Brickmakers Wienerberger Ltd based in Kidderminster has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failings that led to a worker sustaining multiple crush injuries on a conveyor belt.

On 19 October 2009, machine operator Michael Jordan was rectifying a fault which had stopped a brick packaging line from moving. In order to investigate he went through a gate into an unguarded area.

The gate was fitted with a safety device which, once opened, should have cut the power supply to the machinery. Unbeknown to Mr Jordan the device had been deliberately disabled days earlier and the machinery continued to function. A gripper crane came down and forced Mr Jordan onto the conveyor belt.

Mr Jordan suffered a serious puncture wound to his back, extensive bruising to his face and leg, and several cracked ribs.

The HSE told Kidderminster Magistrates Court that Wienerberger Ltd had failed to provide efficient protective devices and failed to make a sufficient risk assessment. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 11(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,611.

Working on a production line can be very dangerous

HSE inspector Chris Gregory said: “A man suffered potentially life-changing injuries following an incident that should never have happened.

“Deliberately bypassed interlocking devices are a common cause of injuries in the manufacturing sector.

“Free guidance on guarding standards for machinery has been available from HSE for many years and it is unacceptable to see such basic failings, particularly from a large company.”

Peter Mulhern, solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Serious Injuries Team said: “Working on a production line especially around heavy equipment can be very dangerous. As a firm we too often see accidents from bad practice or non existent or inadequate guarding on production lines and the injuries can be severe including amputations, burns, crush injuries and even death. Mr Jordan will have to live for the rest of his life with the consequences of the firm failing to think through what might happen if they disabled the safety device and their failure to warn employees that they had.”