There are dozens of deaths and more than 40,000 injuries each year related to the use of machines.
The HSE argues that many of these could easily be prevented with the use of adequate machine guards.
On 30 September 2013, the HSE prosecuted Oldfields Ltd, an East London food manufacturer, for a series of safety failings in relation to its dicing machine.
The HSE found that Oldfields:
- did not carry out a sufficient Risk Assessment for use of the machine
- failed to follow their own safety procedures for its use
- failed to follow the manufacturer's safety instructions
- failed to adequately instruct, supervise or train employees
- failed to prevent access by workers to dangerous moving parts
- failed to conduct adequate safety checks on the machine, or ensure that its controls were clearly visible.
Oldfields was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £9,399 costs after pleading guilty to offences under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The HSE is taking active enforcement measures against employers and employees who actively remove or tamper with machine guards in an attempt to make their work quicker or more efficient.
With increasing automation in modern UK industry, employers must ensure machine guards are in place and used where necessary, or face potential action by the HSE.
In addition, employers should ensure that its risk assessments are suitable and sufficient, and deal specifically with the identifiable risks arising out of the use of a machine. Serious consideration should be given to any machine guards which could minimise the risk of injury.
Importantly, if machine guards are being used, employers must have procedures in place to ensure they are being utilised and adequately maintained.