Health & Safety in the news: Timber firm fined for safety breaches

A woodworking firm has been fined thousands of pounds for repeatedly failing to maintain safety guards on its machinery.

What happened?

Following a HSE inspection, the report identified that employees had been exposed to the risk of serious injury because their radial arm drill wasn’t fitted with an effective telescopic guard or trip device, and the housing on a re-saw blade and self-return function on their cross-cut saw had not been maintained. These failures were found despite the company having received previous enforcement actions from the HSE on similar issues.

What was the outcome?

Ashwell Recycling Timber Products Limited of Wick Place Farm, Bulphan, Upminster, pleaded guilty to two breaches of Regulation 5(1) and one Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £12,000 with costs of £2,831.75.

Comments from the HSE:

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Dominic Elliss said: “In this case, the company failed to grasp the importance of installing and maintaining basic but essential guards to prevent access to the dangerous parts of woodworking machinery.

Companies should be aware that the HSE may bring prosecutions where duty holders continually fail to address risks in the workplace. Woodworking machinery relies on the provision and ongoing maintenance of suitable guards to prevent significant injuries occurring, and businesses should take this opportunity to review their own arrangements and ensure they are sufficiently robust.”

What are the key learnings from this prosecution?

Guarding makes up for a huge amount of the observations our Health & Safety consultants make when visiting clients within industries such as woodworking, engineering and manufacturing. This is due to control mechanisms like guards and trip devices either not being added or being removed entirely from equipment to make a job quicker, with the results of such failures often being serious.

These wrongdoings are often down to the safety culture being promoted within the business, disengaged employees, lack of responsibility or inadequate training. Below are some proactive steps you can take to stop accidents from happening:

  • Apply guards and safety mechanisms to equipment where necessary and advised by the manufacturer
  • Ensure you regularly perform formal maintenance checks
  • Introduce regular cleaning and upkeep regimes across the business
  • Clearly set out your safety policies and procedures
  • Provide regular training on equipment safety, and keep training records up to date
  • Clearly communicate roles and responsibilities
  • Promote a safety conscious culture throughout your business.

Applying guarding and safety mechanisms equipment, alongside correct maintenance, cleaning and upkeep regimes is crucial but ultimately simple and often not costly. Citation can help you spot these issues, explain solutions and give you both short-term and long-term actions to ensure incidents don’t occur and are avoided where possible.

If your business requires support with these Health & Safety issues, get in touch with our experts on 0345 844 1111 or contact us using the form on this page.

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