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Accident compounded by first aid errors

2nd October 2019

A court has heard how an agency worker’s hand injuries were made worse by a lack of trained first aiders on shift at the time. What mistakes were made and what can you do to avoid a similar situation?

Clearing a blockage

In October 2017, during an agency worker’s second shift with NPS Worldwide UK Limited (N), a blockage occurred in a filling machine. The worker tried to unblock the machinery but as she did so her fingers were caught up in an unguarded rotating fan. As a result, she sustained serious injuries, losing parts of all the fingers on her right hand. But her ordeal didn’t end there.

Although the HSE has not released full details, it has stated that the injuries were made worse because incorrect first aid treatment was administered. This occurred due to a lack of trained first aiders on the night shift at the time of the accident.

Doctors tried to create new skin from grafts taken from her stomach. However, these failed and she was left with substantial scarring.

Unsuitable guarding

The HSE’s investigation identified a lack of suitable guarding to the fan. It also found that the company had not completed a sufficient risk assessment or provided its staff with adequate training. This was in addition to the lack of compliance with first aid legislation.

N pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) and s.3(1)Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 3(2)Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 . It was fined £28,000 with £7,771 in costs.

Keeping workers safe

N had a duty to ensure it carried out suitable and sufficient risk assessments and an assessment for first aid needs.

Tip 1. For dangerous machinery it’s sensible to carry out one risk assessment per machine. Use our template form which has been specially developed for this purpose (see The next step ).

Tip 2. This process can be tricky to get right. Make use of maintenance staff and experienced operators who know their way around the equipment. If needed, arrange for your health and safety consultant or advisor to complete the assessment for you.

Tip 3. A good way of understanding what protection might be absent from older machinery is to review what is fitted to the latest version of the equipment. This can help greatly when completing your risk assessment.

Tip 4. Write down your procedures for clearing blockages and cleaning the machinery. Your step-by step procedure should always begin with the isolation of the power supply. This will ensure that workers do not come into contact with dangerous moving parts.

Tip 5. Ensure that your first aid provision covers all shifts and takes into account the activities carried out. As happened in this case, the wrong treatment can do more harm than good. Make sure that your first aiders’ training prepares them for the likely types of injury in your workplace, and their certification is kept up to date.

The accident was caused by missing guarding and made worse by incorrect first aid. If you use dangerous machinery, undertake a risk assessment to look in detail at the need for safety devices. Devise written instructions for safely clearing blockages and ensure that your first aid provision covers all shifts.

Taken from Tips & Advice Health & Safety, Issue 1, 16th September 2019

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