Court hears print dangers ‘largely ignored’

A Leeds printing company has been fined after an employee had the end of his thumb severed when it was drawn into an unguarded running nip between the rollers of a glueing machine.

The 46-year-old worker, from Rodley, was working on a print run for a supermarket loyalty voucher mailing at The Lettershop Ltd’s premises in Whitehall Road on 3 December 2013.

During a gluing process, he noticed some loose inserts had become stuck on an impression roller. As he reached over one of the other rollers to remove them, his left thumb was pulled into the in-running nip and the pad of the thumb and part of the bone was torn or sheared off.

The company was prosecuted at Leeds Crown Court after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified protective guards were missing from machines and risks had not been properly addressed.

The court heard HSE found a number of failings by The Lettershop. The firm had been served with an enforcement notice in 2010 by HSE requiring it to improve both the way risks to workers were assessed and the provision of protective safeguards in the premises. Although they had completed the assessment and developed an action plan to put right the safeguarding issues, most of the work was still outstanding at the time of the incident.

In addition, training of the printer operators was more informal leading to unsafe practices.

HSE told the court the front of the unit where the worker was injured had no guarding and employees had not been provided with adequate instructions.

The Lettershop Ltd., of Whitehall Park, Whitehall Road, Leeds, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £9516 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Geoff Fletcher said:

“This worker suffered a painful and avoidable injury and needed a skin graft to help repair the thumb.

“The risks associated with printing machinery are well-known within the industry. The Lettershop Ltd had identified simple and effective measures that would have prevented this incident happening but failed to act upon them.

”The Lettershop Ltd had received strong advice on these issues from HSE on two occasions before the incident but the company failed to fully heed these warnings and neglected to give the protection of their workers the priority it deserved.”