Last reviewed 2 December 2020

There has been a number of prosecutions of various industrial firms over the last month relating to incidents that could easily have been avoided.

The cases serve as a reminder to those in the chemical industry to provide sufficient information, instruction and training to employees working with machinery and to ensure risk assessments are complete and control measures in place.

Kingspan Industrial Insulation Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA) and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,988.45 after employee was working at the company’s factory in sustained serious injuries to his hand while trying to clear a blockage from a machine.

Kingspan produces a variety of pipe insulation for industrial use, resins and other substances that are blended and then poured into a foil outer layer before being baked to become rigid foam insulation. The outer foil then needs trimming to get rid of the excess, which is cut into smaller pieces by a cutter. It was during this process when on the 18 August 2018, the cutter became blocked, and a worker who had seen others unblock it started to unblock it himself. However, he had only isolated the fan and as he was looking down the pipe to identify the location of the blockage, his left hand came into contact with the rotating blade causing the loss of a finger and other serious injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to provide sufficient information, instructions and supervision for the clearing of blockages. Operators were undertaking the task with inadequate awareness of the risks, resulting in an injury to an employee.

Enva Scotland Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaching ss.2(1) and 33(1)(a) of the HSWA and was fined £264,000. Paisley Sheriff Court heard that on, 28 March 2018, two employees were trying to remove waste that was trapped between a heavy magnet and a hopper on the shredder machine. Mr Kane was struck by the magnet, which fell after he manually removed the locking pins that were keeping the magnet in place. He sustained extensive head injuries and died as a result.

An investigation by the HSE found that Enva Scotland had failed to provide employees engaged in cleaning and using the shredder with adequate training, information and instruction on the deployment of the magnet fitted to the shredder.

Melba Products Ltd of Bury, also pleaded guilty of breaching s.2(1) of the HSWA. The company was fined £125,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5387. Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 5 November 2018, an employee had been refilling the hopper of a blow moulding machine with plastic granules from bags. Work gloves that had been inside one of the bags fell into the hopper and through the guard. While reaching through a large gap in the top of the hopper guard to retrieve the gloves, his middle finger contacted dangerous parts of the blender resulting in it being severed down to the knuckle of his second finger.

An investigation by the HSE found that the blender had not been sufficiently guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. There was a large gap of approximately 4 x 5 inches towards the top of the hopper guard. The injured employee had only been operating the machine for one week prior to the incident.

Melba Products had failed to carry out a risk assessment of the blender, to put in place appropriate control measures to prevent access to dangerous parts and to implement a suitable system of training and supervising of new starters.