In the News: Failure to isolate power results in significant injuries and £10K costs

bigstock-Lock-out--Tag-out-Lock-out-s-309980656A farmer has been sentenced after a worker suffered multiple injuries after becoming entangled in the contra-rotating rollers of a potato harvester.

Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard that on 21 August 2020, the worker was involved in unblocking the potato harvester at a farm in Kent when he stepped down on to the rollers. The worker was pulled leg first into the machine and became stuck up to his knee. This resulted in burns to the leg, a pulled hamstring, torn calf, broken nerves and hairline fractures to the knee and ankle.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the farmer had failed to implement a ‘safe stop procedure’ to isolate power and stop the movement of the rollers before the worker accessed them.  He was fined £4,992 for breaching Regulation 11(1)(b) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and ordered to pay costs of £5,805.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sam Brown said: “Too often we see incidents like this, where maintenance is carried out on live machinery and the principles of ‘safe stop’ and safe maintenance are ignored.

“The agricultural industry accounts for around one per cent of the workforce in Great Britain, yet it accounts for 20 per cent of worker deaths. Many of these deaths are due to poor working practices while carrying out maintenance on machinery. In addition, many more workers are seriously injured each year due to unsafe working practices while working on machinery.

“Those undertaking maintenance work on agricultural machinery should ensure that the principles of ‘safe stop’ are followed to prevent people being put at risk of injury.”

A robust LOTO Lock Out Tag Out procedure plays a key role in "safe stop",  ensuring equipment is fully powered down, inoperable, and (where relevant) de-energised in order for maintenance and repair work  to be performed safely. The LOTO process will usually include the use of both locks and tags; the locks physically prevent workers from activating the equipment whilst the tags are a form of hazard communication warning against activating.

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