One form of devastating and life-changing workplace injury experienced by too many workers in the UK is the loss of a body part, such as a limb, fingers or hands.
In some cases, the body part can become severed during the workplace accident itself, and in others the loss can occur when doctors have no choice but to carry out an amputation because of the serious nature of the injuries the worker has sustained.
An example of this horrific type of injury was recently reported by the Health and Safety Executive. The case involved a worker at a lorry trailer manufacturer, who lost one of his legs when he was crushed by a huge fish tank that fell off the forklift truck transporting it.
The 59-year-old received two broken legs as a result of the crushing injury, and unfortunately the serious nature of his injuries meant that doctors had no choice but to amputate his right leg below the knee. He has been unable to return to work, even though the incident happened over three years ago.
The Health and Safety investigation found that the normal work carried out by the company was the manufacture of lorry trailers. However one of the firm’s directors had requested that its bespoke services department build a two-metre-wide fish tank for him.
The tank was being loaded into a van when it toppled off the forklift truck and crushed the worker. It had not been secured to a pallet before lifting and its size had made it very difficult for workers to manoeuvre it.
The HSE established that the job had not been planned, supervised or conducted safely. The firm was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £56,621 in costs after being found guilty of a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
“This was an entirely preventable incident which resulted in an employee having to have part of his leg amputated. His whole life has been affected by the shortcomings of this company,” said HSE Inspector Alex Farnhill.
In a separate incident, a worker at a Lancaster timber firm suffered serious injury to one of his hands when it was severed by a diesel-powered guillotine.
He had been using his right hand to feed pieces of wood into the guillotine while operating the lever with his left hand. Unfortunately, he mistakenly pulled down the level before making sure his right hand was clear of the blade.
The guillotine cut through the top of his hand, just below his knuckles, breaking all the bones in its path and severing all the tendons. The skin on his palm was the only thing left keeping the two parts of his hand together.
Doctors were able to reattach his hand, but part of his little finger had to be amputated and he has been left with very little movement in that hand.
The HSE discovered that that guarding in place on the guillotine did not meet minimum legal standards. The worker should not have been able to have his hand under the blade while using the guillotine.
The company was fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
“A long-serving employee at the firm suffered life-changing injuries because the company’s safety precautions on this machine weren’t anywhere near good enough,” commented HSE Inspector Michael Mullen.
Incidents of this nature illustrate why the woodworking industry has one of the highest injury rates in the manufacturing sector. Unsurprisingly, most of these injuries are caused by contact with moving machinery.
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