A West Yorkshire brick-making firm has been found guilty of breaching health and safety laws, leading to serious injuries to a worker.
A 60 year-old man was severely injured after the accident at Normantion Brick Company Ltd in in Altofts, West Yorkshire on 2 December 2010. The accident happened when the worker – a machine operative – was working on the double press brick-making machine, a vast machine which extends across two rooms and two storeys. The worker was told that the bricks that were being produced were sub-standard and that this was because the machine’s press plates were being clogged by clay and dirt. The worker therefore stopped the brick-making machine so he could try and clear out the debris that was causing the problem and extended his arm under the machine. However, the machine subsequently switched itself on and the press plates started to work. The worker’s hand was pulled up into the machine and the plates came down, severing his thumb and slicing through his hand, almost severing it in the process.
The worker was rushed to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and surgeons eventually managed to reattach the hand using nerve matter and tissue from the worker’s legs. He has reportedly not returned to work since the incident. The Health and Safety Executive was subsequently informed of the accident and an investigation was started into the circumstances of the accident. This investigation concluded by recommending that Normantion Brick Company should be subjected to a prosecution for breach of health and safety laws – in particular the Health and Safety At Work etc. Act 1974.
The Leeds Crown Court ruled yesterday that Normantion Brick Company was guilty of breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974. It found that the company had failed to conduct the necessary risk assessments to determine whether the brick-making machine was safe to use and whether there were any potential dangers that needed to address. It found that if there had been such a risk assessment carried out then there was a probability that an accident of the above nature could have been avoided. As it was, workers often needed to access the internal parts of the machine – a fact which exposed them to risk of serious injury and even death. The company was therefore fined £15,000 and ordered to pay the prosecutions costs of £6,307.
S.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 concerns the health and safety of employees in the workplace. Under s.2(1) “it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees”.
The Health and Safety Executive commented that “this was a serious incident that could have been avoided [with] a suitable and sufficient risk assessment… this lack of commitment by the company to their legal duty of care to staff has now led to one worker suffering significant injuries that have had a major impact on his life”. Normanton Brick Company’s criminal defence lawyers did not comment after the hearing, and nor did the company.