequate protection to the workforce form dangerous moving parts.

It said there was ample guidance from the textile industry on effective guarding owing to the well-documented risks to workers of getting caught in the in-running nip of laundry rollers.

White Knight Laundry Services Ltd., of Horsell Moor, Woking, Surrey, was fined £10,500 and ordered to pay £1,381 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Russell Beckett said:

“White Knight laundry Services Ltd fell short of the expected standards. The machine was not correctly guarded. Had it been so, this incident could not have happened.

“The company failed to check that the ironing machine was safe to use – either practically by ensuring that it stopped when a person’s hand entered the danger zone or against published and accepted industry standards.

“As a result, a worker has sustained life-changing injuries and has been severely traumatised. Machine guards are there for a very obvious reason and no employer should neglect their correct use.”

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. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken…which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar.”

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