Packaging firm fined after worker dragged into machine

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Packaging firm fined after worker dragged into machine

Related tags: Occupational safety and health, Hse

A food packaging company in the UK has been ordered to pay almost £32,000 (€38,000) ) for flouting safety regulations after one of its workers suffered serious injuries after being pulled into a machine.

Elliott Absorbent Products Ltd, of Manchester, England, was fined £27,500 and ordered to pay legal costs of £4,389 following the accident in which a 35-year-old man was pulled into a laminator used to produce absorbent pads for meat.

The worker was left with severe friction burns to his arms, chest and stomach, requiring skin grafts to both his arms after being hauled into the equipment by two giant rollers (see picture right).

The company was prosecuted by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at its Greenvale Business Park factory, in Littleborough, on 22 October 2009. It pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Infra-red sensor disabled

Manchester Crown Court heard the packaging outfit had switched off an infra-red sensor, designed to stop the machine operating when someone approached the rollers. The company, which supplies major supermarket chains across Europe, had shut off the sensor because paper dust generated by the machine had been triggering it.

An investigation carried out by the safety watchdog found the company had failed to provide an alternative safety guard until after the incident. A pressure mat was fitted in the aftermath of the incident which stopped the machine working when someone stepped on it.

The court was also told that Elliott had previously been served with three Improvement Notices in May 2008, because there were inadequate guards on three other machines at its factory at Blueberry Business Park, in Rochdale. The company complied with the notices within a month of them being issued.

Elliott declined to comment on the issue when contacted by FoodProductionDaily.com today.

‘Didn’t do enough’

The firm was criticised by the HSE for failing to protect the welfare of its workers and failing to learn lessons from the notices in 2008.

“Sadly a worker has suffered permanent scarring because Elliott didn’t do enough to look after the safety of its workers,”​ said Sarah Taylor, investigating inspector at the body.

She added: “The three enforcement notices HSE served following a visit to the company’s Rochdale factory in 2008 should have acted as a wake-up call to check the guards on all its machines. But the infra-red sensor on the machine at the company’s Littleborough factory was disabled without considering why it was there in the first place – to prevent workers being injured.”

The HSE said there were 25 deaths and more than 19,000 serious injuries in the manufacturing industry in Great Britain last year.

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