Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

December 1, 2014

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Warburtons sentenced after maintenance worker injured

Baking firm Warburtons Ltd has been prosecuted for safety failings after a maintenance worker seriously injured his hand when it was drawn into a conveyor at a Newcastle factory. He had been attempting to identify a fault on a hot tin slat conveyor belt at Warburtons’ premises on the Newburn Industrial Estate when the incident happened on 22 October 2013.

It was heard how he was lying on the floor holding a torch, which clipped the conveyor knocking it out of his hand. As he reached out to re-grab the torch, his hand was drawn into the roller on the underside of the machinery.

The 41-year-old, of Hebburn, South Tyneside, suffered an open fracture to his right hand and tissue damage, which required surgery. He was off work for more than two months and is still suffering from side effects relating to the injury.

Newcastle Magistrates’ Court was told on 27 November that an investigation by HSE found that access was possible to dangerous parts of machinery because only a crumb tray was being used as a guard, and the tray was only easily removed from the conveyor by quick release catches. This was a totally unsafe way to guard dangerous parts of machinery. In addition the machine should have been isolated from all power sources during this particular maintenance operation.

Magistrates heard this was not the first time this machine had been worked on without being isolated. The investigation found that the removal of guards for maintenance activities was commonplace at the bakery and not confined to the one machine.

HSE inspectors also established that fault tracking on other conveyors had been undertaken while machines were running, and that maintenance staff routinely removed fixed guards to access tracking points, which were close to the moving parts of machinery.

Warburtons Ltd, of Back O’Th’ Bank House, Hereford Street, Bolton, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,162.50 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

After the case, HSE inspector Sal Brecken said: “This worker’s injuries should not and need not have happened. This incident was easily preventable had Warburtons Ltd identified the risks from the maintenance activities and monitored the work undertaken by their employees.

“Guards and safety systems are there for a reason and companies have a legal duty to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times, especially during maintenance activities.

“Ideally, machines undergoing repair should be isolated from their power source. The measures Warburtons Ltd took following the incident could have easily been implemented beforehand and prevented it from occurring.”

Following the incident new guards were fitted to the machine involved, which meant they could only be removed using a specific tool. The company also produced specific systems of work for regular maintenance activities and ensured all relevant staff were trained in the new systems.

Warburtons was unavailable for comment when contacted by SHP.

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