How CE marking and compliance with PUWER save lives
Posted to News on 22nd Jun 2010, 20:59

How CE marking and compliance with PUWER save lives

Robin Carver of Health & Safety Compliance Engineering offers the following true story as an illustration of the very real need for companies to pay attention to CE marking and PUWER inspections of machinery.

How CE marking and compliance with PUWER save lives

In November 2003 John was, as usual, at his job operating a palletiser machine that stacks cans of pet food into several rows on wooden pallets. One of the pallets became misaligned as it was being fed into the machine, causing a jam. John acted as he had done many times in the past: he climbed through a large gap in the perimeter guarding that was supposed to prevent access to the dangerous mechanisms of the palletiser, but this time, as he removed the blockage and freed the jam, the machine suddenly restarted. The palletiser hoist began to rise, trapping John's chest against a steal beam at the top of the machine. John suffered serious crush injuries and died from asphyxiation.

CE marking

The palletiser was one of a pair installed some two years prior to John's accident and was a part of a large canning line installation at the factory in the UK's Midlands. The contract for the design, build and installation of the canning line had been won, on the basis of price, by a supplier from outside of the European Union who, apparently, had no knowledge of the EU Machinery Directive or its Essential Health and Safety Requirements. The design and manufacture of the machinery comprising the line had, therefore, not been inspected for compliance and, as a consequence, had not been CE marked. It was, in fact, both non-compliant and dangerous.


With the canning line installed, commissioned and operated - but no action taken by the canning firm to honour its obligations under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER98) - the line remained non-compliant and, moreover, dangerous. There was an "accident waiting to happen' and the accident occurred in November 2003, taking the life of John. Were the owners of the line aware of their obligations? The answer, alarmingly, is "yes,' as the need for PUWER 98 equipment audits was considered but "budget constraints' delayed their actions. Taking action in a timely manner, before the machinery was brought into use, would have clearly exposed both the non-compliance (Regulation 10 - Conformity with Community requirements) and the dangers (Regulation 11 - Dangerous parts of machinery).

The costs

In the Crown Court in late 2009, the company pleaded guilty to breaches of the HASAWA (Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974) and was fined 100,000 and ordered to pay nearly 28,500 in costs. In a separate action the firm's director responsible for safety was personally fined 10,000 and ordered to pay 4000 in costs for failing to take effective measures as a director to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. It was revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service had considered bringing manslaughter charges.

The biggest cost, of course, was to John, his family, friends and workmates. The sad truth is that this tragic loss of life could have been so easily avoided had the supplier, the firm and its director fulfilled their obligations and duties.

A Message

This tragic incident should serve as a stark warning to suppliers of machinery that CE marking under the Machinery Directive (and other EU Directives) is not just bureaucracy from Brussels but can ensure that at least basic safety principles are been applied. Similarly, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98) are not just bureaucracy; their simple requirements can, and do, save lives. In addition, company directors must take their responsibilities for health and safety seriously and they cannot hide behind their organisation.

Health & Safety Compliance Engineering

17 Bramley Drive
B47 5RD

+44 (0)7860 231 287

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