A cable manufacturer has been ordered to pay nearly £30,000 in fines and costs after two employees were injured in two separate incidents on the same machine at its factory in Leigh.
One of the men lost almost all of the use of his left arm, and narrowly avoided having to have it amputated, when it was dragged in by two rollers. The other man suffered a deep cut to his left index finger when it caught on the machine’s blade.
Their employer, TCB Arrow Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found serious safety failings. Workers had not received suitable training, the machine was poorly maintained, safety features were missing or inadequate, and a safe system of work was not in place.
Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard on Wednesday (July 26) that the first incident happened on October 12, 2011 at TCB’s factory on the Firsdale Industrial Estate in Leigh, which produces ignition cables used by the automotive industry.
A 24-year-old man from Leigh, who has asked not to be named, caught his finger while cleaning the blade on a machine used to mould rubber together. He accidently leant on the operating pedal which caused his finger to become trapped.
The court was told there should have been a guard on the pedal to prevent the machine from being started by accident.
The second incident happened less than a month later, on November 9, when a 23-year-old man from Leigh, who has also asked not to be named, was cleaning the rollers on the same machine when his left arm became trapped.
He hit the stop bar but the machine took several seconds to stop, dragging his arm into the rollers and raising his entire body off the floor. It took the emergency services almost an hour to release him and he was kept in hospital for nearly a month.
Doctors initially thought they would need to amputate his arm, but they eventually managed to stop the bleeding after two days, by which time he had received 25 units of blood.
He needed several extensive operations, including 12 different operations for skin grafts, and has lost 90 per cent of the use of his arm. He also cannot expose it to direct sunlight.
The court heard the rollers rotated three quarters of the way around after the stop bar was pressed before they came to a halt – nearly five times more than the legal maximum of 57 degrees.
It should also not have been possible for employees to stand on the concrete ledge under the machine as it put them in a position where they were at risk of being trapped by the rollers.
TCB Arrow Ltd, of Watchmoor Road in Camberley, Surrey, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £10,984 in prosecution costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Helen Mansfield said: “Two employees were injured within a month of each other because TCB Arrow’s health and safety procedures fell way below the minimum legal standards.
“One of the men will be affected by his injuries for the rest of his life after losing almost all of the use of his left arm. His injuries could have been avoided if the company had taken action to improve safety following the first incident.
“Our investigation found TCB last carried out a generic risk assessment for the factory in 2003, and there had never been a specific assessment of the machine – despite the risks of workers being injured by rollers being well known in the manufacturing industry.
“If the company had put more thought into the health and safety of its employees then the injuries both men suffered could have been avoided.”
According to the latest figures, workers in the manufacturing industry are nearly twice as likely to be killed at work compared to the national average for workplace deaths. A total of 20 people lost their lives while working in the sector in 2012/13.
Information on improving safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.