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Local woman loses fingers in accident at work

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A Wigan factory worker has lost two of her fingers following an accident at work involving a machine used to punch handles in plastic bags.

53 year old Karen Schoelzel from Golborne was working for Arrow Flexible Packaging Ltd when the accident took place at their factory on Clarence Street in Golborne. Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard how Mrs Schoelzel was replacing the rubber insert under a cutting tool on 23 November 2010 when the machine started operating.

The cutting tool came down on her left hand and as a result, she lost her entire index finger and her middle finger below the second knuckle. Following the accident Mrs Schoelzel has still been unable to return to work despite the accident taking place some 12 months ago.

Arrow Flexible Packaging Ltd. have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who have issued the company with six improvement notices and one prohibition notice following a site inspection of the factory. The notices required safety improvements to be made to machines at the factory and prevented a printing press from operating until suitable guards had been installed.

Mrs Schoelzel’s employer’s pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous machine parts. Following a recent hearing at Trafford Magistrates’ Court on 28 October 2011, Arrow Flexible Packaging Ltd. were fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £1,000 in prosecution costs.

Karen Schoelzel said: “I can no longer do the job that I did, and will be limited to the types of jobs I can do in the future.

“I am affected by how I do everyday things such as gardening, shopping and even eating, because using cutlery is difficult.

“I haven’t been out socially since my accident happened. During the first three months, I didn’t leave the house except to go to the hospital to have my dressings changed. I saw a psychiatrist quite soon after the accident to help me come to terms with it because, at that point, I couldn’t and wouldn’t look at my injury.”

After the hearing, Emily Osborne, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: “a worker has been left with a life-long injury and has been unable to return to work as a result of an accident which could easily have been avoided.

“There should have been suitable guards and safety devices fitted to the machine to make it impossible for employees to gain access to the dangerous cutting tool while it was in operation.

“Employers need to act now to prevent more of these kinds of incidents happening in future”.

If you have suffered an accident at work due to your employer’s negligence, then contact Stephensons Solicitors on 01616 966 229 where one of our experienced accident at work specialists will be more than willing to discuss your claim with you.

By personal injury claims handler, Dean Callaway