Company fined after apprentice’s hand crushed

A company has been fined after an apprentice’s hand was crushed in machinery.

The young man, who was 18 at the time, was a third year apprentice with Miller UK Ltd when his left hand became trapped in a metal cutting machine at the firm’s plant in Cramlington, Northumberland, on March 12 last year.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the safety guard fitted on the machine was ineffective in its design and had been poorly maintained so was not working correctly.

It also found that Miller UK Ltd had failed to carry out a sufficient assessment of the risks associated with the work and the fault had not been reported.

Miller UK Ltd, of Bassington Industrial Estate, Bassington Lane, Cramlington, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £895 costs after pleading guilty at Bedlington Magistrates’ Court to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector Laura Catterall said: “This young man is now living with a permanent impairment but his injuries could have easily been avoided had Miller UK Ltd adequately assessed the risks, which would have spotted that the guard was not effective.

“This failing was compounded by poor maintenance and a breakdown in the fault reporting system — which together led to one of its workers suffering severe injuries.

“Guards and safety systems are there for a reason and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times.”

HSE said the apprentice suffered a crushed hand leading to the amputation of his index finger below the second joint. His second finger was also broken.

He was in hospital for three days and stayed off work for six months.

Mike Askew, managing director of Miller UK Ltd, said: “Miller has been operating a family owned business successfully for 36 years, and has always placed a high value on our employees and their wellbeing.

“This unfortunate incident, while we acknowledge the very serious nature, is the first case in our years of trading.

“From the moment of the accident we have provided full support [to the apprentice], who is a valuable member of our team, and we are delighted that he is back at work and enjoying his job.

“The circumstances around the incident have been identified and addressed.

“We recognise the important role of the HSE and as a company who has built our reputation on improving health and safety in the industry we will continue to work with them to ensure best practice in the factory.

“We deeply regret the accident and acted swiftly to prevent any reoccurrence in the future.

“The company has always invested in staff and machinery ensuring it has seen through the most challenging times of the recession and will always continue to do so to improve the manufacturing processes.”