Staff member Michael Taylor’s right hand and forearm were drawn into gluing rollers following which he has had four operations and physiotherapy but is unlikely to regain full movement in his hand. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the firm for the accident, which happened in January 2012.
Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court heard how the company, which uses recycled paper to make pallets, failed to ensure a honeycomb laminating machine was guarded and that staff were adequately trained and supervised in order to use it safely.
The Paper Pallet Company pleaded guilty health and safety breaches and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £10,877 costs. Following the incident it introduced a light guard system to shut down the line if anyone breaks a beam.
HSE said it found several failings: Taylor was inadequately supervised and the machinery was unguarded at several points; insufficient guarding over the gears and chains allowed access to dangerous moving parts; and some of the emergency stops did not work properly.
In addition the company had not carried out a risk assessment on the machine. This meant there was no safe system of work for cleaning the gluing rollers or for the operation, use and maintenance of the line.
The company’s managing director Graham Hayes said he did not have guards in place, “as we were in the middle of installation”. The Paper Pallet Company had spent a lot of money on safety since but in manufacturing situations “these things can happen”, he added.
HSE inspector Elizabeth Hornsby said: “This is a very serious case of a company neglecting its duty to supervise and protect its employees from potentially dangerous machinery. Basic risk assessments weren’t carried out and Mr Taylor was not given suitable instruction.
“Even his supervisor had not been given appropriate health and safety training to allow him to discharge his responsibilities adequately. The Paper Pallet Company has now introduced measures that will cut the power to the machinery if anyone approaches dangerous moving parts. It’s just a shame this did not happen before Mr Taylor suffered such severe injuries.”
Taylor said: “The physical scars I have, both on my hand and from skin grafts, mean I’ll be reminded of this accident everyday for the rest of my life. Since the accident I have struggled to get back into work.”