A Dudley welding machine manufacturer has been prosecuted after a catalogue of safety failings led to a worker losing two fingers.
Self-employed electrical contractor Ian Mowbray was working at MTI Welding Technologies Ltd when the incident happened on 23 August 2013.
Dudley Magistrates’ Court heard that the 49-year-old from Wolverhampton was trying to rectify a loading problem on a high-friction welding machine when he pressed an incorrect button, closing the powerful hydraulic holding fixture on to his left hand.
His middle and ring fingers were so badly crushed they had to be amputated in hospital. He was off work for three weeks and has since returned to the company.
The court was told MTI Technologies failed to report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It came to light four weeks later when HSE received an anonymous complaint which led to an unannounced inspection.
The investigation found the company had acquired the machine from another firm that had modified it from a safe, automatically-loaded one. The modifications had defeated safety interlocks and introduced manual controls so it could be loaded by an operator within the safety enclosure rather than the robot and automation provided.
Over-riding the interlocks meant the door to the safety enclosure could be opened without stopping the machine, giving workers access while machinery was operating. The manual buttons were located dangerously close to the fixture, allowing operators to initiate powered machine movements while still within the danger zone.
No secondary guarding had been fitted to protect the operator during manual operations and no emergency stops were provided at the manual operating position.
MTI Welding Technologies continued to use it in its dangerous manual mode without assessing the risks.
During the HSE visit a radial arm drill was running without a suitably maintained safety switch, leaving operators inadequately protected. A Prohibition Notice was issued banning its use with immediate effect until the fault was repaired.
MTI Welding Technologies Ltd, of First Avenue, Pensnett Estate, Kingswinford, Dudley, was today (2 July) fined £53,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,100 after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
After the hearing, HSE inspector John Glynn said:
“The company builds and sells its welding machines to major manufacturing companies worldwide. As original manufacturers they are fully aware of the legal requirements to supply machines with all the required safety measures. They were therefore grossly negligent to allow the use of this machine within their own premises in its modified state.
“MTI Welding Technologies Ltd entirely failed to consider the risk to workers while engaged in manual operations. Had they done so a man would not have suffered a serious, painful injury.”
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. www.hse.gov.uk
2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
3. Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are which are effective 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.”
4. Regulation 3(2) of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 states: “Where a person at work is incapacitated for work of a kind which he might reasonably be expected to do, either under his contract of employment, or, if there is no such contract, in the normal course of his work, for more than three consecutive days (excluding the day of the accident but including any days which would not have been working days) because of an injury resulting from an accident arising out of or in connection with work (other than one reportable under paragraph (1)), the responsible person shall as soon as practicable and, in any event, within 10 days of the accident send a report thereof to the relevant enforcing authority on a form approved for the purposes of this regulation, unless within that period he makes a report thereof to the Executive by some other means so approved.”