Firm Fined Over Guillotine Injuries

A Hampshire company and its safety consultant have both been prosecuted for safety failings after two workers were injured in similar incidents just weeks apart.

The two employees each had the ends of fingers sheared off while operating inadequately guarded guillotine machines at Porvair Filtration Group Ltd in Segensworth, Fareham, last year.

The incidents, on 12 April and 26 May 2011, were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which served a Prohibition Notice stopping work on three guillotines being used by Porvair and also issued two Improvement Notices, one of which required the firm to access competent health and safety advice.

HSE discovered that Porvair's external safety adviser, John Whiffin, had produced risk assessments for the firm concluding that safety guards on the treadle-operated guillotines were acceptable.

Portsmouth Magistrates Court heard that HSE found one guillotine was not guarded at the rear of the machine and the other was not properly guarded at the front or rear. Mr Whiffin had prepared risk assessments for both machines in July 2010. He advised the firm that safety guards were present and acceptable.

Magistrates were told that the ring fingers of the injured workers were "shaved to the bone" by the cutting blades as each was working on separate machines. The two employees have since returned to work but suffer some impairment during day-to-day activities.

Porvair Filtration Group Ltd, of Fareham, pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 for failing to take effective measures to prevent employees coming into contact with dangerous moving machine parts. The company was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay £20,358 in costs.

John Whiffin, of Eastleigh, admitted two charges under the same Regulations in that Porvair's offences were due in part by his actions or default. He was fined a total of £700 with £4,000 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Joanna Woodcock, said:

"Standards for guarding non-powered treadle guillotines have been around for more than 35 years. Had the company guarded these machines properly, neither of its employees would have been injured.

"Similarly advice on writing risk assessments is readily available and this process should have identified the inadequacy of the machines' guarding. Had Mr Whiffin been familiar with these machines and correctly identified the risks, the incident could have been avoided.

"It is important that companies ensure machines are guarded to a good standard and that any health and safety advice they need is provided by someone with the relevant competence, experience and expertise."

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