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Worker's arm dragged into industrial conveyor belt

23 January 2013

A Cheshire factory worker could have lost his arm when it was dragged into an industrial conveyor belt, a court has heard...

A Cheshire factory worker could have lost his arm when it was dragged into an industrial conveyor belt, a court has heard.

The 56-year-old from Northwich suffered a broken elbow, crush injuries to his left hand and bruising down the left-hand side of his body in the incident at Amcol Minerals Europe Ltd's plant on Weaver Valley Road in Winsford.

The chemical firm was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the conveyor belt had not been fitted with a suitable guard.

Chester Magistrates' Court heard that the worker, who has asked not to be named, had been helping to clean the conveyer system on 2 March 2010. He had climbed up a ladder to a gantry, to reach the conveyor belt and check that the residue from a brown powder had been removed.

The worker's left arm caught the underneath of the moving belt and his arm was dragged into the rotating mechanism. He was off work for several weeks due to the extent of his injuries but has now been able to return to work.

Amcol Minerals Europe Ltd, which is part of the global Amcol International group, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to a dangerous part of machinery while it was still operating.

The firm, which produces chemicals used in detergents and oil drilling, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £6,702.50 in prosecution costs on 1 December.

Speaking after the hearing, the investigating inspector at HSE, Carl Jones, said:

"The worker suffered severe injuries in the incident and he could easily have lost his arm. These conveyor belts are extremely powerful and unforgiving.

"Amcol should have done more to make sure its employees weren't being put at risk. The company has since fitted interlocked guarding around the dangerous parts of the conveyor belt, which automatically cuts the power if it's removed.

"If this relatively straightforward piece of work had been carried out earlier then the company could have prevented a worker from being badly injured."

Information on improving safety in the manufacturing industry is available at www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.