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PRECAST CONCRETE FIRM FINED OVER SAFETY FAILINGS

Machine modification undermined integrity of protective system

Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered serious injury when his arm became entangled in a precast concrete products machine at the company factory in Beith on 18 January 2010.

Christopher Fay was using a rolling machine to flatten concrete in a mould when his glove caught in a metal D-ring connecting the roller to the handle. His arm was drawn into the roller causing fractures in two places. He no longer has full strength in his right arm and is now unable to lift heavy loads.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard (24 June) that a month before the incident the machine handle was replaced because it was leaking hydraulic fluid.

The original handle was fitted with a ‘hold to run’ mechanism fitted which prevented the machine starting automatically and unexpectedly, if it was turned on remotely. However, the replacement switch lacked this safety feature and was capable of being left in the ‘on’ position. No one had noticed the difference.

On the day of the incident the machine was restarted remotely by a co-worker who was unable to see Mr Fay and other staff working at the roller.

Impact of machine repair not give sufficient consideration

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd had failed to recognise that the ‘hold to run’ control switch was a safety feature of the device and failed to maintain it appropriately or replace it with an identical switch.

Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd, of Hillhouse Quarry, Troon, Ayrshire, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Following the case HSE Inspector Mark Carroll said:

“While this offence came about through an inadvertent mistake rather than any deliberate failure to comply with standards, not replacing the control switch with a similar ‘hold to run’ device, removed the only safety feature to protect workers from the concrete roller starting unexpectedly.

As a result Mr Fay was badly injured and permanently scarred. Hillhouse Precast Concrete Ltd has introduced measures and bought new equipment to avoid a repeat of the incident, but it could have been prevented by better consideration of how the repair work affected the safe operation of the roller.”

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