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Machine safety – food for thought after worker loses finger tips

30 September 2013

An East London firm that makes convenience food has been fined for safety failings after an agency worker lost the tips from four fingers as he tried to unblock a dicing machine.

The worker, from East London, who does not wish to be named, sustained the serious injury while working a night shift as a production assistant at Oldfields Ltd, part of the international Greencore Group plc, at their plant in Twelvetrees Crescent, Bow, Tower Hamlets.

He had been feeding peppers into a dicing machine when he noticed that they were not coming out properly from the discharge chute. In an attempt to dislodge the jam, he pushed his fingers through a gap under the chute unaware there were rotating blades on the far side of the gap. The worker had the tips of four fingers of his right hand severed.

The incident, on 23 January 2011, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (30 September) prosecuted Oldfields Ltd at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates heard that HSE uncovered a series of safety failings by the company in relation to the dicing machine.

HSE found that Oldfields Ltd: –

  • Did not carry out a sufficient risk assessment for use of the machine
  • Failed to follow their own safety procedures for its use
  • Failed to follow safety instructions issued by the machine’s manufacturer
  • Didn’t give the employee adequate instruction, training or supervision
  • Failed to prevent access by workers to the machine’s dangerous moving parts
  • Didn’t conduct adequate safety checks on it or ensure controls for the machine were clearly visible

Oldfields Ltd, registered at the Greencore Group UK Centre, Barlborough Links Way Business Park, Barlborough, Chesterfield, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay £9,399 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Tahir Mortuza said:

"This was a totally preventable incident. Oldfields Ltd exposed a number of vulnerable workers to needless risk by their neglect of basic safety measures.

"There was an array of problems with the dicing machine, some of which the company were aware, yet they chose not to take corrective action. As a result this man was badly injured less than an hour after he went on to his shift as an agency worker.

"The company fell well short of the expected health and safety standards, which is particularly disappointing given that they would be well aware that their industry has one of the highest incident rates in manufacturing."

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.
  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."

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