Firm fined after paper punch amputation

Jo Francis
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A West Country supplier of paper products to the crafting market has been fined nearly £90,000 after an employee’s fingers were severed in a punching machine.

HSE: incident was "foreseeable and preventable"
HSE: incident was "foreseeable and preventable"

The incident occurred at West Design Products in Plymouth in September 2017.

A 22-year-old employee, Charlotte Sargent, was using a punching machine that was operated using a foot pedal.

While the device had a Perspex guard, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Sargent had placed her fingers between the die plates to adjust them. Her foot then inadvertently hit the unshrouded foot operation pedal.

“The die plates moved up, crushing her fingers between the plates and a metal bar. This led to the partial amputation of both her middle and index finger on her left hand,” HSE stated.

A subsequent investigation by HSE found that the company “fell significantly below the expected standard”.

“Neither Miss Sargent nor her supervisor were suitably trained. They had not been shown the operating manual or the safe system of work for the punch machine before the incident,” HSE stated.

“There was no interlocking switch attached to the guard to prevent the use of the machine when the guard was removed. There was also no shroud supplied for the foot pedal, which can prevent accidental activation.”

At a case heard at Plymouth Magistrates' Court, West Design Products Ltd of Bush Park, Plymouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

The firm has been fined £89,600 and ordered to pay costs of £5,584.28, plus a victim surcharge of £170.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Hatti Shipp commented: “Miss Sargent’s injuries have been life changing. This incident was foreseeable and preventable.

“Employers should make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery.”

West Design Products had sales of £19.5m in its most recent financial year.

The firm had not commented at the time of writing.

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