Worker relives hand horror as firm is fined £115k

Jo Francis
Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A man whose hand was severed at the wrist after it became caught in machinery at a packaging firm has spoken about the devastating impact the incident has had on his life.

HSE: risk assessment was “neither suitable nor sufficient”
HSE: risk assessment was “neither suitable nor sufficient”

Christopher Wright was working at the Riftward Ltd site in Wrexham and was trying to repair the box making line when his hand became caught in the chain drive of the machine. 

Riftward trades as Playford Packaging.

“It all happened very quickly. I just thought ‘my hand has gone’. I grabbed my wrist and shouted for help and dropped to the floor”, he said.

A colleague who was working on the other side of the conveyor pulled him out from underneath the machine. 

“They put a tourniquet on my arm and tightened it with a screwdriver. They retrieved my hand from the machine and that went in a bag with me to the hospital.”

Wright was taken by air ambulance to a hospital in Stoke, and was then transferred to the specialist Pulvertaft Hand Centre at Royal Derby Hospital where surgeons successfully reattached his hand during an 11-hour operation. 

However, Wright has been left with lifelong effects. He has been unable to return to work as an engineer and has had to give up his much-loved pastime of motorbiking. 

“The effects are life changing, I’m in pain all the time, it hurts whenever I touch something. It’s not something that gets better. I can’t dress myself properly, I can’t do up zips or tie my shoelaces,” he explained. 

“Now I have some feeling in my hand, I have a little wiggle in my thumb and my fingers, but I can’t pick anything up. There’s no bend in my fingers. My hand is very sensitive, if something is a little bit warm, it feels burning hot, and if it’s a cool, it feels freezing cold.

“My wife has had to finish work just to look after me. I have a three-year-old granddaughter now and I can’t even pick her up to give her a cuddle.”

The Health & Safety Executive investigation into the incident found a number of failings at Playford Packaging. 

It discovered the company’s risk assessment was “neither suitable nor sufficient” as it had not considered the risks created from the use of the machine, including during maintenance activities. 

There was no safe system of work in place to ensure safe isolation and access for tasks such as maintenance.

HSE also found that it was common practice to bypass a gate that kept people and the machine separated, and to stand within the fenced area while the machine was in operation, “demonstrating a lack of adequate supervision”. 

In addition, employees had not received any instruction for the safe isolation of the machine.

The type of machine involved was not specified in the HSE report.  

Wright had been working at Playford Packaging for 18 months. The firm makes corrugated boxes and packaging for clients in range of markets including food and drink, fresh fruit and vegetables, chemicals, and household goods. 

He added: “We’d had problems with the belts lots of times, and it was no different to jobs I’d done every week. The machines have guards around them, it’s a barrier to stop you going in. We’d opened the door and gone in. I was stood between the two arms of the machine. I’d done that many times.”

Riftward pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. 

The company was fined £115,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,308 and a victim surcharge of £190 at Llandudno Magistrates’ Court on 14 September.

Riftward / Playford Packaging had not commented at the time of writing. 

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