Laminate flooring firm sentenced over worker’s injuries

A laminate flooring firm has been sentenced after a worker at its Merseyside factory suffered severe injuries to his left hand.

Christopher Sillitoe now has difficulty dressing himself, and using a knife and fork, after his hand came into contact with a large circular saw at Universal Mouldings Ltd’s site in Aintree on 20 August 2009.

The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the cause of the incident, which resulted in Mr Sillitoe losing sections of three fingers and breaking his thumb. The 22-year-old from Everton, needed a six-hour operation to reattach his fingers and is unlikely to ever regain full movement in his left hand.

Universal Mouldings, which employs 25 people, was fined £5,000 after admitting two health and safety offences at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 2 December. The court heard that workers at the factory had been instructed to reach under the guard on the machine to remove the laminate material while the 0.65-metre-wide blade was still rotating.

The machine was installed in the Brookfield Drive factory in 2000 but a 27 centimetre gap beneath the guard allowed workers to reach under it. The HSE investigation found that workers were expected to remove the cut laminate from the blade to stop it being damaged, and that there had been several near-misses in the past.

Mr Sillitoe, who joined the company at the age of 16, has not had a job since the incident and will be unable to return to joinery work in the future.

Jane Carroll, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“Workers at Universal Moulding’s factory were put at risk for more than nine years, and it was inevitable that someone would eventually suffer a serious injury.

“The machine was simply the wrong one for the job. The only way of ensuring the laminate material wasn’t damaged when the blade retracted was for workers to reach under the guard to remove it.

“The company should have realised it was putting its staff in danger every day they worked on the machine, and found another way of carrying out the work. It has now installed a more suitable machine, but only after Mr Sillitoe suffered permanent injuries to his left hand.”

Universal Mouldings was charged with breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery, and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers at risk. The company was ordered to pay £7,500 towards the cost of the prosecution in addition to the fine.

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