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REGULATOR PROSECUTED OVER UNGUARDED MACHINE

Managers unaware of dangerous practice over protracted period

The Environment Agency (EA) has been fined after an employee was badly injured when his finger came into contact with the blade of a circular saw at a depot near Kendal on 19 April 2013. The injured man had to have the middle finger on his left hand amputated to the top joint as a result of the incident.

HSE investigators found it was “standard practice” for employees to use the saw without a guard after it was found difficult to cut large pieces of wood with the guard in place.

Kendal Magistrates’ Court heard the worker had been using the circular saw on a multi-function woodworking machine to cut some two-inch thick pegs used to hold wooden boards in place for new steps until the concrete set. 

The court was told the circular saw was used to cut pegs once every few months. A risk assessment had not been carried out for the work and supervision was insufficient. Managers were unaware it was being used without a guard.

Standard practice to use saw without guard

The Environment Agency was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,364 in prosecution costs on 17 September 2014 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Banks said:

“An employee has suffered an injury that will affect him for the rest of his life because the machine he was using was unsafe.

Workers should never have been able to use the circular saw without the guard in place, but the Environment Agency failed to carry out a risk assessment or to properly monitor the work.

Sadly it had become standard practice for the saw to be used without a guard, making it almost inevitable that someone would eventually be injured.

The Environment Agency has now decided that the machine isn’t suitable and no longer uses the saw. If it had considered the risks from the start then the employee’s injury could have been avoided.” 

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