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TOP CUTTING MACHINE SAFETY ALERT

Fatality prompts HSE to issue warning on use of safety devices

Investigation of a fatal incident involving a road top cutting machine has prompted HSE to issue a warning of the dangers when using such machines. Top cutting machines are used by utilities companies to prepare road trenches for new pipes and cables. 

A workman died recently when he became entangled in the rotating drum of a top cutting machine in Wiltshire.

HSE state that as part of the investigation it has come to their attention “that a number of the safety devices used on the machine to prevent access to the drum while in motion may not be working in the manner originally intended by the manufacturer.” HSE Inspector, Helena Tinton, added:

“Most machines of this type require a deactivation device which automatically stops the machine when the operator leaves the drivers seat. Employers are legally required to ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state and to make sure all safety devices are in working order.”

“Operators should also make sure that the power is disconnected and the machine has come to a standstill before carrying out any maintenance on the cutting wheel. We urge those in the construction and utilities industries to check the safety devices on their top cutting machines and to prevent similar incidents occurring.”

Comment: The majority of machinery accidents now arise from a failure to maintain safety devices rather than a lack of provision or design at the point of supply. The systems for checking that safety devices are working and used are therefore critical to preventing injury.

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