A BLACK Country firm has been fined £18,000 after a worker was nearly killed by a faulty machine.

H&E Knowles (Lye) Limited maintenance engineer Wayne Hill suffered horrific injuries after a machine for pressing metal sheets into wheelbarrows crushed his head.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the machine, which had been designed and built by the company 25 years ago, had no way of being isolated from its power supply.

HSE inspector, John Glynn, told Dudley magistrates: "The inspection regime had been allowed to lapse, they operated a handmade and dangerous machine for a number of years."

The court was told Mr Hill, aged 42 and from Lye, was working on the machine, which broke down frequently, at the company’s Talbots Lane site, Brierley Hill, on 18 August 2011.

He had leaned into the machine, believing it would not work with the safety guard open but when he removed a faulty component he inadvertently closed a circuit and the press operated.

He was trapped for around ten minutes before colleagues were able to free him.

His nose and jaw were broken, his upper lip ripped off and he bit through his tongue. He also sustained severe cuts to the back of his head and neck, muscular damage to his left arm, severe neck pain and scratches and bruising to his left side.

He returned to work after five months following reconstructive surgery and has been left with reduced sensitivity in his upper lip and nose, pain in his teeth and scarring to his shoulder. He underwent counselling after suffering nightmares and flashbacks.

The company, which is based in Waterfall Lane, Cradley Heath, pleaded guilty to breaching Health and Safety regulations and, along with the fine, was ordered to pay £7,220 costs.

Magistrates gave the company, which employs 130 people, credit for pleading guilty at the first opportunity but told director Daniel Knowles they felt it took a horrific accident to bring the problems to his attention.

James Shrimpton, for H&E Knowles (Lye) Limited, said the company co-operated fully with the investigation and since the accident had carried out extensive safety audits of all systems and retrained staff to prevent future incidents.

Speaking after the hearing John Glynn said: “Mr Hill was extremely lucky not to have lost his life, the company should have provided safe equipment and a safe system of work.

“There was a grossly inefficient assessment of risk, inadequate controls and a lack of supervisory oversight that exposed staff to terrible risks."