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Council prosecuted over heating contractor injury

Warwickshire County Council has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after a self-employed heating contractor lost most of two fingers in poorly guarded machinery.
John Shields, 64, who traded as Shieldson Heating and was a nominated heating contractor at the Council's Headquarters at Shire Hall, Warwick, was checking a heating pump in the basement plant room on 4 October 2009 when his hand was pulled into the running belts of a hot water pump.

Two of his fingers were amputated below the first knuckle as a result, leaving him with a permanent tingling and stinging sensation in his hand. He still needs to take medication for the pain, which is exacerbated by cold weather. He has been unable to return to work and has difficulty carrying out a number of everyday tasks.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found that the back of the machine was not adequately guarded to the legal requirements, exposing dangerous moving parts.

Nuneaton Magistrates' Court heard that Mr Shields, whom the council had employed as the main heating contractor for the building for more than a decade before the incident, believed the pump was not running.

Warwickshire County Council, based at Shire Hall, Warwick, pleaded guilty today to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The council was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £5,235 costs.

HSE Inspector Paul Thompson said: 'Anyone, being an employer or in control of work equipment, must ensure that dangerous parts of machinery are adequately guarded and it is unacceptable that Warwickshire County Council failed to do this.

'As a result, Mr Shields has unfortunately suffered serious injuries which have had a permanent effect on him - in an incident that should have been easily avoided if the necessary steps had been taken by the council.'

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7 December 2011

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