Eye on the industry - company fined after unguarded machinery accident

A soft furnishings company was fined £13,600 and ordered to pay costs of £17,260 after an employee suffered severe hand injuries. 

Two workers were operating an automatic duvet rolling machine, which had been modified to override in-built safety features. An HSE investigation revealed that, ‘foil had been placed over the sensors on the sliding Perspex door guard, allowing it to be opened during operation, providing operators with a clearer view of the duvet in the machine’.

One of the employees – who was not authorised to use the machine – attempted to adjust the duvet by reaching through a gap in the door guard. His right hand touched the machine’s moving parts and was subjected to multiple injuries, including a severed middle finger.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court found that the company and its director ‘failed to provide a safe system of work and to recognise the way in which their employees were working’. They also provided inadequate training for the members of staff. 

In addition to the business’s prosecution fines and costs, the company director received a formal caution for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Opus insights
Preventing accidents in your builders merchant business 

Whether they’re operating a forklift truck, cross-cut saw or baler, your team should be properly trained for the task. As an employer, it’s easier to track skills and capabilities with an online training system. By using a single, central platform, you can identify and fill knowledge gaps before they cause workplace accidents. 

Open communication is also critical, so encourage staff to voice safety and skills concerns – and train managers to actively support employee development. 

To prevent injuries, ensure guards are suitable and fit for purpose as part of a comprehensive risk assessment process. Following an initial audit, pinpoint performance issues via in-house machinery checks and a routine maintenance schedule. 

Finally, make it crystal clear that removing or overriding guards will not be tolerated. This policy should be regularly monitored and enforced – and followed up with additional training, where necessary. 

Need specialist guidance on machinery safety in your builders merchant? We’re here to help. Get in touch or book a call with an Opus consultant.