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Kent print company fined for worker hand injury

30 September 2013

A worker had the skin torn from his hand on a printing press at a Dartford print company where vital safety guards had been removed, a court has heard.

The printer, then aged 30, who does not want to be named, also fractured a finger in the incident at Howard Hunt (City) Limited on 24 April 2009.

The firm, part of the Howard Hunt Group, which produces leaflets, magazine inserts, and direct mailing products, was prosecuted yesterday (26 September) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified safety failings.

Dartford Magistrates' Court heard the injured worker was using a printer's knife when filling an ink reservoir that fed rollers transporting ink to printing plates.

Guards should have been in place to prevent access to the dangerous parts of the roller system while the press was running, but these had been removed four days earlier for cleaning and had not been replaced.

The knife stuck as he was filling the ink reservoir and his right hand was pulled between two rotating rollers and 'de-gloved', with the skin ripped away from the back of his hand. He managed to stop the machine using an emergency stop button before pulling himself free and alerting colleagues.

He was hospitalised for five days and later required a skin graft. He then had to wear a special pressure glove for more than a year, which interfered with his normal life and caused additional irritation.

He has now been left with permanent scarring.

HSE established that in addition to the injured worker, seven other people had also operated the machine with the protective safety guards removed. All were therefore placed at unnecessary risk.

The court was told that a proper risk assessment would have identified that cleaning should only have taken place when the press was turned off, and that routine checks should have established that all necessary guards were in place prior to it being switched on.

Magistrates also heard that training provision was inadequate, and that the injured worker had received no training or instruction on the safety features of the press.

Howard Hunt (City) Limited, registered to Crown House, Loughton, Essex, was fined a total of £11,000 and ordered to pay £4,399 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and a single breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Gordon Chase said: "The painful injury the worker sustained could have been avoided had the guards been in place when the press was running. A proper risk assessment would have identified the requirement of a safe system of work, and the necessity of proper training on how to safely use the machine.

"Incidents of this kind occur all too often in the printing industry, and the onus is on companies like Howard Hunt to take adequate steps to control risks and protect their workforce."