Ellen Yardley, 37, from Derbyshire, suffered a fractured middle finger and cuts on December 17 2009, after attempting to clean the inside of a machine during a break in production. Yardley's cleaning cloth became tangled, and her right hand was pulled into the rotating parts of the machine.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed that the accident involved a foil wrapping machine, and described the safety guarding on the machine as “inadequate”.
A further audit revealed that other machines in the factory needed safety improvements, including improvements to dangerous parts and repairs to existing safety guards.
HSE inspector, Stuart Parry said that if the firm had carried out a proper assessment of its machinery, its workers would not have been put at risk.
He said: “Thorntons should never have allowed the machinery guarding to fall below the legal safety standards. It was effectively asking employees to work on machines that put them at risk of injury.”
“It was entirely foreseeable that the inadequate guarding could lead to injury and even if Ms Yardley had not used a cloth, her hand could still have been drawn into the machine while cleaning it.”
On January 9, Thorntons pleaded guilty to the charges at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court, brought by the HSE as a result of two breaches in safety regulations.
The firm was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,680.
A spokeswoman for Thorntons told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Thorntons accepts the court's decision regarding the fine imposed in relation to the two technical breaches. Providing a safe workplace for our employees is a priority and we deeply regret that one of our colleagues was injured in this instance.”
Thorntons said that it has carried out a full review of procedures and systems following the accident.
Meanwhile, in November 2011 the HSE said that workers employed by food manufacturers are nearly twice as likely to suffer a major injury in the workplace compared with their colleagues in other sectors of the manufacturing industry.
Food businesses topped the list for the sector after reporting 784 major injuries to staff in the past five years. That represents 265.7 injuries sustained per every 100,000 employees during the period.
To view Thorntons latest financial results, click here.