Machine installer prosecuted for dangerous programming faults

30 May 2012

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A machine installer has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an incident in which worker had his hand severed while maintaining glass cutting machinery. The maintenance technician was investigating a fault on a new tilt table with a colleague at a glass manufacturer. This table was part of a glass cutting line that had been installed four months earlier.

The prosecution was not under The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 but, instead, under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

A Crown Court jury was told how the maintenance technician was on his hands and knees while trying to ascertain the cause of the fault and had activated the emergency stop. Suspended above his right wrist was a large laminated glass sheet measuring 6m x 3m and weighing approximately one ton. The worker had his right arm extended with a mirror in his hand so he could check the status of a sensor relating to the release of the glass onto the table. When a colleague moved past another sensor on the tilt table, the glass sheet was released, falling onto the maintenance technician's wrist and severing his hand. Surgeons reattached his hand with partial success and he was off work for several months while recovering from his injuries.

An HSE investigation found that there were faults within the program controlling the movement of the glass, as it allowed the glass sheet to be released, even when an emergency stop had been activated; furthermore, this fault was exacerbated by the installation of the new tilt table and the failure to integrate it properly with the existing equipment.

Although the incident happened to an employee of the glass manufacturer at its premises, it was due to a fault on the machinery. The installer was prosecuted because it had not complied with the legal duties imposed on installers of machinery.

Following a month-long trial, the installer was found guilty of breaching Section 6(3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £150,000.

After the case, HSE Inspector Martin Baillie said: "This horrific incident should never have happened. Once he had put the table into an emergency stop condition, it should not have been possible to release the glass.

"Installers of machinery need to ensure that new equipment is compatible with the existing equipment and that the complete line complies with the essential safety requirements. That includes ensuring machinery is unable to move suddenly when an emergency stop has been activated."

Follow the link to read more about this prosecution.

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