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Finger severed in steel building accident

11 Sep 12 A manufacturer of steel building materials has been fined for safety failings after an employee sustained a serious hand injury on a poorly guarded machine in Norfolk.

Antonio Pires, aged 63, was operating a power press to form sheet metal at Watton-based Worldwide Steels Ltd, trading as Sabrefix, when the incident occurred on 18 May 2011.

Norwich Magistrates' Court heard yesterday (10 September) that he was attempting to pull material through a gap in a guard on the machine when his right hand caught in the tooling. His index finger was completely severed and he also lost part of his ring finger, although this was surgically repaired.

Mr Pires has been unable to return to work as a result of his injuries and is still undergoing medical treatment.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) identified that although guarding was in place, it was inadequate because it failed to prevent access to dangerous moving parts. In addition, the inspection also found that the company had failed to perform daily checks on the power presses as required by law or to provide systems for instruction and training for the operators of the power presses. And despite having complied with the prohibition notice served at the time of the incident, a further visit four months later identified that the company had again failed to ensure the same press involved in the accident was properly guarded.

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Worldwide Steels Limited, of the Threxton Road Industrial Estate, Watton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, two counts of Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and one count of Regulation 33 of the same regulations. The company was fined a total of £26,800 and ordered to pay £14,369 in costs as well as a £15 victim surcharge.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Joanne Williams said: "Antonio suffered a painful injury because the guarding on the power press simply wasn't fit for purpose. Incidents of this kind are all too common in the manufacturing industry and the onus is on employers to ensure dangerous moving parts are adequately protected.

"Guards and safety systems are there for a reason, and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they up to scratch and working effectively at all times."

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