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Shropshire farmer prosecuted for employee accident

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A Shropshire farm worker had four fingers and his thumb cut off whilst using a faulty machine to process fire wood.

HSE prosecuted the farmer who was employing agency worker, Stuart Tomlins at the time of the incident and which left the 26 year old, with injuries that have changed his life.

Mr Tomlins’ fingers and thumb on his right hand were severed whilst he was using the processing machine at a farm in Hughley, the court heard.

On 16 December 2010 Mr Tomlins had been attempting to straighten out a log that had twisted inside the splitting chute of the machine. When he placed his hand into the machine, the splitting ram activated and pushed his hand as well as the log into the blade.

The air ambulance transferred him to hospital where a surgeon was able to reattach the thumb but none of his fingers. It is still not known how much use Mr Tomlins who is from Craven Arms, will have from the hand that was injured. His medical treatment is ongoing.

HSE carried out an investigation and discovered that a lever which controls the splitting action of the machine was forced prior to the incident which enabled the machine to operate whilst the guard was open. Meaning the operator of the machine could touch the dangerous parts of the machine.

Mr Tomlins only started work at the farm about two weeks prior to the incident and hadn’t experience of working on a similar machine previously. There had been no training or supervision of his work on the machine but he had been told to use it as it was.

Mr Griffiths pleaded guilty and was fined £14,000 as well as receiving a cost order for £8,500.

Speaking after the hearing, the HSE inspector commented that a young man has injuries likely to cause a permanent disability, because of an obvious and long standing defect on a dangerous machine. He went on to say that these machines always need to be maintained correctly and used safely. If the farmer had completed a safety check, he would have realised the problem. Employers and employees alike must ensure that fire wood processors are always adequately guarded and those who operate them are trained fully and work to an agreed safety procedure.