A South Yorkshire food manufacturer has been ordered to pay £7,000, after one of its workers lost the tip of her finger in an accident involving a badly-guarded machine at its Doncaster factory.
The worker, Junu Thapa, aged 37, severed the end of the ring finger on her left hand as she tried to clear a blockage in a packing machine at King Asia Foods’s plant on November 9 2010.
Doncaster Magistrates heard that Thapa was working in the production area at the firm's Carr industrial estate when the accident happened. A mobile screw conveyor was being used to fill a packing machine with powdered ingredients but the machine had a reputation for blocking regularly.
Dangerous screw part
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the fixed guard over the top of the hopper, which prevented workers getting access to the dangerous screw part, had been modified. The guard should have been fixed at all four corners, but was fixed only at only two. That allowed it to be lifted while the machine was running.
The worker tried to clear a blockage while the machine was operating and her hand slipped, hitting the screw mechanism. She was released from hospital after treatment on the same day and later found work with another firm.
Safe system of work
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lincoln Marks said: "This incident would not have been possible had the fixed guard not been modified, and had a safe system of work for clearing blockages been established by King Asia Foods and understood by all employees.
"The risks from screw conveyors are well understood in industry and yet poor controls against those risks continue to be a major cause of serious injury.”
Marks said the case highlights the dangers of companies not properly safeguarding their employees, and the importance of robust management systems for the checking of guarding arrangements.
King Asia Foods, of Middlebank, Doncaster, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,506 after admitting breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
Meanwhile, the latest HSE figures show 28 people died while working in the British manufacturing industry between 2010 and 2011.
More than 3,800 workers were injured.