Washington engineering firm fined for endangering workers

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A WEARSIDE engineering firm has been fined for endangering workers by allowing them to use machinery on which vital safety devices had been disabled.

Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard today that Washington-based Penshaw Engineering Limited knowingly kept two computer-controlled lathes in use when safety devices were not working.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited the site on March 20 2011 and found that the safety devices had been disabled.

The court was told the safety devices were designed to protect the workers from the moving parts of the machinery, by preventing dangerous machine movements when they were open.

Butthey had been disabled to allow workers to use the rotating lathe to polish components under production with emery cloth.

Further investigation by the HSE found that the safety devices had been disabled for around a year prior to the inspection, and that management were aware this had happened.

The company had also been served with two Improvement Notices by HSE following an inspection in 2006 and had received advice on the disabling of interlocks on computer controlled machinery.

Penshaw Engineering Limited, of Harvey Close, Crowther Industrial Estate, Washington, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing HSE inspector Fiona McGarry, said: “Safety devices are installed on machinery with dangerous moving parts to protect those who work with them. Deliberately disabling or switching off safety devices puts workers at unnecessary risk and is simply not acceptable.

“Employers should avoid polishing with emery cloth and lathes. Where necessary it should be applied using safety equipment such as a backing board, tool post or nutcracker. Polishing should not be carried out on computer controlled lathes.

“The circumstances in this case were made even worse by the fact that the company had previously been issued with Improvement Notices and had received advice relating to this very issue.

“HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action in cases such this.”