Textile firm Lawton Yarns has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the crushing of a worker's fingers.
The unnamed 59-year-old woman was left with lasting, serious hand damage when she reached under the rollers of a carding machine as she attempted to retrieve some fibres.
The woman involved in the accident had three fingers on her right hand badly crushed and has had to visit her local hospital on a number of occasions for operations and physiotherapy.
But despite extensive medical intervention, the worker has not regained full use of her hand since the accident, which took place on March 7th 2013. This has had a significant impact on her life and has made a number of basic tasks, including filing papers, or using electronic devices, much harder for her.
After being informed of the accident, the HSE launched an investigation that set out to establish whether Lawton Yarns was at fault for the woman's injury, or whether it was a human error that could not have been avoided.
Inspectors discovered that the company had bought the machine the 59-year-old was using second hand in 2000 and had correctly assessed it, fitted it with guards and established a safe system of work.
However, this brief did not take into account the fact that workers often got too close to dangerous moving parts, something that put staff members at serious risk of harm and could have resulted in an even more serious injury than the one sustained by the anonymous woman in this case.
For its part in the 59-year-old woman's injuries, Lawton Yarns was fined £5,000 and told to pay £648 in costs after it admitted a single breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Neil Hope-Collins said, "Lawton Yarns' key failing was not to assess the risks adequately in the first place. The assessment is the platform for informing you of the controls and measures you need. If the former is lacking, then so are the controls.
"In this case, a vital risk was missed and an employee now has to live with the serious consequences.
"The incident demonstrates that a risk assessment is not an administrative, paper exercise. If companies do not do it properly in the first place, they will always struggle to put in place proper safeguards."
While the textile manufacturing industry has improved its safety record in recent years, crush injury accidents remain too common, according to the HSE.
In August last year, a Suffolk textile company was prosecuted by the regulator after a worker was left disabled following exposure to chemicals.
The unnamed employee was employed by the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company and had to inhale harmful fumes on a daily basis because of his role as a dye house manager. He was dismissed in 2012 after suffering from breathing problems, but this improved markedly when he left the company.
By Francesca Witney