The Environment Agency (EA) has been fined £5,000 after an employee was badly injured when his finger was caught by an unguarded circular saw.

The incident occurred when an employee used a circular saw on a multi-function woodworking machine to cut 2 inch thick pegs – a task which was carried out once every few months. It had become standard practice for employees to use the saw without its guard because it was too difficult to cut large pieces of wood with the guard in place. No risk assessment had been carried out for the work, and supervision had been insufficient. Therefore, managers were unaware of this malpractice.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the EA for breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.  The organisation has since reviewed its procedures and no longer uses the saw at its Levens site.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Banks said:

“An employee has suffered an injury that will affect him for the rest of his life because the machine he was using was unsafe. Workers should never have been able to use the circular saw without the guard in place, but the Environment Agency failed to carry out a risk assessment or to properly monitor the work. …The Environment Agency has now decided that the machine isn’t suitable and no longer uses the saw. If it had considered the risks from the start then the employee’s injury could have been avoided.”

Information on the safe use of circular saws and other woodworking equipment is available athttp://www.hse.gov.uk/woodworking.