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Timber firm fined after worker's fingers severed

04 December 2013

A Lincolnshire timber company has been fined after an employee severed three fingers in an unguarded roller conveyor.

Shaun Newcomb, 30, of Bourne, required extensive treatment and was unable to work for nine months as a result of the incident at Sewstern Timber Services in Gunby Road, Sewstern, on 9 March 2012.

He was attempting to clear some blocked wood from the conveyor, but as he did so his right hand came into contact with the sprockets and chains that drove the rollers and he severed parts of his middle, ring and little finger.

He underwent two operations, physiotherapy, cell generation treatment and counseling, and is now employed at a different company as he did not want to return to the scene of the incident.

Lincoln Crown Court heard that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the conveyor had been supplied to Sewstern Timber Services by Armistead Engineering Ltd a few months before the incident, but that it was inadequately guarded.

The company failed to carry out a risk assessment for the machine so failed to identify the potential for harm.

Sewstern Timber Services Ltd, based at Skyliner Way, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 for failing to protect its employees. The company was fined a total of £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Berian Price said:

"This incident could easily have been prevented had adequate guarding been in place. Sewstern Timber Services Ltd should have picked up this mistake on their risk assessment and tackled the problem to ensure workers did not have access to the dangerous moving parts of the conveyor.

"Sadly, because they didn’t do this Mr Newcomb suffered painful, life-changing injuries.”

Shaun Newcomb said:

"After it happened I felt agitated and kept losing my temper easily, which was out of character for me. I went through a stage where I didn’t want anyone to see my hand. I would keep it in my pocket whenever I went out and if I was in a shop I would give my wife the money to pay as I didn’t want people talking about it.

"I used to fish regularly and play pool and darts. I still can’t play darts as I can’t hold them properly but I’ve managed to adapt to play pool. I’ve had to relearn how to do things like tie shoelaces and use a knife and I’m limited in what types of job I can do. I can’t work in the cold as it affects my fingers and I have a lack of dexterity in them, which means I struggle to do some parts of my job. I also struggle with lifting tasks as I can’t grip properly and only have limited strength in what grip I do have.

"The incident affected my wife, who had to take time off work to look after me, and it also affected my children. My daughter wouldn’t come near me after it happened and won’t hold my hand now. My son is a bit older so understood more, but was worried about hurting me and whether we could still play rough and tumble together.”

Information about working with machinery is available at www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery