A food packaging company in Gateshead have been fined as a result of a worker seriously injuring their hand when it was caught in a machine between a feed belt and a drive roller.
The employee was working as a trainee for a company in Team Valley when the incident happened on 22nd November 2013.
The worker was preparing a new run of cartons on a machine which cuts windows and film onto packaging.
He removed some parts of the feed section of the machine, leaving only the drive roller and feed belts in place. The machine was running and as he attempted to swap two belts, lifting one over the other with his hand, his finger was caught between the belt and roller.
The top of his right index finger was removed. He had to undergo two operations on his hand and was off work for two months. He still struggles with pinching movement between finger and thumb.
The Health and safety executive (HSE) prosecuted the firm at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court for a range of serious safety failings after an investigation into the incident.
The injured man had not worked with that size of carton before and had not been clearly instructed that the machinery should have been switched off before the task was carried out.
Magistrates heard the company had been prosecuted in 2009 following an incident when it was found there was no guard in place on a different nip point on a similar machine. In addition HSE had served an Improvement Notice on the company in 2007 relating to the training of operators of the machines.
The firm were fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £941.35 in costs to the court after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing the HSE inspector said:
“This incident could have been easily prevented if the firm had suitable measures in place to ensure workers did not come into contact with the nip point on the machine. In this case the machine should have been switched off.
“HSE had taken enforcement action against the company on previous occasions yet it chose to ignore the lessons of the recent past and once again it put workers at risk.
“There was no safe system of work in place for the task as well as a lack of instructions and training to ensure workers knew how to carry out the task safely.
“Instead, the firm’s failures mean a worker suffered a severe injury, losing the tip of his finger.”
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 states: ‘It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.