Sawmill owners fined after man’s arm cut in half

The sawmill firm was handed the fine at Elgin Sheriff Court. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The sawmill firm was handed the fine at Elgin Sheriff Court. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A SAWMILL operator has been fined £30,000 for safety failings after a young worker suffered horrific injuries to his arm in a “wholly avoidable” incident.

Damian Gawlowski, 20, needed 16 operations, leaving him permanently scarred, and has lost full use of his arm after it was pulled into unguarded machinery and cut in half lengthways up to the elbow.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated what happened at Tennants (Elgin) Limited’s sawmill on 26 September, leading to the company being prosecuted.

The firm admitted breaking the law under the Health and Safety at Work Act and was handed the fine at Elgin Sheriff Court.

Mr Gawlowski was using a machine to cut large pieces of timber, with a continuous blade revolving at high speed, HSE said.

While trying to feed some wood through, the 20-year-old’s arm was drawn into the machine, resulting in the injury.

The worker, who is from Poland, has had 16 operations to try to repair the damage to his ligaments, muscles and nerves.

Mr Gawlowski lost one finger and part of another finger and now struggles to use his right hand, HSE said.

He needs ongoing pain relief and is unlikely to be able to return to work for a considerable length of time. HSE said its investigation revealed that the machinery’s drive wheels and chain drive were unguarded and that the saw-blade guard was not positioned correctly.

Mr Gawlowski was never formally trained to use the machine and was left unsupervised.

Workers were also not given a push-stick which would have allowed them to move wood through the cutter from a safe distance, HSE said.

The firm, of Elgin, Moray, pleading guilty to a single breach of the 1974 act and was fined £30,000.

HSE principal inspector Niall Miller said: “Damian Gawlowski was let down by the company’s lack of proper training, inadequate assessment of risks and ineffective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.

“From Mr Gawlowski’s point of view, his life has been destroyed. He is unable to go back to work, unable to use his hand and he relies on others for many of the tasks of daily living.

“The risks of bandsaws, where there are fast-moving cutting parts, are well known in the sawmill industry and Tennants (Elgin) Limited should have put in place suitable measures to prevent this type of injury from occurring.”

Gavin Tennant, managing director at the family-run firm, said: “We’d certainly apologise to (Mr Gawlowski) and his family. Lessons have been learned.”