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Brick firm fined after worker loses thumb

The brick pressing machine which caused the workers injuries

A West Yorkshire brick making firm has been prosecuted after safety failings at its factory led to a worker losing a thumb and having his hand almost severed in a poorly-guarded press machine.

The 60 year-old man was taken to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield after the incident at Normanton Brick Company Ltd. in Altofts on 2 December 2010.

Surgeons managed to reattach the hand where it had been partially separated using nerve and tissue from his legs. The worker also had to undergo skin grafts and several other restorative operations. He has not been able to return to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and, on 20 February, Normanton Brick Company was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for breaching safety legislation designed to protect employees from injury.

The court was told that the worker, a machine operative, had started to run a double press brick-making machine, which extends across two rooms and two storeys, at the start of the shift. He was then told the bricks being produced were below standard as the press plates were clogged up with clay and dirt.

The worker stopped the machine so he could clean under the plates but, as he used his gloved hand to remove the dirt, the machine re-started. His hand was drawn into the machine and the re-press came down, severing his thumb and slicing though his hand, leaving it only partially attached.

HSE found the company hadn't carried out a sufficient risk assessment for the machine. Had there been one, it would have identified failings in the standard of guarding, particularly as workers often needed to access various parts of the machine. Together these led to a high risk of severe injury, or death, to operators entering any of the many danger zones around the machine.

Normanton Brick Company Ltd. of Greenfield Road, Altofts, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £6,307 in costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company had admitted the offence at an earlier hearing at Wakefield Magistrates' Court.


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