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November 30, 2012

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Fish-firm boss escapes fine for finger-entrapment incident

Strong mitigation helped persuade a court to give the owner of a food business a conditional discharge in relation to an incident in which a worker crushed his hand in a machine.

Ian Goldstein, who runs Goldstein Smoke Salmon, avoided a fine following the incident at the firm’s premises in Stanmore, Harrow, with magistrates indicating that the sentence was “exceptional”.

The court heard that Goldstein employed Ernest Henderson, 43, as a maintenance manager. On 17 December 2010, Mr Henderson was attempting to repair a fish-skinning machine, which was making a loud screeching noise when it was in operation.

He removed the guards from the machine before switching it on. A rag he was holding for cleaning got caught and his right hand was pulled into the machine’s cogging mechanism. His hand was severely crushed and the damage to his index finger was such that it had to be amputated at hospital. He has returned to work but now has difficulty carrying out some of the day-to-day tasks involved in his job.

An investigation was launched by the HSE, which found Mr Henderson had not been trained in how to repair the machine. The company had failed to adequately assess his competence to repair machinery and he was left unsupervised when completing maintenance work. There was also no safe system of work in place for the machine’s repair and its emergency-stop buttons weren’t operational.

“This incident was entirely avoidable,” said HSE inspector James Caren. “Had Mr Goldstein recognised the dangers of carrying out maintenance work on factory machinery and provided a safe system of work, it would have never happened. But he failed to assess the risks or provide Mr Henderson with the required control measures to keep him safe.

“He should have also checked Mr Henderson’s competence regularly and provided proper training, instruction and supervision.”

Goldstein appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 22 November and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was given a two-year conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £1609 in costs.

After the hearing, Jeremy Barnett, the barrister who represented Goldstein, contacted SHP to provide mitigation. He said: “The magistrates indicated that this was an exceptional sentence at the very bottom of the sentencing guidelines, in view of the powerful mitigating features that were raised.”

The court heard that Goldstein had no previous convictions and had fully cooperated with the investigation before entering a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. It was also said that Mr Henderson accepted the incident was an “act of folly” on his behalf and that he used his own initiative to repair the machine.

Mr Henderson has received compensation for his injury.


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