Timber firm fined over finger amputation

A company in Lincolnshire has been fined after an employee's fingers were cut off by an unguarded roller conveyor.

Shaun Newcomb, 30, of Bourne, needed extensive treatment and missed work for nine months after the accident, which took place at the Sewstern Timber Services site in Sewstern on March 9th 2012.

Jurors at Lincoln Crown Court were told the man was attempting to clear a blockage from the conveyor, but as the did this his right hand hit sprockets and chains that drove components from within the machine and this cut off his middle, ring and little fingers.

A subsequent Health and Safety Executive report revealed that the belt sold to Sewstern Timber Services by Armistead Engineering did not have proper guarding in place, but a risk assessment would have spotted this issue - something that never took place.

For its failings, Sewstern Timber Services were charged with breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 for failing to protect its employees.

Executives at the firm decided to plead guilty - leading to a fine of £18,000 and costs of £10,000.

Speaking after the trial finished, Shaun Newcomb, who could now go on to make a personal injury claim, said: "After it happened I felt agitated and kept losing my temper easily, which was out of character for me. I went through a stage where I didn't want anyone to see my hand. 

"I used to fish regularly and play pool and darts. I still can't play darts as I can't hold them properly but I've managed to adapt to play pool."

Poor guarding remains a problem in the manufacturing sector and some companies are not aware they could be liable for any injuries that take place in the workplace that result from dangerous components not being shielded by covers.

Equipment must also be properly maintained, as regulations brought in after a spate of accidents in 1998 brought the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations into force.

By Chris Stevenson