Health & Safety

The manufacturer of a hydraulic press designed to produce fire helmets has been fined after a fault in the machine caused an accident which resulted in a machine operator losing an arm. The company was fined £25,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.

The operator had started the machine, but noticed a problem with the helmet mould. He opened the safety glass to allow him to reach into the machine to correct this. He believed that opening the safety glass would act as an emergency stop. It did not. His arm became trapped between the top and bottom cavities of the machine. A co-worker pushed the emergency stop button, but the machine continued to operate. Eventually the hydraulic hose had to be disconnected which released the pressure and allowed the operator to be released. His arm had been crushed and severely burned and after several operations was amputated from the elbow.

The hydraulic press had fundamental design flaws. Either the pressing of the emergency stop button or opening a safety guard should have forced a power isolation.

Although this case relates to the obligations of a manufacturer, it is a useful reminder for employers to ensure that machinery has suitable guarding and isolations and that operators are trained in their use.

Lynn Livesey