Sawmill fined after worker sustains serious injuries

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Sawmill fined after worker sustains serious injuries

21st December 2010

A sawmill company which failed to implement basic safety measures has been fined after an employee was seriously injured whilst cutting wood.

The employee was using a machine known as a drop sorter to process wooden logs into planks at Windymains Timber Ltd when his leg was dragged into the machine.

Karl Tonks, a work accident specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "This incident demonstrates the potentially catastrophic consequences of companies failing to adhere to safety procedures when working with highly dangerous machines such as drop sorters."

At the time of the incident, the machine in question was known to routinely jam two or three times each day. When two planks became stuck, the victim climbed onto the machine's conveyor belt and kicked the section of wood responsible for the blockage. The power however remained on and as soon as the wood was dislodged the machine re-started at full speed.

As a result, the man's leg was dragged into the machine where it became trapped. Although the machine stopped running seconds later he remained trapped for nearly two hours before being freed by firefighters.

"This man was incredibly lucky not to have been killed," said Karl, a partner with the firm. "In the event, his left leg was broken in three places and he sustained significant nerve damage."

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Windymains Timber Ltd had failed to implement safety procedures for clearing blockages and failed to assess the risks associated with drop sorter work. The investigation also discovered that moving machine parts could be inadvertently accessed by workers, due to a lack of adequate guarding.

Windymains Timber Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £20,000.

"This horrific incident was entirely preventable and could easily have ended tragically," said Karl. "Simple precautions and training procedures both protect and educate workers about the inherent dangers involved in operating this kind of machinery. Had Windymains Timber carried out an effective risk assessment, it would have recognised the guarding in place at the time was simply not good enough."

How can Fentons help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents in the workplace.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - HSE