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Rochester food firm in court again for serious danger to workers

Date:
27 May 2014

A Kent-based food manufacturer has been prosecuted for a second time for safety failings after a worker was injured using a machine with a guard that had been intentionally disabled.

Veetee Rice Ltd appeared before Maidstone Crown Court today (27 May) after an incident on 27 March 2012 when Chatham employee Khalil Ahmed had three fingers crushed at its factory on the Medway City Estate, Rochester.

In November 2009, the company was fined £140,000 for similar failings relating to unguarded machinery that led to the death of one of its employees.

Both cases were brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following investigations into the incidents.

The court heard Mr Ahmed was one of a number of employees working on a line where a machine was attaching labels to packets of rice. At one point, boxes were not lining up properly and Mr Ahmed was positioned to turn any boxes that needed it before being labelled.

However, he was standing at a point where a safety interlock guard on the conveyor rollers and labeller had been deliberately defeated. When the machine failed to stick a label to a box, it ended up on one of the unguarded rollers. Mr Ahmed tried to pull it off but his right hand became trapped, injuring three fingers.

HSE discovered the safety interlock mechanism had been intentionally defeated, allowing workers to get too close to the dangerous moving parts.

Veetee Rice Ltd., of Veetee House, Neptune Close, Medway City Estate, Rochester, was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £5,492 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, thereby exposing workers to danger. An order of £500 in compensation against the company was made for Mr Ahmed.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Guy Widdowson said:

“Mr Ahmed was fortunate he was not more seriously injured and suffered no long term affects. It was an entirely preventable incident. The risks of production machinery are well recognised in the industry and Veetee Rice Ltd should have ensured that all machinery guarding mechanisms were not just in place but functioning properly.

“Veetee Rice Ltd was sentenced for an offence brought under the same Regulations just three years earlier, for a 2006 fatality of one of their staff, and patently did not sufficiently learn from that experience and the lessons it offered.

“Food production has one of the worst safety records within the manufacturing sector. Guards are critically-important elements and they can and do save injury and even life when working as they are intended.”

For information about safe working in the food industry, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/food

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. Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work 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.”
  3. On 5 November 2009 at Maidstone Crown Court Veetee Rice Ltd was fined £140,000 for health and safety breaches after one of its employees died when his leg became entangled in a screw conveyor machine. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Veetee Rice Ltd for contravening regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £20,500. See http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2009/coise0111.htm

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