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October 25, 2010

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Pizza factory ignored order to protect workers

A pizza manufacturer has appeared in front of magistrates after it ignored an Improvement Notice, which required it to install edge protection around an open first floor doorway.

On 29 July 2009, the HSE made an unannounced visit to Capri Foods Ltd’s factory on the Worton Hall Industrial Estate in Isleworth, Middlesex. The inspector noticed an unguarded doorway, which led from a storage room on the first floor to the outside of the building. The doorway was used to load and unload goods from a forklift, which was operating from the yard four metres below. At the time of the visit, the forklift was not being used and the doorway had been left open with nothing to prevent workers from falling out of the building.

The firm was issued with an Improvement Notice, which required edge protection to be installed by 1 November 2009. The inspector returned to the facility on 9 December and found that no attempt had been made to comply with the notice.

Capri Foods appeared at City of London Magistrates’ Court on 22 October and pleaded guilty to breaching s22 of the HSWA for failing to comply with an enforcement notice, and reg.6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £7500 for each offence and ordered to pay £2607 in costs.

In mitigation, the company said it had no previous convictions and had previously been commended for its food-hygiene standards at the factory. It complied with the notice by installing sliding gates in the doorway, which can be operated by a remote control.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Steve Kirton commented: “Falls from height remain one of the biggest dangers in the workplace, accounting for a fifth of all deaths and scores of serious injuries in the food-manufacturing sector alone, according to our latest official figures.

“So it’s incredibly frustrating to see a company like Capri Foods blatantly ignoring calls to protect employees when such a clear and obvious risk has been identified. Fortunately, no one was hurt on this occasion, but the consequences of falling through that door could have been horrific.”

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