Steelwork company found guilty following sheet metal accident

A steelwork company has been successfully prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive following an accident where an employee fractured three toes after sheet metal fell from a permanent lifting magnet.

The employee was using the permanent lifting magnet to lift long, thin sheets of metal, approx 6 m by 35cm wide and 10 mm thick, onto a conveyor belt. The 180 kg weight of the sheets was below the weight limit for the machinery but it was the dimensions and shape of the sheet which meant the magnet did not hold true.

The employee had successfully moved two of the metal sheets before the accident happened. It was whilst moving the third sheet that the magnet detached from heavy metal sheet and fell onto the conveyor bouncing onto the employee’s foot. The hearing heard how the employee was very lucky that the metal sheet hit the conveyor belt first before hitting his foot as his injuries may have been significantly more serious.

The 30-year-old worker was off work for 6 weeks as a result of the accident and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company was guilty of breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The investigation found that the magnets manufacturer’s instructions for its use were not followed and that the company’s employees had not been given adequate training. The Steelwork company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,631.40.

HSE inspector, said:

“Permanent lifting magnets are a common accessory in industry and must be used correctly. Users need to understand the limitations of the ones they have in use.

“This incident could easily have been avoided had the company provided suitable training. Most permanent lifting magnets are supplied with comprehensive instructions and companies must ensure users understand them and are trained in their use – many suppliers of this equipment may provide training.

“Although the steel sheet was within the safe working load for the magnet being used at the time, it was not designed to lift long, thin pieces of sheet metal.

“It was nothing more than luck that the first two sheets were successfully moved and the injured employee was very fortunate that the 180kg metal sheet fell on to a conveyor before landing on his foot. Had it landed on him directly then a more serious injury may have been inflicted.”

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