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Fruit company in court after three workers injured

Date:
16 October 2013

An Essex-based firm has been fined for repeated safety failings following three separate incidents in which workers were injured after becoming trapped in machinery.

Two agency workers and an employee, who was a maintenance engineer, were all working for fruit importer and distributor Winfresh (UK) Ltd at its processing plant in Essex.

The most recent incident at the plant in High Cross Lane East, Little Canfield, Great Dunmow, took place on 25 August 2012 when a female agency worker was cleaning the underside of a conveyor on a production line.

The woman’s gloved hand was drawn into the drive shaft and became trapped between rollers. She sustained crush injuries and severe bruising to her hand and wrist and was off work for almost three weeks.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed there had been two earlier incidents at the plant involving workers’ hands becoming entangled in machinery and the company was prosecuted for repeated safety failings.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday (15 October) how the plant receives green bananas which are then ripened before being processed and packed. The production lines, which include a series of conveyors, are mainly operated by agency workers, the majority of whom do not have English as their first language.

HSE’s investigation found there were no guards on the machinery at the time of an incident on 1 July 2010 when another agency worker had reached down to remove an empty box from under the conveyor.

He lost his balance and put out his hand to steady himself, but his hand became entangled in an unguarded drive chain, resulting in the loss of part of his finger. He was off work for two to three months.

HSE Inspectors also discovered that on 8 November 2011, the maintenance engineer found several drive bands had failed on a conveyor. He stopped the production line, but did not isolate it from the power source. He replaced the defective bands and restarted the line but then noticed another free-running band had become caught.

Instead of stopping the line again he tried to flick the band free, but his forefinger was drawn into the band and wrapped around the revolving drive shaft causing a fracture and tissue damage. He was off work for two to three months.

The court heard all three workers have made a full recovery.

HSE found that although the first incident had clearly indicated that guarding standards were inadequate, Winfresh UK Ltd had failed to carry out a sufficient risk assessment. Although some guards were then installed around the drive chains, the drive belts were left unenclosed and accessible.

HSE said the maintenance engineer lacked sufficient training and had been left to work without supervision and proper instruction on isolation and safe working procedures.

Winfresh (UK) Ltd, registered at Old Bond Street, London, was fined a total of £32,000 and ordered to pay £771.50 costs after pleading guilty to three offences; one breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and two breaches of the Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations 1998.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Paul Grover, said:

“The hazards arising from roller conveyors are well known and suitable guarding should have been in place, but Winfresh UK Ltd had failed to fully assess the risks involved in their use.

“Even when  it became apparent after the first injury that guarding standards were inadequate, the company enclosed the drive chains but left the drive belts unenclosed and accessible which meant workers were still at risk.

“Both these incidents were entirely preventable and followed the failure of Winfresh (UK) Ltd to properly manage the risks.

“In addition, the company had hired a maintenance engineer who had previously worked in the construction industry but failed to provide any training and information to bridge the gaps in his knowledge.”

More information about working with machinery can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/

 

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  3. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken ……to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”
  4. Regulation 9(1) of the Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that all persons who use work equipment have received adequate training for purposes of health and safety, including training in the methods which may be adopted when using the work equipment, any risks which such use may entail and precautions to be taken.
  5. Further HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press

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