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Tracey Graham: A bit close to home: employee looses two fingers on his left hand when it became trapped in machinery

This week’s news of a prosecution in the North West of a Lancashire firm is a tale of company negligence on our doorstep.Dugdale Nutrition Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 following a prosecution by the Health & Safety Executive at Accrington Magistrates Court this week. The company, which produces animal feed in its Clitheroe factory, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,614 in prosecution costs on 26 October 2011.Their 47-year-old employee lost two fingers on his left hand when it became trapped in machinery. One finger was lost in the machinery and the other had to be amputated. He had been trying to remove a blockage on the third floor of the factory when the machine was switched on by a worker in the control room on the ground floor.  It transpired that the injured worker had been able to gain access to a 'chain and flight conveyor', used to transport animal feed through the factory, because the guard over it was not fixed in place. No fixed guard? This is elementary health and safety practice. There was, apparently, an isolator switch but he had not been able to use it as it was positioned three metres above the ground and was difficult to reach. You must ask yourself how such positioning failed to hit the risk assessment radar of this company.The court found that the company broke two health and safety laws by not providing a suitable guard and installing the isolator switch in an out-of-reach position. The employee at Dugdale was one of more than 4,000 workers in the manufacturing industry who suffered a major injury while at work in 2009/10. Another 25 workers lost their lives. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require risks to people's health and safety, from equipment that they use at work, to be prevented or controlled. Generally, any equipment which is used by an employee at work is covered, so for example hammers, ladders, drilling machines, circular saws, and photocopiers are covered. If employees provide their own equipment, it too will be covered by these regulations and employers will need to ensure that it complies. The equipment must be suitable, maintained and inspected. Sadly this company failed in this regard and their employee is now disabled for life.  Compensation for amputation of two fingers of a dominant hand can be in the region of £16,000 - £20,000.  an injured worker will also be compensated for loss of earnings, travel and medical expenses and the care & assistance provided to him by his family on account of his disability.Tracey Graham is a partner in Personal Injury in the Manchester office of Russell Jones & Walker.If you or a member of your family has suffered an accident or an injury please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9046, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.