Oakham firm Belvoir Associates fined £20,000 after worker’s hand sucked into vacuum

The Health and Safety Executive. EMN-150116-094736001
The Health and Safety Executive. EMN-150116-094736001
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A children’s furniture company has been fined after a worker suffered serious injuries when his hand was sucked into a vacuum cleaner.

Belvoir Associates, based in Pillings Road, Oakham, admitted health and safety breaches that led to the man’s injuries at Leicester Magistrate’s Court on Friday last week.

The court heard the firm had modified a portable dust extraction system, using pipes and connections to secure a long flexible hose to the extractor’s inlet. But the system regularly became blocked with wooden off-cuts.

On April 4, 2013, the system was used to clean wood processing machinery and the floor and eventually became blocked. The court heard that three employees tried to unblock it using two tried and tested methods, including the removal of an end cap.

When these failed, one of them put his left hand into the opening where the flexible and solid pipes joined to try clear the blockage. But his hand was drawn directly into the blades of the machine.

The 46-year-old, from Stamford, suffered multiple fractures and dislocations and needed several operations. He underwent physiotherapy but lost 40 per cent of the use of his hand and is not expected to regain full use of his fingers.

The man was off work for 10 months but has returned to Belvoir Associates in a different role, as he no longer has the manual dexterity to undertake physical work.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found the company had failed to assess what risks the machine posed to those using it. In addition, no training or information had been provided to employees and the injured employee was unaware of the location of any rotating fan blades.

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £4,449 in costs.

After the hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector David Lefever said: “This incident was foreseeable and preventable. As soon as the unit was converted, several significant risks resulted.”

Mr Lefever added: “Belvoir Associates failed to see any of the potential dangers arising from the new use of the unit because it neglected to properly judge the risks.

“It also failed to act once it became aware of the blockages in the machinery and instead left individual operators to unblock the unit resulting in the development of unsafe methods.”