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November 11, 2008

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Factory fined GBP 30k after worker loses finger

A Chichester factory has been fined after an employee lost a finger while cleaning a carrot-dicing machine.

Natures Way Foods Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching reg 3 (1) of MHSWR 1999 and reg 11 (1) of PUWER 1998, and was fined £30,000 with costs of £16,282 at Chichester Crown Court, on 4 November.

The incident occurred on 27 July last year, when a Polish employee was asked to help clean an industrial carrot-dicer without having received suitable instructions. The worker was left unsupervised and began cleaning the machine without being aware of the possible dangers.

During the task she put her hand into the discharge chute, where the carrots are sliced before falling onto a conveyer belt. As a result she severed a finger on her right hand all the way down to the second knuckle.

In mitigation, Natures Way Foods told the court it had carried out a full investigation into the accident, which had revealed that the distance guard on the machine was not the correct dimension. This meant that the employee was not prevented from being able to access the dangerous part of the machine.

The firm also revealed that it has since undertaken a review of health and safety across the entire factory and spent a considerable amount of money on improvements.

HSE inspector David Swaite told SHP: “The accident could have easily been avoided if the company had put in place an effective risk assessment. This would have identified that the distance guard was not suitable and needed replacing.

“Natures Way Foods should have provided sufficient training and instructions to all its employees that were in contact with the machine. It should also have ensured that its workforce was fully aware of the risks and safety measures required when using the device.”

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