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Protecting safety of machine operators

13th March 2014

Protecting the health and safety of workers and visitors to the premises is a legal responsibility placed on all employers and according to David Thompson, managing partner at Moore Blatch, it is vital to have robust procedures in place

The latest statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that 148 workers were killed at work, 78,000 other injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR (the Report of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) and 175,000 over-7-day absence injuries occurred in the year 2012/2013.

Commenting on the issue, Thompson, who also heads up the firm’s Health and Safety team said: “Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers need to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment, for both employees and visitors alike, and that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent accidents. 

“The introduction and use of machinery is one area that needs careful consideration, with steps being taken to manage safety long before equipment is put into use.”

The use of machinery presents many potential risks for employees, from injury caused by moving parts, to parts of the body being drawn in, trapped or crushed – such as between rollers, belts and pulley drives.

Failing to ensure that dangerous/ moving parts of machinery are adequately guarded is an absolute offence. In other words, a prosecution can follow where companies have not adhered to this requirement even in cases where no accident or injury has occurred. If the HSE visits premises and notices dangerous/ moving parts of machinery are not adequately guarded, they can impose a prohibition notice preventing the machine being used until it is rectified, which can impact on work and productivity.

Companies prosecuted for health and safety offences can face financial penalties of up to £20,000 in the magistrates court or an unlimited fine in the crown court.

Thompson concluded: “The best way to protect your employees, your productivity and to protect the business against prosecution is to ensure you have adequate health and safety procedures in place and know your responsibilities. For these issues it is always wise to seek the advice from qualified Health and Safety Consultants and experienced legal professionals.”

Five key steps to take to reduce the risk of injury from machinery:

• Produce a process based Risk Assessment for carrying out the task itself

• Check the machinery is complete and free from defects

• Check all elements of possible safeguarding have been fitted - where possible use fixed guards to prevent access to moving  parts and where fixed guards are not possible look for other measures, such as two-hand controls and interlocks

• Control any remaining risk by providing employees with all the necessary training, instruction and safety equipment they need

• Produce a safe system of work for using the machine and ensure there is a standard operating procedure handed out to all employees.

Author:  David Thompson

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