Failure to Design Out, Guard, or even Warn Results in Worker Pulled Through 5-inch Opening

The story of a UK man who was pulled through a small opening meant for steel poles is in the news again as the companies involved pleaded guilty to not having safety measures in place. Read the article here (with a picture of the machine).

I’ve excerpted the reported accident factors below:

“His clothing snagged on the machine and he was forced though an opening just 125mm wide on the machine head, suffering injuries that have caused lasting physical and psychological damage…. The HSE investigation into the incident on 19 December 2008 found there was no guarding in place to protect the worker from dangerous moving parts …  HSE investigators also established that Matthew, then aged 23, was inexperienced in operating the machinery after being moved from a different line at the factory because of a lull in his regular workload.  However, it was the lack of guarding that was deemed the decisive factor.”

And from another article:

Prosecuting, Chris Chambers said: “The machine could start, stop and restart without warning to the operator. As Matthew leaned through the hatch he was struck on the back of the shoulder and pulled through. Shoulder to feet he was pulled through the opening…the width of a CD case.”

Summary: Clothing entanglement, lack of guards, lack of warning, and inexperience. I think it is interesting that the tone of the article seems to try and reduce the potential effects of inexperience, perhaps because it sounds like “blaming the victim.” I don’t think inexperience should have that overtone — one would classify re-assigning a worker without proper training to a dangerous task as an organizational problem with the company, not due to fault on Matthew’s part for performing the job he was assigned.