A firm based at Fountainbridge in Edinburgh has appeared in court where it was fined for safety failings that led to a worker losing his sight in one eye.
Declan Shipcott was helping two colleagues clear a blockage on a baler machine, which had a wire tie mechanism to bind bales of waste material. They were unable to clear the blockage and so cut the wire. The remaining wire was within a “recoil” box, which had a button to release any tension still in the wire.
Mr Shipcott opened the box to find that the wire had become knotted and, unable to undo the knot, he used wire cutters to cut it free. At that point a piece of wire flicked out and struck him on the face and left eye. He was not wearing any eye protection at the time.
He was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery to repair a cut to the cornea of his left eye and had to undergo further surgery the following month to remove the damaged lens and re-attach his retina.
A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that although there was a risk assessment for replacing the wire in the machine, there was nothing referring to cutting the wire, although the fact that wire cutters were available at the machine acknowledged that sometimes wire had to be cut.
In addition, there was no safe system of work for those involved in cutting high tensile wire, and the company had also failed to distribute and ensure the use of personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses.
The company was fined £165,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
“The simple act of donning eye protection before working with high tensile wire may well have prevented this incident taking place,” commented HSE inspector Aileen Jardine. “Instead, his employer’s failings led to an incident which has had real life changing consequences for this young man.”
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