Workplace Risk Assessments: £250k Fine for Bedding Manufacturer After Workplace Incidents

Home ADVICE & GUIDANCE Workplace Risk Assessments: £250k Fine for Bedding Manufacturer After Workplace Incidents
Health And Safety Briefing £k Fine for Bedding Manufacturer After Serious Injuries

H&S Legal Briefing March 2024: A bedding manufacturer has been prosecuted and fined £250,000 after two of its employees were badly injured in “serious and avoidable” workplace incidents at its site in Rochdale.

Sartex Quilts and Textiles Limited were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following separate incidents, which resulted in both workers having to undergo amputations. HSE inspector Elena Pickford described the injuries sustained by the workers as “serious and avoidable”.

What Happened?

The first workplace incident…

This workplace incident occurred on March 29, 2020, and involved a 32-year-old employee from Burnley. On his first day on the line, he was told to clean the measuring wheel on a cutting machine. He climbed onto the conveyor belt; however, the cutting machine had not been adequately isolated from all sources of power, and the machine’s clamp came down, trapping the employee’s left hand and moving the circular saw.

Another employee brought the saw to a stop by pressing the emergency stop button. Unfortunately, this was not done in time, and the worker had three fingers amputated on his left hand.

The second workplace incident…

On October 22, 2021, the second of the two workplace incidents occurred when a Sartex Quilts and Textiles employee was involved in an incident while using a quilting machine. The 51-year-old from Rochdale noticed a fallen casing and attempted to place it on the back of the machine while it was in operation.

However, his gloves became tangled in the machine, causing his right hand to be dragged in. His right hand sustained lacerations and crush injuries, which resulted in the tips of two of his fingers being amputated.

HSE Investigation

HSE inspectors Leanne Ratcliffe and Elena Pickford investigated the incidents in 2020 and 2021, respectively, and discovered that Sartex Quilts and Textiles Limited did not guard the machinery and did not implement appropriate and sufficient risk assessment control measures to isolate it from power.

HSE guidelines state that machines should be properly turned off, isolated, or locked off before attempting to remove blockages, clean, or make adjustments. Equipment in the workplace should also be fitted with fixed guards to enclose dangerous parts whenever possible.

Sartex Quilts and Textiles Limited, of Castle Mill, Queensway, Rochdale, pleaded guilty to violating Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

On February 14, 2024, Manchester & Salford Magistrates’ Court imposed a £251,250 fine and ordered the company to pay £6,862.63 in costs.

Further information: Read the press release here

Comment and Employer Guidance

The use of equipment in the workplace refers to all work activities involving the item of work equipment, including starting the equipment, applying the equipment to a particular task, repairs, upgrades, maintenance, servicing, cleaning the equipment, stopping the equipment, and moving the equipment.

Key Steps to Compliance:

Workplace Risk Assessments…

Workplace risk assessments must be completed before conducting any activities using work equipment and need to consider all factors relating to the work equipment, the individual user, and the local operating environment.

Competent and trained personnel…

All persons who use equipment in the workplace, including the design, assembly, inspection, testing, maintenance, repair, and use of work equipment and associated safety features, must be competent and appropriately trained (having completed an approved course and holding valid certification appropriate to the type of work equipment) in the risks and the controls needed, dependent on the level of risk and the work equipment being used.

Prevention and control measures…

Access to dangerous parts of machinery must be prevented, and controls must be in place to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery before any part of a person comes into contact with it. Guarding must be suitable for the intended purpose, robust in construction, with adequate strength, maintained in an efficient state and working order, and in good repair to ensure safe work procedure.

Tasks should lead to increased risk…

Guarding must not give rise to any increased risk to health or safety during operational activity and must not be overridden. Guarding must be located at a sufficient distance from the danger zone, positioned so as not to restrict the view of the operational activity of the equipment, take account of maintenance requirements, and must not be easily bypassed or disabled.

Maintaining equipment…

When maintaining machinery and equipment in the workplace, it should ideally be de-energised, isolated for all energy sources, and locked in a safe state to prevent it from being re-energised before the maintenance or repair is complete—only the individual undertaking the maintenance must have the ability to ‘un-lock’ and re-energise the equipment.

When equipment is on…

Where equipment has to be running or working during a maintenance operation, and this exposes the employee to risk of harm, measures must be taken to enable the equipment to operate by reducing risk in the workplace, including limiting the power, speed, or range of movement available to dangerous parts or providing additional protection during maintenance operations.

Complete regular workplace inspections…

Make sure that you are completing regular workplace safety inspections to ensure compliance with regulations– primarily where significant items of work equipment are being used – to ensure that all of the risk control measures that you might have put in place are indeed still in place and minimising risk to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable.

Employers should do all they can to avoid workplace incidents like this. Prioritising safety is non-negotiable. Prioritising safety is non-negotiable. For health and safety support, get in touch with our Team. Don’t wait for incidents to prompt action — Contact us today by clicking here: Avensure Contact!