Company fined after angle grinder slices through user's face

A company has been fined £24,000 and ordered to pay £1,412.24 in costs after an employee cut his face when an angle grinder kicked-back. 

The cutting disc caused a deep laceration under his chin and through into his mouth. The wound required 52 stitches. Nerves in his face were damaged, which has caused a loss of feeling and movement in his lips and chin. The court heard how he narrowly escaped making contact with his jugular vein.

The company fined is Acrivarn Ltd, which makes bakery equipment, but the case is a reminder of how quickly injuries can be caused by angle grinders.

Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court heard on 16 November how the injured person had been assigned the task of dismantling a mezzanine spray booth steel structure on 23 July 2019. To cut through the thicker parts of the structure he was using a Bosch nine-inch angle grinder with a steel-cutting disc attached. This equipment requires two hands to operate it.

In order to cut the steel on the higher parts of the booth the employee was using a stepladder and had attached himself to the hook of an overhead crane with a fall restraint harness he was wearing.

When he was standing on the ladder, attempting to cut through a piece of angled steel beam, the grinder kicked back at him and the cutting disc sliced through his face. 

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the employee had only used the nine-inch angle grinder on one other occasion during his employment with the company and had never used it when working at height. At the time of the incident, Acrivarn Ltd had more appropriate oxyacetylene cutting equipment and trained operators to use such equipment on site.

Acrivarn Ltd of South Park Mills, Hare Lane, Pudsey, Leeds, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Beaton said: “There was a significant risk of the angle grinder kicking back when cutting through the angled steel. Using the grinder at height affected the user’s ability to resist kickback forces and placed him in a dangerous position.

“Working at height and demolition work needs to be properly planned, suitably and sufficiently assessed and the most appropriate equipment selected for the job.”