The Nottingham Post reported this week (08/05/13) on a HSE prosecution of an Ilkeston food company fined after an employee severed the tip of his finger in a mincing machine.
The employee injured his left index finger as he tried to remove meat from a blade on the machine at Loscoe Chilled Foods Limited’s Grange Farm factory in Derbyshire on 07/11/2011.
Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court was told the machine had been stopped and was slowing down when the employee went to collect a tub of mince from the end of the production line. He noticed that some mince had become stuck in the outfeed. The man then removed the guard and reached into the machine to remove the mince. Unfortunately, his hand came into contact with the still-moving blade and he suffered an injury to his finger, requiring emergency surgery at hospital. He was off work for 3 weeks, and retired thereafter.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that, while the guard was not required to be fixed, it was only supposed to be removed by a trained operative with a specific method followed. The employee had not been trained to perform that task, so did not follow the correct procedure. The company failed to implement a proper training system for the machine, despite a similar incident having occurred in the past and specific advice having been given by HSE at that earlier time.
As a consequence, the company was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay £16,192 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
There are some who may not have sympathy for this employee. What was he doing, some might say, placing his hand into moving machinery? The fact is that his employer had a duty to ensure its employees were protected from the dangerous moving parts of the mincing machine. There was a specific procedure in place that had to be carried out to remove the guard. The employer had recognised the risk, but failed to ensure its employees were adequately trained and supervised. The employee simply did not know what that procedure was. There was a lack of control on the part of the company which resulted in the employee suffering a painful and debilitating injury.
A successful prosecution by the HSE can help in a Personal Injury case, particularly when there may be allegations of contributory negligence. In this case, it was clear that the Magistrates Court felt that the employers could and should have done more to guard against an identified risk of injury whilst this employee was operating machinery. It would not have assisted the company that it had already benefitted from advice from the HSE on a previous occasion.
By Personal Injury Solicitor Tracey Graham.
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