A Kent recycling firm has been prosecuted after an employee had his jaw shattered into ‘pieces like cornflakes’ when he was hit by a piece of plastic pipe ejected from a bandsaw.
The worker, then 42 from Chatham, who does not wish to be named, was cutting down the old gas pipe for recycling at Kingsnorth Waste Management’s site in Hoo, Rochester, on 11 August 2010 when the incident happened. The pipe was some 50 cm long and 30 cm in diameter and 2 cm thick.
As he fed the domed section of the pipe into the bandsaw, the teeth of the blade stuck into the plastic, rotated it round the domed end and ejected it. The piece was thrown out at high speed and struck him in his throat and under his chin. It broke both upper and lower jaw bones and burst his jaw hinges.
Kingsnorth Waste Management pleaded guilty on 24 July to safety failings at Dartford Magistrates’ Court after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The court heard the worker had undergone a number of operations, including a bone graft from his hip, over the past four years to reconstruct his jaw. He still suffers from a continual feeling of ‘pins and needles’ caused by irreparable nerve damage, and has problems eating.
Early in its investigation, HSE identified that after the incident, there had been two further instances of plastic pipe being ejected as it was being sawn and striking the operators, including one where the worker was a 16-year-old trainee. As a result, a prohibition notice was served on Kingsnorth Waste Management preventing any further use of the bandsaws for cutting this sort of material.
HSE found the company had not identified the added risks of using the bandsaws to cut across cylindrical material, such as the rotation and ejection of pieces from the saw. There were no measures, such as the use of jigs clamps or wedges, to allow the machine to be more safely used.
Kingsnorth Waste Management Ltd of Kingsnorth Industrial Estate, Hoo, Rochester, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the case, HSE Inspector Gordon Chase said: "Kingsnorth Waste Management should have properly investigated how the bandsaws operated and fully understood the risks of use that were outlined in the instruction manual. That simple exercise would have demonstrated the need to put effective controls in place to safeguard their employees.
"The use of simple clamps or wedges, or the use of alternative cutting equipment, would have allowed the job to be safely carried out and avoided the life-changing injuries that this worker suffered. In addition, it would have not put others – including a teenager – in danger.
"Waste processing and recycling is a high-risk industry which has a disproportionately large share of fatal and serious injuries. Both individual companies and the industry collectively, must improve the way that health and safety, both of employees and the public, is managed.”