A HORRIFIC industrial accident in which a worker’s leg was crushed in a vice has resulted in a £400,000 fine for a steel distribution company.
Acenta Steel Limited was prosecuted by Rugby Borough Council following the accident at the company’s steel distribution centre in Paynes Lane in February 2016, when the worker’s leg was crushed in the vice of an industrial band saw.
A hearing heard the worker had returned to the factory floor after a coffee break to find the band saw’s warning light flashing red, indicating it had stopped working due to a fault.
After consulting with a colleague, the worker believed the machine’s sensor had become blocked by steel filings and he climbed on to the band saw to clear it.
But while clearing the sensor, the worker noticed the machine’s vice had started moving and his leg had become trapped.
Realising his leg was about to be crushed, he screamed out to colleagues but by the time the emergency stop button had been pressed to cut power to the machine he had suffered several fractures to his leg.
An investigation by the council’s health and safety team discovered safety guards fitted to the band saw when it was installed at the factory had been removed.
It was found Acenta had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment of operating the machine without the safety guards.
In a written submission to the investigating officer, Acenta stated the safety guards had been removed from the band saw in order to avoid steel being caught on an overhead gantry.
The company’s submission stated the machine’s sensor rarely needed cleaning.
But the prosecution observed the company now accepted the band saw suffered a sensor fault around four times a year, having previously stated it was unaware of the problem – suggesting there was a failure to monitor the machine’s performance.
Acenta Steel Limited pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees, an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.
In its defence, the company described the accident as “an isolated failure by an otherwise safety-conscious company.”
In a victim statement, the worker said he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and revealed how the accident had impacted on both him and his family, describing how his family’s lives had been “flipped upside down.”
At a sentencing hearing at Coventry Magistrates Court on Wednesday October 18, District Judge Lesley Mottram said: “This is a piece of dangerous equipment. It is an integral, primary part of the company’s business, both at the time of the accident and a considerable time before it.
“It was not guarded and there are recognised standards in the industry. If the company was unaware of the problems this suggests a failure in their monitoring.”
Judge Mottram imposed a £400,000 fine on Acenta and ordered the company to pay £10,695 costs and a £120 victim surcharge.
Speaking after sentencing, Rugby Borough Council’s environment and public realm spokeswoman Coun Lisa Parker said: “Employers have a duty of care and must take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of staff in the workplace.
“The victim in this case suffered horrific, life-changing injuries and the severity of the fine imposed should serve as a reminder to all businesses of the importance of adhering to the highest health and safety standards and the letter of the law.”