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Lathe Access Failures: Trainee’s Arm Fracture Costs Manufacturer £200k

A Northumberland-based manufacturer must pay a fine of £200,000 after its failure to enclose a lathe in a fixed perimeter guard and prevent access to the work area led to a trainee’s left arm being pulled into the lathe. 

The manufacturing operative, who’d only started working for Cramlington firm Gates Engineering & Services UK Limited a short time before the incident, and was being trained at the time, sustained a broken arm in two places.

On 21 November 2021, the 22-year-old trainee was assisting another worker on the firm’s 60m lathe at its site on Bassington Drive in Cramlington, Northumberland. 

The machine was used to wrap rubber and other materials around a steel mandrel to form hose bodies for industrial hoses.

The young trainee operative was working at the rear of the lathe when the rubber material he had just applied fell from the steel mandrel. He instinctively reached to grab the material. However, at that moment the lathe started and his left arm was pulled into the machine, breaking it in two places. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) arrived at the site and found that Gates Engineering & Services UK’s system of work involved one employee working at the front of the lathe operating at the controls. At the same time, a second employee assisted from the rear and helped to manually position the rubber materials being applied. 

However, on consulting the manufacturer’s manual for the machine, the HSE found the manual stated that the lathe should have been enclosed with a fixed perimeter guard. In addition, access to the work area by employees other than the machine operator should have been prevented.

The HSE found Gates Engineering & Services UK ‘had failed to take effective measures to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the lathe, and that its system of work required employees to stand in an area that was meant to be enclosed by guards’.

Gates Engineering & Services UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The manufacturer, based at Bassington Industrial Estate, Bassington Drive, Cramlington, Northumberland, received a £200,000 fine and was also ordered to pay £3,653.70 in costs at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on 4 May 2023.

HSE inspector Stephen Garner said: ‘After this accident, the company was able to install perimeter guards to prevent access to the rear of its 60-metre lathe, and altered its system of work so that operation of the lathe could be carried out from the safe area at the front of the machine – as intended by its manufacturer. 

A third-party safety audit commissioned by Gates Engineering, dated 16 January 2018, identified that there was access to moving parts at the rear of the machine due to inadequate guarding. Although this report failed to recommend any remedial measures, taken in combination with the information in the machine’s manual, this represented a missed opportunity to properly safeguard the machine before an accident occurred. Ultimately, this accident was both foreseeable and preventable.

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Picture of Steve Kilburn
Steve Kilburn
I initially trained as an industrial chemist working in a variety of manufacturing environments eventually moving into quality management which grew to encompass environmental and occupational health and safety management systems. I hold a Masters Degree in Health and Safety law and Environmental Law and a Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Waste Management and I am a Graduate Level Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). In my spare time I enjoy reading, my favourite author is Stephen King, and listening to music, generally from the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
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