Pump Court Chambers

Worker loses fingers in log splitter

News 23rd June 2016

Richard Tutt recently appeared at the Norwich Magistrates’ Court representing an Italian company in relation to a breach of one of the general duties of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Metal Agricola SRL made and supplied a log processor comprising a large circular saw, a log splitter and an outfeed conveyor. The log splitter was designed to be operated only by two-hand hold-to-run controls. However, as part of the testing process at the end of the factory production line an additional lever would be fitted to activate an automatic cycle in order to make the testing process more efficient. Upon completion of the testing process the additional test lever would be removed. However, three log processors left the factory in Italy without the additional test lever being removed. Those log processors therefore ran on automatic cycle, enabling the log splitter to be operated with one hand. A farm worker operating one of those machines lost all the fingers on his left hand in the log splitter. Both Metal Agricola and the UK supplier, Ryetec Industrial Equipment Ltd, were prosecuted. Both companies pleaded guilty. The District Judge acceded to arguments that he retain jurisdiction. Each company was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs.

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