A horse bedding manufacturer in East Anglia has been ordered by a Court to pay a fine of £18,000 following an workplace accident in which a man was seriously injured.
Christopher Barker was working for Equestrobed in Thetford, Suffolk in March 2013 when he tried to clear dust and wood shavings that were creating a blockage in a baling machine.
The side guard had been taken away so he could remove the debris, but while he was performing this task, the machine became active. As a result, Mr Barker's arm was crushed between the plate and the hatch opening.
He was left with damaged nerves, tendons and muscle in his arm and was required to undergo a blood transfusion and two operations.
Mr Barker, who was 17 years old when the accident occurred, was given a number of skin grafts as his injuries were so severe that muscle and skin had to be removed from the damaged limb.
The employee also suffered psychological effects, as he continues to experience flashbacks and nightmares.
HSE Work Accident Investigation
A work accident investigation into the incident was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which uncovered a number of procedural failings within Equestrobed.
Inspectors from the HSE concluded that a procedure for isolating power to the baling machine should have been put in place, along with a safe system of work for clearing the blockage.
The HSE stated that if these measures had been taken, the work accident could have easily been avoided.
In addition, the HSE discovered that a similar fault had been identified in the baling machine before Mr Barker was injured and that similar steps to deal with the situation were taken.
During a hearing at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court, Equestrobed chose to plead guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states that employers are obliged to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees "so far as is reasonably practicable".
The Court decided to impose a fine of £18,000 on the company and also told it to pay nearly £7,000 in costs.
Meanwhile, Managing Director of the company Timothy David Howard was given an £1,800 fine after he admitted breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
This work accident case shows that senior figures at a business, such as Company Directors and Managers, can be held liable if any health and safety shortcomings have been committed with their "consent or connivance" or can be "attributable to any neglect" on their part in any way.
Steven Gill, an inspector at the HSE, responded to the sentencing by saying the case "highlights what can go wrong if robust procedures are not in place to manage interventions on large items of plant and machinery".
"This work accident could easily have been avoided had there been proper safeguards in place when clearing the blockages on the baler, including ensuring that it was properly isolated before starting work," he commented.
Mr Gill added that since Mr Barker was 17 at the time he suffered the "serious" and "life-changing" injuries, his employers should have considered his youth and lack of experience and been extra vigilant.
By Francesca Witney