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Brick firm fined for breaking safety law

Brick press

Normanton Brick Co. Ltd prosecuted after worker suffers severe hand injuries in brick press

A WEST Yorkshire brick-making firm has been prosecuted after safety failings at its factory led to a worker losing a thumb and having his hand almost severed in a poorly guarded press machine.

The 60-year-old man, who does not wish to be named, was taken to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield after the incident at Normanton Brick Co. Ltd, in Altofts, on 2 December 2010.

Surgeons managed to reattach the hand where it had been partially separated using nerve and tissue from his legs. The worker also had to undergo skin grafts and several other restorative operations. He has not been able to return to work since the incident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and on 20 February 2013 Normanton Brick were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for breaching safety legislation designed to protect employees from injury.

The court was told that the worker, a machine operative, had started to run a double press brick-making machine (pictured), which extends across two rooms and two storeys, at the start of his shift. He was then told the bricks being produced were below standard as the press plates were clogged with clay and dirt.

The worker stopped the machine so he could clean under the plates but, as he used his gloved hand to remove the dirt, the machine re-started. His hand was drawn into the machine and the re-press came down, severing his thumb and slicing though his hand, leaving it only partially attached.

The HSE found the company had not carried out a sufficient risk assessment for the machine. Had there been one, it would have identified failings in the standard of guarding, particularly as workers often needed to access various parts of the machine. Together these led to a high risk of severe injury, or death, to operators entering any of the many danger zones around the machine.

Normanton Brick Co. Ltd were fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £6,307 in costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company had admitted the offence at an earlier hearing at Wakefield Magistrates’ Court.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Jackie Ferguson said: ‘This was a serious incident that could have been so easily avoided. Normanton Brick had not carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. Had they done so they would have identified failings in the standard of guarding on the brick press.

‘The completion of this process would have allowed them to provide their employees with a safe system of work for carrying out both short-term interventions in the machine and longer-term maintenance.

‘These failings meant they relied on informal, verbal ways of working that varied between employees and largely depended on who trained whom and who had less or more personal experience.

‘The lack of commitment by the company to their legal duty of care to staff has now led to one worker suffering significant injuries that have had a major impact on his life. The potential for a more serious injury was always present.

‘All employers need to ensure that risks are fully considered and that potentially dangerous moving parts are sufficiently guarded. The HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those who fall so far below the required standards.’

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