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News added on 24.11.2020

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Serious facial injuries resulted from inappropriate equipment use

An employee at a manufacturing company suffered serious facial injuries when using an angle grinder to dismantle a steel structure. How could his life-changing injuries have been avoided?

An employee of Acrivarn Ltd, a manufacturing company, was assigned the task of dismantling a mezzanine spray booth steel structure in the assembly workshop. He was using a nine-inch angle grinder, with steel-cutting disc attached, to cut through the thicker parts of the steel structure. This equipment must be operated with two hands.

The employee was using a stepladder to reach the upper parts of the structure, and attached himself to the hook of an overhead crane with a fall-restraint harness.

While standing on the ladder attempting to cut through a piece of angled steel beam, the angle grinder kicked back, and the cutting disc made contact with the employee’s face.

The disc narrowly missed the employee’s jugular vein and caused a deep laceration under his chin and into his mouth, requiring 52 stitches. He suffered damage to the nerves in his face, resulting in loss of feeling and movement in his lips and chin.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and found that the employee had only used the grinder on one other occasion during his employment with Acrivarn Ltd. He had never used it when working at height. Using the grinder at height affected the employee’s ability to resist kickback forces and put him in a dangerous position.

At the time of the incident, the company had access to more appropriate oxyacetylene cutting equipment and there were operators trained to use it on site.

Acrivarn Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under s.2(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. It was fined £24,000 and ordered to pay over £1,400 in costs.

This work combined three dangerous workplace activities: work at height, demolition and the use of dangerous equipment. The employer should have made sure that the work was properly planned and risk assessed and that the appropriate equipment was selected for the job.

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