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Manufacturer fined after hydraulic press crushes Stranraer worker's arm

A machinery manufacturer has been fined after its hydraulic press crushed a Stranraer worker’s arm which was later amputated.

James McKay, 47, had been operating the machine which had been designed by Composite Integration Limited to produce fire helmets. The hydraulic press was being used at Mr McKay’s workplace Helmet Integration Systems Ltd, 3 Commerce Road, Stranraer, when the incident happened.

Stranraer Sheriff Court heard that during his nightshift on the evening of 5 November 2007, Mr McKay was working alone operating the F601 hydraulic press which joins together two fibreglass halves of a fire helmet using heat. The F601 machine lowers one half of the helmet mould onto the other half, resin is injected into the closed mould and heat is then applied to set the resin and produce a completed helmet.

Just after 10pm Mr McKay placed a helmet mould into the machine and switched it to automatic mode; the upper cavity containing one half of the helmet had begun to lower when he noticed that the helmet mould on the lower base cavity had slipped out of place. In order to correct this he opened the safety gates understanding that this would stop the machine from operating; he then put both arms into the machine to fix the helmet form. Mr McKay had not noticed that the upper cavity, which operates at a temperature of 65 degrees Celsius, was lowering slowly due to gravity and his arm became trapped between the top and bottom cavities – being both crushed and severely burned.

A colleague heard Mr MacKay’s screams for help after 10 – 15 minutes and came to his assistance but when he pressed the emergency stop button it didn’t release the machine’s grip, instead the upper cavity continued to descend. Eventually the hydraulic hose was disconnected which released the pressure and allowed fire fighters to manoeuvre the machinery and release Mr McKay’s arm.

He had several operations on his arm which later became infected and in January 2008 had his arm amputated from the elbow.

Following the incident, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the hydraulic press provided by Composite Integration Ltd had fundamental design flaws. Pressing the emergency stop button or opening a safety guard should have forced a safe isolation of all stored energy sources, and the electronic control system should have been designed to prevent the upper cavity descending under gravity when the guards were open.

At Stranraer Sheriff Court on 22 March 2012, Composite Integration Ltd. of Saltash Industrial Estate, Saltash, Cornwall, was fined £25,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 11, 12(1)(e) and 29(a) of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.


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