Hand held grinder causes fatality

A steel foundry has been sentenced after a South Yorkshire worker was killed when he was struck in the face by a shard from an abrasive disc that exploded from a hand-held grinding machine.

Stuart Stead, 49, of Mexborough, Doncaster, was using the hand-held grinder while he worked on a casting at H.I. Quality Steel Castings Ltd in Forncett Street, Sheffield, on 7 March 2012.

As he used the high-frequency machine, the disc fitted to it suddenly exploded catapulting fragments across his workbay. A shard went straight through Mr Stead’s visor and hit him in the mouth.

Mr Stead, a father of three grown-up children, received fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today 11 May prosecuted H.I. Quality Steel Castings at Sheffield Crown Court. The company pleaded guilty to a serious safety breach at an earlier court appearance (9 Feb).

HSE found the abrasive disc was nine inches in diameter although the grinder had a maximum permissible tool diameter of only two inches unless guarded. It was also attached to the grinder using a non-proprietary tool. In addition the disk was rated for 6650 rpm but the grinder was running at 12,000 rpm.

The grinder had no guard so as it exploded, the pieces were forcibly expelled across the bay, one ending up some ten metres away.

Two of Mr Stead’s work colleagues, who were nearby, said later they had heard a loud bang and one turned to see him collapse to the floor. They ran to his aid and saw the visor broken and the piece of disk in Mr Stead’s mouth.

HSE said the excessive speed of the grinder coupled with the added load caused by the non-standard attachment had put stresses on the disc way beyond its capacity, resulting in its catastrophic failure.