Industrial drill went through factory worker’s hand during safety breach

The Hempel lathe machine at Ercol
The Hempel lathe machine at Ercol

A furniture manufacturer has been fined for safety breaches after a worker’s hand was pierced by an industrial drill.

The 42-year-old employee was using a lathe machine used to produce chair legs at Ercol Furniture Ltd’s factory in Summerleys Road, Princes Risborough.

When he decided to change the felt on the drill locators, he reached across the machine to access a vertical drill at the rear.

However, the drill started to operate, caught his hand and completely pierced his right palm.

He managed to free himself by pushing his right arm down with his left hand and was taken to hospital. He needed an operation to repair the wound and was unable to work for around three months.

He has now returned to Ercol, although not on the lathe machine.

The Health and Safety Executive said the lathe machine was inadequately guarded, leaving employees at risk of getting caught in dangerous moving parts.

Ercol had also failed to properly assess the risks associated with operating the machine, especially as the worker had only started using the lathe two months prior to the incident.

The firm has since installed a perimeter fence around the machine which now prevents access to the drill.

It was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £816 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

HSE inspector Karl Howes said: “Incidents involving this type of machinery can cause serious, life-changing injuries, which is why onus is on employers to ensure that appropriate guards and systems of work are in place to protect workers from dangerous moving parts.

“The painful injury to this employee could easily have been avoided but Ercol failed in its responsibilities to assess what risks this piece of equipment presented and to put measures in place to address them.

“There are several deaths and many more injuries each year due to incidents where workers have been using unguarded or poorly-guarded machines, and most of these are easily prevented. Companies have a legal duty to ensure dangerous parts are effectively guarded before a machine is used, whether or not these are provided by the manufacturer.”

A spokesman for Ercol said: “As a result of an accident on October 4 2013 an employee of Ercol Furniture Ltd sustained an injury to his right hand.

“Ercol deeply regrets that a valued employee sustained injury during the course of his employment.

“This accident was preventable and Ercol fully co-operated with the HSE in its investigation.

“Ercol has learnt lessons from this accident and it is more committed than ever to reducing risks in the workplace and to ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all its employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.”