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November 4, 2008

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Jammed machine costs marmalade maker

A factory worker had the tip of her finger sliced off when she tried to unblock an orange peel-shredding machine at a jam and marmalade manufacturer’s premises in Essex.

Colchester magistrates heard on 15 October that the woman had been using the 40-year-old machine, which had repeatedly become blocked, at the Tiptree factory of Wilkin & Sons on 22 February 2008. While she was trying to clear the blockage, she was able to reach into the machine. Her hand came into contact with a rotating bladed roller, which sliced off the end of her left index finger.

“The worker should have switched the machine off before trying to clear the blockage, but a bigger safety guard should have been fitted so that she would not have been able to reach inside,” Kim Wicks, the HSE inspector who investigated the incident and prosecuted it in court, told SHP. “Staff were not adequately trained in the machine’s use.”

The company mitigated that it had a very good safety record and there had been no previous accidents on the machine. It has since held a fundamental review of health and safety at the factory.

Wilkin & Sons was fined a total of £4000 and ordered to pay full HSE costs of £2855 after pleading guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by failing to safeguard its employees, and to a breach of reg.11(2) of PUWER 1998 by failing to prevent access to dangerous machinery parts. It was fined £3000 on the first charge and £1000 on the second.

Inspector Wicks concluded: “This case illustrates how things can go wrong when risks are not properly controlled. HSE will not hesitate to take action against those who fall short of the law in such a way.”

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