Accidents at work

Recycling firm worker lost arm when cleaning conveyor belt

A worker could be in line for substantial personal injury compensation after his right forearm was pulled off by a conveyor belt.

Stephen John, 57, was working for Neath Port Talbot Recycling Ltd in Swansea when the incident happened.

Swansea Crown Court was told how Mr John was asked to clean a conveyor which had become blocked with a sticky black substance known as flack.

The company did not have any risk assessment or safe system of work for completing this task, and experienced employees like Mr John had developed their own way of cleaning the conveyor belt roller.

On the day of the incident, Mr John inserted his arm and was wiping the flack away. He then passed a bar to a work colleague. The switch controller misinterpreted this as a signal and started the conveyor.

Mr John’s right forearm was trapped and amputated by the conveyor belt. His arm was severed below the elbow and could not be reattached by surgeons.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the company after identifying a number of safety failings.

Neath Port Talbot Recycling Ltd was fined £90,000 and ordered it to pay £50,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE Inspector Sarah Baldwin-Jones said: “Mr John suffered a serious and permanent injury. The potential for greater harm or a fatal incident was also a realistic possibility.

“The company failed to fully guard the conveyor around the tail end roller and this failure resulted in employees having access to dangerous parts of the machine. The risk of entrapment is well known in the industry, and this company could have taken simple steps to fit guarding.

“There was also no line of sight between Mr John and the employee operating the machinery and the company failed to carry out a risk assessment when the conveyor was installed. They also failed to devise a safe way of cleaning the rollers and to instruct employees on how to clean them safely.”

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