Firm fined over HSE incident

Jo Francis
Friday, May 14, 2021

A specialist printing firm has been fined a six-figure sum after an incident where an employee suffered asphyxiation after becoming entangled in a part of a press.

The employee’s high vis tabard became entangled in a rotating spindle
The employee’s high vis tabard became entangled in a rotating spindle

The incident occurred at Hereford-based Alfaplas on 29 January 2019. 

The firm specialises in flexographic printing, extrusion, converting and slitting. It makes a wide range of products including newspaper and magazine polywrap and compostable wrap, beverage multi-pack wraps, and food packaging. 

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said the employee, who was a supervisor at Alfaplas, was trying to realign a reel of product on a printing machine while it was running at half speed. 

“The employee’s high visibility tabard became entangled in an unguarded rotating spindle, drawing in his clothing. He became unconscious as a result of asphyxiation from the entangled clothing,” HSE stated .

“An operator on an adjacent machine intervened to stop the print machine.”

A subsequent HSE investigation found that Alfaplas had failed to prevent access to dangerous parts of the machinery, or stop parts before access was gained. 

At a hearing at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court Alfaplas pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1999. 

The company was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,379.

Alfaplas has since fitted electro sensitive protection devices, which stop the machine when the roller is active in the operator zone and a light beam is broken.

HSE inspector Sara Lumley commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply ensuring that dangerous parts of machinery were guarded.”

Alfaplas had not commented at the time of writing. 

The £18.2m turnover company is part of French firm Sphere Group. 

Last month Alfaplas acquired Sarpak, based in Port Talbot. 

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