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Crisp manufacturer ordered to pay £15,000 for lost thumb

By Mike Stones , 13-Feb-2013
Last updated the 13-Feb-2013 at 17:15 GMT

Newport crisp manufacturer Sirhowy Valley Foods has been ordered to pay nearly £15,000, after a worker lost his thumb in an unguarded machine at its factory in Crumlin, Newport.

Brian Griffiths, from Bargoed, was clearing a blockage from a potato sorting machine at the factory on December 5 2011 when the accident happened.

Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard Griffiths was wearing gloves when he tried to clear the blockage in the unguarded machine while it was running.  

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed his right thumb became severed, after his glove became caught in between the rollers.

The usual company procedure for clearing machine blockages was to use a long-handled pole, the court was told. But, due to the need to clear blockages quickly, this method was not always implemented.

‘Very painful consequences’

After the prosecution, HSE inspector Stuart Charles said: “This incident could have been prevented if the machinery was properly guarded and a safe system for clearing blockages in the machine was in place. Sirhowy Valley Foods clearly failed to ensure the safety of its employees, with very painful consequences for Mr Griffiths.

“The law clearly states that employers should take practicable steps to protect employees from harm arising from their work. In the case of machinery, moving parts that could cause injury should be guarded or made safe so that people cannot come into contact with dangerous moving parts. Non-routine operations such as cleaning or maintenance are not exempt from this requirement.”

Sirhowy Valley Foods of Earlstrees Industrial Estate, Corby, Northants, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £6,914.

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