A FIRM that supplied a plastics press which almost severed a machine operator's arm has been fined £45,000 for negligence.

It took firefighters an hour to dismantle the cutting machine and free 35-year-old Paul Dolan at the Presentation Plastics factory, in Thornaby.

Mr Dolan, of Cunningham Drive, Thornaby, almost lost his right arm and he has needed nine operations for bone and skin grafts and muscle replacement since the accident, 15 months ago.

The firm which installed the machine, W Kilbride and Sons, of Wythenshawe, Manchester, were found guilty of three offences in its absence by Teesside magistrates yesterday.

The company failed to ensure that the machine was safe to operate and did not supply adequate instructions, said Health and Safety Executive prosecutor Robert Hart.

The magistrates, who were told that the business had gone into liquidation but was believed to be operating under a different trade name, also ordered it to pay £4,000 costs.

Court chairman Ian Johnson said: "Aggravating factors are that it was a very serious injury and the firm has a previous conviction for a similar matter."

Mr Dolan, who was in court for the sentencing with his arm in a sling, said afterwards: "The surgeons have done a great job, but I can't see me regaining proper use of my arm."

He added that he was taking out a civil court claim for damages against the owners of the installation firm.

Presentation Plastics, which trades from the Teesside Industrial Estate, was fined £15,000 over the accident by the same court, in October 1999.