In last month’s issue of the BMN magazine, we heard how Loughborough Magistrates’ Court had fined Saint Gobain a total of £400k in relation to an incident in 2017 when a 48-year-old employee of Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK was seriously injured. What are the takeaways from this incident for a merchant company with machinery?

The investigation found that a rock handling belt had failed. Employees had been clearing rock that had built up around the belt; however as the belt had become compacted, it was difficult to remove the debris by hand. Two men went to the isolator at the end of the belt and removed the local isolation and the guards and pressed the ‘start/stop’ button. On checking the tail-end of the drum they saw it had not cleared itself of rock. At this point, it is hard to understand why the belt would still operate with the guards removed.

One of the men then went to the opposite side of the drum to try to remove the rock but the pair were no longer in visual contact. One man pressed the start/stop button again whilst his colleague’s arm was in close proximity to the rotating drum and his arm was drawn in, leading to the subsequent injuries and ultimate amputation.

Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires all businesses to protect the health safety and welfare of employees and in this instance, the court decided the company had failed in that duty. If we dig deeper into the Regulations and Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) we find that Regulation 11 2 (a) requires “the provision of fixed guards enclosing every dangerous part or rotating stock-bar where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so..”. In this scenario it is possible that the machinery guarding was not interlocked to prevent operation of the machinery when removed, and or was not working.

As part of your risk assessment process, it is vital that machinery guarding is in place to prevent access to moving parts and it is also important to consider all the scenarios encountered by people operating and or maintaining machinery, including clearing blockages.

All machinery risk assessments should consider the hierarchy of control, starting with: can we eliminate the hazard if not then moving to physical controls, then ‘Safe Systems of Work’ and finally PPE. In going through this tested process we should identify the safe system of work for operating and maintaining the machinery. In this incident, a safe system of work would have included what to do when blockages occur. 

Once you have completed the risk assessment process it is crucial that the information in the form of instruction or training is communicated to staff. This should not simply be a signed for document but should form part of an assessment of competence. This is a process Southalls perform with their clients and then use Safety Cloud to be able to easily track and monitor training compliance.

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