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No Sweet Ending - Tracey Graham discusses workplace safety

It’s shocking to report that last year, 25 workers were killed and more than 4,000 suffered major injuries in the manufacturing industry in Great Britain.To add to that list, on 10 August 2011 a leading sweet manufacturer was sentenced after part of a worker’s finger was cut off at a Blackpool factory.  The 25 year old employee at Tangerine Confectionery Ltd, which produces liquorice allsorts and sherbet fountains among other sweets, was trying to remove a blockage in one of the sweet-making machines when his left hand was pulled in, severing his index finger to the top knuckle.On the ball as ever, the Health & Safety Executive prosecuted the company following an investigation into the incident.  It found that the worker had been able to reach the rotating parts in the machine while the power was still on.The accident occurred on 8 September 2008 when the young worker removed the guard to clear the blockage.  The rotating wheels that flatten the sweet mixture caught his hand. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to reattach the end of his finger due to the crushed nerves, and he needed five months off work to recover.Tangerine Confectionery, which has seven factories around the country, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 after it failed to make sure the machine stopped operating when the guard was not in place. They were fined £3,400 and ordered to pay £4,568 in prosecution costs following the incident at its Clifton Road site in Marton.The risk of injury from these types of machines is well known in the manufacturing industry and the company apparently has since installed a new guard over the machine which cuts the power as soon as it is lifted.  This was a simple remedy to a very obvious hazard, and it is surprising that a risk assessment did not identify either the risk or the remedy at an earlier stage.  Had it done so, this young man would not have been injured, nor suffer his now permanent disability.The loss of the tip of a ring or middle finger can result in an award of damages of up to £6000, with more compensation likely if more than the tip is severed, giving rise to disfigurement, impairment of grip and reduced dexterity.  Other losses are claimable in addition, such as loss of earnings, the value of care & assistance, travel and medical expenses.  This is an additional cost to the company beyond the fine, and the rise in their insurance premium, as a result of their careless disregard for safety.