A Black Country welding machine manufacturer has been handed a £53,000 fine after a worker had to have two fingers amputated when they were crushed in a machine.

Self-employed electrical contractor Ian Mowbray was off work for three weeks following the incident in August 2013 at MTI Welding Technologies, in Kingswinford.

Dudley Magistrates' Court heard that Mr Mowbray was trying to rectify a loading problem on a high-friction welding machine when he pressed an incorrect button, closing the powerful hydraulic holding fixture onto his left hand.

The court was told MTI Technologies had failed to report the incident to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and it only came to light four weeks later when the body received an anonymous complaint and made an unannounced inspection.

The investigation found the company had acquired the machine from another firm which had modified it from a safe, automatically-loaded one.

The HSE said these modifications had defeated safety interlocks and introduced manual controls so it could be loaded by an operator within the safety enclosure rather than the robot and automation provided.

Over-riding the interlocks meant the door to the safety enclosure could be opened without stopping the machine, giving workers access while machinery was operating.

The HSE also said the manual buttons were located dangerously close to the fixture, allowing operators to initiate powered machine movements while still within the danger zone.

No secondary guarding had been fitted to protect the operator during manual operations and no emergency stops were provided at the manual operating position, it added, saying MTI Welding Technologies had continued to use it in its dangerous manual mode without assessing the risks.

During the HSE visit, a radial arm drill was running without a suitably maintained safety switch, leaving operators inadequately protected which led the executive to issue a Prohibition Notice banning its use until the fault was repaired.

MTI Welding Technologies admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

In addition to the £53,000 fine, the company was ordered to pay costs of £3,100.

Managing director Richard Jones said in a statement: "MTI Welding deeply regrets the incident of August 2013 in which one of its employees was injured.

"Following the accident, senior managers completed a full review of the safety systems in place and, as a result, have implemented changes to working practices to include re-assessments of risk on all machines, risk assessments on all new projects that come in to the contract area and daily inspection sheets for all machines completed by the operator before use."

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