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Firm in court after metal sheet severs employee’s toes

An engineering company has landed in court after one of its workers was left disabled when a metal sheet landed on his feet, severing three toes from one and breaking all the toes on the other.

What happened?

Anton Hunter, an engineer with G&P Machine Shop Ltd, was unloading fabricated steel sheets with a colleague at the firm’s site. As he was doing so, a 700kg sheet fell directly onto his feet after becoming dislodged from a magnet.

The sheet sliced his big toe and two other toes on his right foot off, and he sustained fractures to all the toes on his left foot. He later had to have the second toe on the left foot amputated, after his big toe shifted position following surgery. He has since returned to work, but this is in a reduced capacity as he is still regaining his walking skills.

An investigation into the incident found that the company had failed to check that the magnet used was the correct one for the job.

The 20-year-old and his colleague had unloaded two smaller metal sheets successfully, but a third had become detached from the magnet and fallen. Thinking that the failure was because of cloth around the magnet, they removed it and started to unload the larger sheets.

The court heard that the magnet, which had been on hire to G&P Machine Shop for a month, was not suitable for the size and weight of any of the sheets being moved.

What was the outcome?

G&P Machine Shop Ltd admitted to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,036.

HSE inspector, Rob Hassell, said:

“Anton Hunter, a young engineer, had his life put on hold after suffering
a debilitating injury that may impair his ability to
walk for the foreseeable future.

“The incident could have been prevented if G&P Machine Shop had carried
out suitable checks to ensure the lift was within the operating
capacities of the magnet. Instead, it seems that in an
attempt to improve deliveries, an entirely
inappropriate piece of lifting
equipment was chosen.

“Companies should ensure the equipment they want to use is fit for its
intended purpose. Manuals for lifting devices are available to
download or direct from the makers. The safe working load
(SWL) of lifting equipment is a maximum capacity in
optimum conditions – any deviation needs
to be investigated and tested.”

If you have been affected by an accident at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email

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