AN engineering firm has been fined £20,000 after a maintenance fitter’s lower leg was badly crushed in an unguarded machine.

The injuries suffered by the victim were so severe he had his right leg amputated below the knee and he now has a prosthetic limb.

The 49-year-old man, from Stanley, County Durham, still needs ongoing physiotherapy, but has since returned to work in his maintenance role.

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The accident happened on October 11, 2012, at Marrill Ltd, in Neilson Road, Gateshead, when the victim, who asked not to be named, was working at a height of 20ft on top of the machine.

The company was prosecuted today (Tuesday, January 28) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious safety failings.

Gateshead Magistrates’ Court heard how the fitter had been instructed to investigate and repair a fault on a mechanical power press that had been stopped as it was not working properly.

The engineering mechanism at the top included a large gear train, a series of large toothed cogs that mesh together, which operate the 400 tonne press.

The court heard the gears were not guarded at the time and the victim was injured as it moved unexpectedly while he examined a valve.

HSE Inspector Paul Wilson said: “It was the company’s responsibility to ensure that work equipment was safe and that dangerous moving parts were guarded.

“This neglect put people at needless risk and sadly, this led to the serious life-changing injuries suffered by the maintenance worker who has had to have the lower part of his leg amputated.”

Marrill Ltd pleaded guilty to one count of breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and, as well as the £20,000 fine, was ordered to pay £904 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Chris Baranowski, who represented the firm, said it had carried out an investigation and taken steps to improve safety at the company since the incident.

He said: “I am joined here today by Jason Phillips, the managing director of Marrill Ltd. He wishes to express sincere regret that we are here today because of injury to someone who is a trusted employee of the company.”