West Midlands company H&E Knowles (Lye) Limited has been fined £18,000 after a worker was nearly killed by a faulty pneumatic metal press,

Wayne Hill suffered severe injuries after a machine for pressing metal sheets into wheelbarrows crushed his head when it unexpectedly started working while the maintenance engineer was trying to repair the press.

A HSE investigation found the machine had a faulty interlocking guard and Dudley and Halesowen magistrates were told that the press should not have been able to operate if the door was open but the fault meant the machine did not detect this.

The court was also told that the machine was designed and built by the company 25 years ago. No technical drawings or any other documentation existed and an adequate risk assessment had never been carried out. The machine regularly broke down and maintenance staff were left to fix it with no instructions.

HSE inspector, John Glynn, told Dudley magistrates:

“The inspection regime had been allowed to lapse, they operated a handmade and dangerous machine for a number of years.”

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £18,000 with £7,220 costs.

Mr Hill’s horrific injuries included a broken nose and jaw, severe cuts to the back of his head and neck, muscular damage to his left arm, severe neck pain and scratches and bruising to his left side. As well as this, he bit through his tongue and had his upper lip ripped off. He has since returned to work for the company after five months away from work.

Speaking after the hearing, John Glynn said:

“Mr Hill was extremely lucky not to have lost his life in this entirely preventable incident. The company should have provided safe equipment and a safe system of work for its staff. Instead, it failed almost entirely to comply with health and safety legislation in that it designed, built and operated a dangerous piece of machinery.

“There was a grossly inefficient assessment of risk, inadequate controls and a lack of supervisory oversight that exposed staff to terrible risks and left a man with horrific injuries.”