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September 19, 2012

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Walkers takes rap for crisp-waste calamity

Snack-food giant Walkers has been fined £20,000 after a worker’s leg was crushed underneath a falling block of waste crisps.

The employee, who has asked not to be named, was working as a forklift driver at the company’s factory in Lincoln when the incident took place on 17 December 2010.

Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard the production line for Quavers had been stopped because of a blockage. To help them clear the blockage, workers removed waste pellets from the raw materials inside the machine and placed them into a large plastic box.

The waste pellets solidified into a block weighing 400kg and became stuck in the box. Having unsuccessfully tried to dig the waste material out of the box, two workers then used a forklift to turn over the box and dislodge the block. The vehicle then lifted the waste up to a large wheeled bin, in order to dispose of it, but it became wedged at the top. The men began pushing the bin across the factory floor, when it overturned and the block fell on to the leg of the forklift driver. He suffered a fracture to his lower left leg and was unable to return to work for 15 weeks.

The HSE investigated the incident and found the work hadn’t been planned, supervised, or carried out in a safe manner. The HSE noted the company had failed to identify the risks associated with the work, and found that an agency worker, who was not trained to use a forklift, had planned the job.

HSE inspector Scott Wynne said: “The task of devising a method to dispose of the waste pellets had been given to an agency worker who did not have the experience or training required to allow him to properly plan how the task should be carried out. As a result, it was carried out without supervision and, as the injuries to the employee suggest, the task was not carried out in a safe manner.

“Walkers Snack Foods Ltd also failed to properly assess the risks associated with the task, which should have formed an important part of the planning process. As such the risks were not fully appreciated by those workers involved in the task, and a man suffered serious injury.”

Walkers Snack Foods Ltd appeared in court on 17 September and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.3(1) of the MHSWR 1999 and reg.8(1) of LOLER 1998, for failing to safely plan a lifting operation. The firm was also ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the company stressed this was an isolated incident and the result of non-routine lifting operation. It also said it continues to invest heavily in health and safety.

After the hearing, a spokesperson from Walkers’ parent company, PepsiCo, apologised on behalf of the snack firm and added: “Walkers Snack Foods Ltd is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all our employees, customers and visitors. Immediate action was taken after the incident to ensure this does not happen on one of our sites again.”

In September 2010, Walkers Snack Foods was fined £200,000 for safety failings following the death of a worker, who was overcome by poisonous gas fumes during the delivery of chemicals.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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11 years ago

Fully agree it’s a management failing, Paul. However ‘delegate responsibility’ strikes me as a fancy way of saying ‘the shift manager didn’t want the hassle and couldn’t be bothered to sort it properly.’ Though it’s probably more succinct 🙂

11 years ago

Why would you delegate responsibility to devise a SSOW to an agency worker?
Sounds to me that they did not want rid of their directly employed staff and saw the agency employee as an easy target with the minimum of amount of damage to the staff resource. Agency worker probably did not have backing of unions either.
I think further mention of the root cause of this incident is required – that would be the management who thought it sufficient to delegate H&S repsonsibility to agency staff.