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Ely mushroom farm sentenced over worker’s arm injury

Date:
24 July 2014

A mushroom farming business has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered crush injuries when his arm was caught in unguarded machinery at a site in Cambridgeshire.

The employee of Littleport Mushroom Farm LLP, who does not wish to be named, was working on clearing compost out of growing tunnels after the harvest of a crop of mushrooms when the incident happened on 25 January 2013.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court was told today (24 July) that the worker from Thetford, Norfolk, who was 31 at the time, was rolling a net and polythene sheet – which lined the growing shelves – onto a specially-designed emptying machine, when the sheet dropped away. He attempted to tuck it back into the machine without stopping it but his left gloved hand became caught into the winding mechanism.

The machine continued to wind the net and sheet onto its roller, pulling the worker’s arm with it up to his shoulder. On hearing him shout, another employee ran to the machine and stopped it. He then used the reverse button to free the worker’s arm, which by then was crushed in several places.

The worker suffered a fracture to his left forearm and another to his upper arm, as well as bruising on the left hand side of his chest and back. He had to stay off work for over a year.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Littleport Mushroom Farm had failed to identify that the machine’s roller was unguarded when they purchased it, and had therefore not provided guarding for the dangerous part of the machine.

After the incident, the company fully enclosed the rotating part of the machine with fixed guarding fitted with a key exchange system.

Littleport Mushroom Farm, of Barway Road, Ely, Cambridgeshire, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,700 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Roxanne Barker said:

“The risks associated with unguarded winches or rollers are well-known in many industries, including agriculture. Incidents involving this type of machinery can cause serious, life-changing injuries, which is why onus is on employers to ensure that appropriate guards are in place to protect workers from dangerous moving parts.

“In this case, the worker needlessly suffered terrible injuries because, although the machine was CE marked, Littleport Mushroom Farm failed to comply with their duty to make sure that the machinery met the essential guarding requirements.

“There are several deaths and many more injuries each year due to incidents where workers have been using unguarded or poorly guarded machines, and most of these are easily prevented. Companies have a legal duty to ensure dangerous parts are effectively guarded before a machine is used, whether or not these are provided by the manufacturer.”

HSE is currently working with the manufacturers of this type of machine to establish improved guarding standards.

For more information about the use of workplace machinery visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/index.htm

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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.  Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”
  3.  HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk

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