Plastics manufacturer fined after worker loses hand

Published:  07 April, 2011

A plastics manufacturer owner has been fined for safety breaches after a worker's hand was severed in a mixing machine.

A plastics manufacturer owner has been fined for safety breaches after a worker's hand was severed in a mixing machine.

Northampton-based Matrix Polymers was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at its factory on Caddick Road in Prescot on 2 April 2009.

Knowsley Magistrates' Court heard that Gary McKeown, aged 42 from Widnes, had been emptying plastic granules from a hatch at the bottom of a blender when his hand got caught in rotating parts and was sheared off. 

Doctors were able to reattach his hand but he lost his fingers and thumb.

A HSE investigation found that the locking mechanism on the machine had been broken for more than a year, and that a wire mesh guard over the hatch had been tied back. The safety mechanism should have stopped the machine operating when the guard was not in place.

The company, which produces polyethylene – used in the manufacture of pipes – was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £3,500 in costs.

Harry Baker, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: "This was a devastating, life-changing injury for Mr McKeown who has been unable to return to work for almost two years now due to the trauma he endured.

"The locking mechanism on the machine had been broken for up to 18 months, but nothing was done by Matrix Polymers to get it repaired. The machine was in use every day, for up to 24 hours a day, so it was almost inevitable that someone would eventually be injured.

"It is vital that manufacturing firms make sure that dangerous parts on machines are properly guarded to prevent further injuries of this kind."

A total of 25 workers were killed and more than 4,000 suffered major injuries in the manufacturing industry in Great Britain last year.