Journalist, SHP Online

July 6, 2017

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In-court

The safety year in review: The Warburtons legal case

Warburtons

Warburtons (Copyright: Wikipedia/ozz13x)

The incident

Bread giant Warburtons has received a £1.9m fine after pleading guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, after an agency worker was injured when his arm became trapped in a machine for 20 minutes. The company, which registers an annual pre-tax profit of £34m, was also fined £2m earlier this year following an incident in which a worker sustained life changing injuries following a fall. Prior to the changes to the sentencing guidelines the company was fined £5,000 in 2014 after a worker seriously injured his hand.

Guarding of machines was inconsistent. Remedial steps were simple and not unduly expensive.

In the most recent case, agency worker Wayne Thorpe became trapped in a machine which he was cleaning. It was heard how Mr Thorpe’s right arm became trapped between a conveyor belt and moulder as he attempted to clean out dough which had become caught between tins. He was left with friction burns requiring skin grafts.

The 44-year-old, who was born profoundly deaf but had been given a cochlear implant and had recently become able to hear, died nearly a fortnight after the incident, although it was said that his death was not connected to his injuries.

In Court

Nottingham Crown Court heard how the worker had been at the company’s Eastwood plant for three years when the incident happened in August 2015.

Tim Pole of the HSE said in court that following Mr Thorpe’s arm becoming trapped another worker pressed an “emergency stop button”, but this did not prevent a conveyor belt from continuing to turn. It was brought to a standstill when another employee put his hand through “a light curtain.”

Mr Thorpe was freed 20 minutes after becoming trapped, following engineers dismantling the equipment. He received first aid and was taken to hospital.

The court heard Mr Thorpe died from a “kidney infection and pre-existing heart condition” two weeks after the incident, but it had not “caused or contributed to his death.”


See more on Warburtons on SHP:

Warburtons sentenced after maintenance worker injured

Experts comment on Warburton’s £2m fine


Sentencing

Warburtons Ltd of Mushroom Farm Eastwood, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £1.9 million and ordered to pay full costs of £21,459.71.

Judge Rosalind Coe QC was told that cleaning was not one of Mr Thorpe’s roles, but she said: “He was clearly trying to be a good employee.”

She said that the 40mm trapping point was “overlooked”.

“Guarding of machines was inconsistent. Remedial steps were simple and not unduly expensive.” She added.

Mitigation

On behalf of Warburtons, Dan Compton QC, said that agency workers were not expected to clean but he had been doing this, adding that cleaning was meant to be done by trained staff at the end of a production run, and that they had keys and padlocks to ensure the job was done safely.

After the hearing, a spokesperson for Warburtons said: “The health and safety of all our people is our first priority and we are deeply saddened that on this occasion our procedures failed to protect Wayne. We have taken the necessary action across our bakeries to prevent this happening again.”

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Edward Walker, said: “Warburtons failed to guard the machine sufficiently to prevent access to the running conveyors, which in this case could have prevented the injuries.

“Employers should ensure that all equipment used by agency and their own workers alike are sufficiently guarded and take appropriate measures if any deficiencies are found.”

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