Worker Loses Fingers In Between Metal Rollers

A Tyneside firm has today been fined £8,000 after a worker’s hand was badly injured when it was drawn between two rotating metal rollers.

North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court heard how Gary Burke, 45, of North Shields, lost his little finger and part of the other fingers on his right hand following the incident at Formica Ltd on Coast Road, North Shields.

On 20 November 2009 Mr Burke was working on a machine which coats paper with resin and then cuts it into lengths to produce the back of a laminated product.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that there had been consistent production problems with the machine. Mr Burke was using his right hand to check for any resin deposits on the feed belts, when his glove became caught on a belt and his hand was drawn between the two guide rollers.

Despite several operations, doctors were unable to save Mr Burke’s little finger though he hopes that they will be able to re-construct two of his fingers to restore some function long term. The incident has had a substantial impact on his life as he does not have full use of his hand. While he has returned to work, he has not been able to do his old job and is now on light duties.

Formica Ltd, of Silver Fox Way, Cobalt Business Park, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. As well as the fine, the company was also ordered to pay £4741.60 in costs.

After the case, HSE Inspector Andrea Robbins, said:

“Production problems such as misalignment of belts and nicks in the paper were a regular problem with this machine and had been occurring for a number of years – yet Formica Ltd had done little about it. It had become custom and practice for workers to try and rectify faults themselves.

The incident could have easily been prevented if the company had implemented safe systems of work for fault finding and ensured that guards were in place to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the machine.”