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Firm in court for Somerset worker’s life-threatening injury

Date:
19 July 2013

A Somerset drinks company has been fined for safety breaches after an employee severed an artery in an unguarded machine on a bottling production line and needed life-saving surgery.

The 52-year-old worker, from Wells, who does not want to be named, was working an evening shift on the line at the Brothers Drinks Co Ltd plant on the Anglo Trading Estate, Shepton Mallet, when the incident happened on 12 July 2012.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and yesterday (18 July) prosecuted the firm at Yeovil Magistrates Court.

The court heard that the employee went to investigate the cause of a stoppage in the depalletiser machine, which takes empty bottles off a conveyor to be filled. Just as he put his hand into the machine, it automatically restarted, catching his clothing and pulling his right arm into the moving parts.

Although he managed to pull his arm free it was badly cut in several places and an artery in his bicep was severed.

The worker needed three operations, one of which was described by the hospital as ‘life and limb saving’ surgery. Although he has since returned to work on other duties he may have to undergo further operations and still suffers pain. He has an increased risk of blood clots and has had counselling for post-traumatic stress.

HSE found that Brothers Drinks Co Ltd had made modifications to the access to the depalletiser sometime before the incident but had failed to install an interlocking device or guard to prevent workers accessing the machinery while it was still active.

The injured man did not usually work at that machine and was covering for a colleague at the time of the incident. He had been given no additional training or information about the machine he was asked to work on.

Brothers Drinks Co Ltd, registered of Newtown, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £12,859 in costs.

HSE Inspector Fiona Coffey, speaking after the hearing, said:

"This entirely preventable incident could have led to the employee’s death and has left him in a great deal of pain.

"Had the equipment been properly risk assessed by Brothers Drinks Co Ltd after the modifications had been made, the absence of an interlock would have been identified.

"The need for proper guarding, training and the use of safe systems of work are vital for all employers to prevent similar incidents. There is plenty of information freely available from the HSE about the practical measures that must be taken to ensure safety."

Further information on safe use of machinery can be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/machinery/safety.htm

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 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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