Machinery Safety Prosecutions

The latest Machinery Safety Prosecutions concluded in the UK courts brings to light how the failure of conducting machinery risk assessments can have a very high cost.

Machinery Safety Prosecutions

During December 2020 and early January 2021 two cases have been concluded in the UK courts for companies who have caused harm to employees due to machinery not being adequately guarded / controlled.

Both cases where brought under UK legislation for the assessment and control of risk to employees.

One case being prosecuted under the ‘Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HASAWA)’ and the second under the ‘Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1989 (PUWER)’.

Case 1

Chemical company, Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd (Reckitt Benckiser Ltd), was fined for safety breaches after a worker suffered injuries to his arm in a bottle filling machine.

Grimsby Magistrates Court heard how on 9 September 2017, the 25-year-old worker suffered an injury to his left forearm at the company’s site in Dansom Lane South, Kingston upon Hull. He also sustained tendon damage to the forearm, wrist and hand.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the filling machine had not been electronically isolated and locked off by the injured person, or other persons, which would have ensured that the recalibration task could be carried out in a safe manner.

Reckitt Benckiser Ltd of Dansom Lane, Hull pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £8,261.28 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Stewart said: “Non-routine maintenance tasks must be carried out by trained personnel working to standard safe operating procedures.

“Reckitt Benckiser should have developed a standard operating procedure for the adjustment process, which if implemented correctly along with their lock off procedure, could have prevented the incident.”

Case 2

Nestlé UK Ltd was sentenced for breaching health and safety regulations after an employee was dragged into a machine on the production line of their Albion Mills site in Halifax.

Bradford Crown Court heard how on 13 February 2016, while observing the operation of the After Eight production machine, the technical operator placed his right hand close to a gap in the machine housing. An emery cloth held in his right hand was dragged into the machine causing the accident.

The employee was unable to reach any of the emergency stop buttons located around the machine from the position in which he was trapped. He had to be released from the machine by paramedics. He suffered a fracture to his arm, which required surgery.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to prevent access to dangerous moving parts of the machine, namely an ‘in-running nip’. There was a gap large enough to allow access at a belt conveyor entry on the After Eight line.

Nestle UK Ltd of City Place Gatwick pleaded guilty to breaching Reg 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.They were fined £640,000 and ordered to pay £26,234 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jacqueline Ferguson said: “This is a tragic incident that could so easily have been avoided. The risks inherent in failures to properly guard dangerous parts of machinery are well known in industry and to Nestlé.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

How can ESC help?

HASAWA, PUWER and the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 require that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is performed.

ESC has consultants who have experience of conducting such reviews and risk assessments to standards such as ISO 12100, ISO 13849, IEC 62061 and various type c standards. In addition we can conduct assessments to satisfy the PUWER regulations and the Machinery Directive Essential Health and Safety Requirements.

The review of the machine, its operation and maintenance strategies will identify areas which require improvement.

It can take an independent person with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to observe scenarios which those using the machines every day miss due to familiarity.

Contact us on for an initial chat to see how we can help or visit our dedicated Machinery Safety website.

By ESC Associate Director David Green.

Source HSE details on the webpages below: