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Company fined after toppling trolley severs worker’s fingers

Date:
26 September 2013

A food manufacturer has been fined for safety failings after a customised rack toppled over and sliced through a worker’s hand.

The 35-year-old, from Middlesex, who does not want to be named, had the little and ring fingers on his right hand severed to below the knuckle in the incident at Noon Products Ltd, on Dean Way, Southall, on 26 July 2012.

The Surrey-based company was prosecuted yesterday (25 September) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the rack posed a clear danger.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the worker was using a tall rack with wheels to move trays of products. It featured a custom-made sheet metal top cover that had been unsuccessfully trialled but needlessly left in situ.

The rack had been poorly loaded by a colleague and as he pushed it, it overbalanced and toppled over, taking him with it. The sharp edge of the top cover landed directly on his right hand and cut clean through his fingers and knuckles.

He was hospitalised for ten days as surgeons successfully reattached his fingers. However, he is still unable to return to work and has been left with limited mobility that makes everyday tasks difficult or impossible.

HSE found the rack was inherently unsafe because of its sharp-edged custom top cover, which had been made in-house by Noon Products. A standard cover was available from the rack manufacturer that would have provided a safer suitable alternative. Noon’s own cover should have been removed as soon as an earlier trial had established it did not solve a food safety issue.

Racks were known to topple and the top heavy loading made it more likely to topple. The custom cover acted like a guillotine.

Magistrates were told the incident could also have been prevented had the company better communicated and monitored the risks arising from overloading the rack, which are well known in the industry.

Noon Products Ltd, of Thorpe Lea Road, Egham, Surrey, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £5,068 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Neil Fry said:

"Thankfully this incident was not symptomatic of widespread failures at Noon Products Ltd. The company has a proactive commitment to health and safety, and is keen to instigate improvements.

"Nevertheless, a worker was seriously injured and it serves as a reminder that irrespective of what processes and systems are in place you have to be vigilant at all times.

"Equipment must be safe, all employees must be competent and properly trained, and any non-compliance with safe-working practices must be stopped."

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. Sec 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

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