Firm heavily fined after employee loses arm in accident at work

hseA Welsh firm specializing in the manufacture and installation of timber-based shop fittings has been heavily fined by the courts after it pleaded guilty to a breach of health and safety that caused a severe injury to an employee.

Stagecraft Display Limited was ordered pay fines and costs totalling over £20,000 after the employee suffered a serious injury to his right arm whilst working at the factory on 23 February 2012.

On the day in question Mr Brian Morris, 59, had finished using a circular saw after an 11-hour shift and his last task of the day was to clean the saw and the saw well. He stopped the machine and opened the door of the saw well while the blade was stopping. However, as he did so a forklift truck drove into the factory and Mr Morris turned his head to look. As he did so the still-moving blade caught the sleeve of his coat and cut his right arm. Although he managed to pull himself free, his arm was almost wholly severed. Mr Morris was taken to hospital but doctors were unable to re-attach his arm and were compelled to amputate below the elbow. Mr Morris was in hospital for a month and was unable to return to work because of his injuries. He has subsequently died from an unrelated illness.

The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) investigated the accident and found that there had been a number of health and safety breaches at the factory. This included:

  • That the machine blade took more than 30 seconds to stop completely
  • That a self-employed machine maintenance engineer had informed the firm three months before the incident that the machine should be taken out of service or fitted with a brake which would have stopped the blade much sooner

The HSE investigation recommended that Stagecraft Display Ltd should be prosecuted for the health and safety breaches.

The case came to the Llandrindod Wells Magistrate Court on 21 January 2015, with Stagecraft Display Ltd pleading guilty to a breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The court fined the company £10,000 and ordered it to pay the prosecution’s costs to the sum of £11,865.

HSE inspector Mr Damian Corbett stated after judgment was given: “This incident was entirely preventable. Saws cause the most injuries in the woodworking industry and power-operated circular saws are dangerous machines which have caused many serious incidents. Employees should not be able to gain access to dangerous parts of the machinery while they are moving and Stagecraft Display had a duty, as do all employers, to ensure that this cannot happen.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “As the HSE inspector stated, all employers have a duty to ensure that reasonably practicable steps are taken to avoid the harm, safety and welfare of their employees being caused by equipment at work. In this instance the employer didn’t take the necessary steps and was subsequently fined by the courts.”