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Firm fined for guarding failings after scraper bar crushes worker

27 November 2013

A Dumfries wood machining company has been fined for serious safety failings that left a worker fighting for his life in hospital.

Steven Cairns, then aged 28, of Ecclefechan, was crushed by an automated scraper bar as he cleared debris from beneath a log haul at Hunter Wilson Ltd’s sawmill at Rigg in Gretna.

Mr Cairns suffered multiple pelvic fractures and sustained a number of serious internal injuries in the incident on 10 March 2011. He required extensive treatment and has been left permanently disfigured and impaired.
Hunter Wilson Ltd was prosecuted today (26 November) after a Health and Safety Executive investigation found that more could and should have been done to prevent access to dangerous moving parts.
Dumfries Sheriff Court was told that at the end of each working day one of Mr Cairns’ duties was to clean the areas below two log hauls, where debris such as bark and branches had fallen.
In 2007 the company had installed an automated scraper system to assist with this task, which consisted of two horizontal cross sections of steel, or scraper bars, that moved slowly on a continuous loop along the concrete platforms under each of the log hauls, scraping the fallen debris and pushing it off the end of the platforms where it could be safely collected.
However, the system was not able to clear all of the debris, resulting in employees still having to go under the log haul platforms to manually clear out the remaining debris at the end of each day.
On the day of the incident Mr Cairns was clearing debris from under the log haul when one of the moving scraper bars came from behind him and crushed his pelvis against the base of a step feeder machine. It then continued on, dragging him through a shear point where the bar passed under the base of the machine.
He managed to drag himself free and was discovered shortly after by colleagues who responded to his screams. He was then airlifted to hospital.
The HSE investigation concluded that the company:
  • failed to provide fixed guarding enclosing the machine’s dangerous parts and interlocking guarding to stop dangerous parts moving before a worker entered the danger zones; and
  • failed to provide effective supervision in order to prevent its employees from entering danger zones while dangerous parts were moving,
Hunter Wilson Ltd, of Rigg, Gretna, Dumfriesshire, was fined £44,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 11(1) and 11(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.   Following the case, HSE Inspector Martin McMahon, said:
"This incident was entirely preventable. Hunter Wilson Ltd had identified the scraper system as a risk to employees, however, the company failed to apply the hierarchy of control measures provided by Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which requires employers to provide fixed guarding enclosing dangerous moving parts of machinery, to the extent that it is practicable to do so, before moving on to consider a safe system of work.
"Had fixed guards been in place to physically prevent access, then employees would not have been exposed to the risk from the dangerous moving bars of the scraper system.
"As a consequence of this breach, Mr Cairns suffered horrific injuries from which he will never fully recover.”