Perth Engineering Firm Fined after Employee Lost Fingers in ‘Traumatic Amputation’

A Perth engineering firm has been hit with a five-figure fine after a young employee lost two fingers while carrying out maintenance work in Coupar Angus.

Edwards Engineering Ltd, headquartered in the city’s Glenearn Road, admitted breaching health and safety legislation. Their 22-year-old employee Lewis Anderson had two fingers “traumatically amputated” while working on June 28th, 2020. Mr Anderson had been carrying out maintenance work on an Ecoflam burner at East of Scotland Farmers on Forfar Road. However, he stumbled and placed his hand against the burner, striking rotating fan blades, which had no temporary guard cover.

Health and safety failings At Perth Sheriff Court, the company admitted it failed as an employer, to ensure the health and safety and welfare at work of their employees as far as reasonably and practically possible. It admitted it failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health and safety of employees who were carrying out maintenance work on an Ecoflam Major P120 AB burner. The company, founded in 1969, failed to provide a safe system of work for the maintenance of the burner, in particular that electrical power could be maintained while an external cover had been removed.

The company also failed to ensure a temporary guard cover had been fitted to prevent access to the rotating fan blades. Furthermore, it failed to provide information, instruction, training and supervision for carrying out maintenance operations.

‘Traumatic amputation’ The court heard, having removed the cover that day to conduct maintenance, electrical power was supplied to the fan, causing the blades to rotate. Mr Anderson – who had worked for the firm since an apprentice – “stumbled” and extended his arm to recover but in doing so, placed his hand against the burner while the fan blade was rotating. His hand was struck and he suffered the “traumatic amputation” of two fingers. The company, which employs around 60 people, accepted the incident left Mr Anderson severely injured, permanently disfigured and permanently impaired.

Sheriff Alison McKay fined Edwards Engineering £10,000, plus a £750 victim surcharge, to be paid within four weeks. The fine had initially been £15,000 – the maximum would have been £20,000 – but was discounted by a third due to the early plea.

Company ‘genuinely sorry’ Solicitor Advocate Bill Adam said: “The company has shown and demonstrated its support to the complainant.

“Whilst this is a serious matter, it is one that has been taken seriously by the company. This plea was tendered pretty much at the earliest stage. The company have never set to hide from this, they have not tried to cover up anything, they have not tried to pretend this isn’t serious. They have accepted from the outset that something went wrong for which they are genuinely sorry.”

Mr Adam said any repetition of the incident would be unlikely due to a change in organisation. Sentencing comments Sheriff McKay noted the company has no previous convictions, had supported victim Mr Anderson and had cooperated with HSE.

The sheriff said: “Clearly, this was a serious matter insofar as a young employee was injured and it has to be said, quite traumatically injured. Clearly I recognise that the charge makes reference to severe injury, permanent impairment and permanent disfigurement. It has to be remembered that this court is not dealing only with the injury sustained by Mr Anderson but with the level of culpability or blame that Edwards Engineering must accept in relation to this matter. It’s very pleasing to see Mr Anderson, as far as possible, has made a full recovery. There are a number of mitigating factors in this case, there are no particular aggravating factors.

“Unfortunately, there was a system in place which was not safe and had not been risk assessed.

“Effectively, this boils down to an accident had to take place before that was noted.”