A steelwork firm in Herefordshire has been ordered to pay a £12,000 fine following a work accident in which an employee's foot was injured.
On October 3rd 2012, a 30-year-old member of staff at Frank H Dale's premises in Leominster was injured when he was moving some 180 kg metal sheets. Each needed to be moved approximately ten metres and raised about 1.5 metres off the ground so they could be put on a conveyor.
Two of the sheets, each of which was six metres long, 35 cm wide and ten mm thick, were moved successfully.
However, when he was moving a third sheet, it came away from the permanent lifting magnet that had been placed in the centre of an overhead travelling crane.
As a result, it bounced off the conveyor and hit the employee's foot, fracturing three of his toes in the process.
The employee was therefore required to take six weeks off work, while the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) moved in to carry out an investigation.
Inspectors from the watchdog found that the magnet was not suitable for the task it was being used to complete, while the usage instructions provided by the manufacturer were not adhered to.
During a hearing at Hereford Magistrates' Court, Frank H Dale admitted to contravening section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
This states that every employer has a duty to conduct their undertaking in a way that ensures "so far as is reasonably practical" that people not in their employment "who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety".
The company was told to pay a £12,000 fine, as well as more than £11,000 in legal costs.
HSE Work Accident Investigation
Following the hearing, the HSE pointed out that the employee's work accident injuries could easily have been much worse.
Indeed, inspector Tariq Khan pointed out that it was "nothing more than luck" that led to the first two sheets being moved successfully and that the third fell on to a conveyor before hitting the man's foot.
"Had it landed on him directly then a more serious injury may have been inflicted," he commented.
Mr Khan noted that permanent lifting magnets are a common accessory in industry and need to be used correctly.
This, he stated, means companies that use them must understand the limitations of the ones they have in operation.
The inspector went on to note that the accident could "easily have been avoided" if Frank H Dale had provided its employees with adequate training.
"Most permanent lifting magnets are supplied with comprehensive instructions and companies must ensure users understand them and are trained in their use, many suppliers of this equipment may provide training," Mr Khan said.
He added that while each steel sheet had been within the safe working load for the magnet that was used to move them, it had not been "designed to lift long, thin pieces of sheet metal".
By Francesca Witney