Factory fined as Todmorden worker breaks leg in accident

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A Lancashire factory, which makes carpet underlay, has been fined after a worker from Todmorden was badly injured when he was struck by a 300kg bale of foam.

The 59-year-old, who has asked not to be named, broke his left leg in two places and suffered damage to his knee as a result of the incident at Interfloor Ltd in Haslingden on December 4, 2013.

The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it had become standard practice for heavy bales to be stacked up to four levels high, with no measures in place to prevent them falling and injuring workers below.

Preston Crown Court heard that Interfloor buys waste from car seat and furniture manufacturers, which is then processed and used to produce underlay.

Large bales of the foam were stacked in a storage area at the factory where an employee labelled each bale so that a consistent mix could be used in the production process.

As he was doing this, a bale from the third level up fell and hit him on his back, knocking him down face-first onto the concrete floor. He was in hospital for a week and was off work for several months as a result of his injuries.

The court was told that bales had fallen from stacks on several previous occasions and the company had identified the risk of workers being injured in a written assessment. However, no action had been taken to stop this from happening or prevent employees from accessing the dangerous area.

As well as the employees labelling the bales and sweeping the area clean, several other workers were also put at risk as they regularly walked through the storage area, using it as shortcut to the staff canteen.

The company has now changed its procedures so that workers are no longer required to label bales in the storage area. Instead their locations are simply marked on a whiteboard on the factory wall.

The access doors from the storage area to the canteen have also been blocked off so it can no longer be used as a shortcut.

Interfloor Ltd, of Broadway in Haslingden, was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £7,200 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 4 February 2015.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Stuart Kitchingman said: “A worker was very badly injured and off work for several months as a result of the incident but the impact of being struck by a 300kg bale could easily have been fatal.

“The company knew there was a risk of workers being injured by falling bales but it did nothing to stop this from happening. It was only after the incident that it put in place simple measures to prevent access to the storage area.

“It’s vital that manufacturers act to tackle dangers rather than waiting for an employee to be injured before doing anything practical.”