01 June 2015
Steel Firm Fined After Worker Killed by Exploding Grinding Disc
A steel firm has been fined after a worker was killed by a fragment from an “exploding” grinding disc.
After the company admitted breaching health and safety regulations, Sheffield-based HI Quality Steel Castings Ltd, was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £24,000 costs.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work accident investigation revealed that the South Yorkshire man was using a hand-held grinder when the machine’s abrasive grinding disc “suddenly exploded,” sending fragments across his work bay.
The father-of-three was fatally injured when he was hit in the face by a metal shard which went through his visor and struck him in the mouth.
Two colleagues reported hearing a loud bang before seeing the man collapse to the ground. When they ran to his aid they saw his broken visor as well as a fragment from the disc embedded in his mouth.
The HSE found that the abrasive disc was nine inches in diameter and too large for the grinder - which only had a maximum permissible tool diameter of two inches.
The investigation also found that the disc was attached to the tool using an "unsafe combination of parts," and the machine had been running at twice the speed it should have been.
The grinder was found to have had no guard attached so, when it exploded, metal fragments were sent flying in all directions, with one piece ending up 10 metres away. The excessive speed of the tool combined with the added load caused by the incorrect attachment had put “stresses on the disc way beyond its capacity.” Put simply, this was an accident waiting to happen.
Alarmingly, investigators also found evidence that several similar incidents involving discs coming off grinders had occurred previously at the firm including a time when a disc flew off a grinder and was never found.
In another incident, a disc shot off a tool and was sent so high into the air it penetrated through the roof. A third incident saw a disc catapulted off a grinding tool that not only punched a hole into a bench but also shattered a light fitting 30 feet away.
Furthermore, in the week before the worker’s death, a fragment came off a fourth disc and struck an employee beneath their eye in another section of the workshop.
Any one of these incidents - which could easily have ended with a worker being maimed or killed - should have raised serious safety concerns, and it is incredibly fortunate that no-one else was injured or killed.
It is sadly evident that workers in this case were allowed to operate without them fully understanding rotation speeds of machines versus discs. It is also clear that the firm failed to properly investigate previous similar incidents which should have at the very least instigated a thorough review into staff training and safety procedures on the work floor.
Tragically, a worker lost his life in the most horrific way as a result of these failings, and his death should serve as a stark reminder to employers that any work involving grinding tools or machinery with fast moving potentially dangerous metal parts should be properly risk-assessed to ensure workers are protected.
Matthew Tomlinson is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer specialising in work accident compensation claims for Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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