Braford Crown Court heard how Nazar Hussain died at Nestlé’s Albion Mill plant, Halifax in December 2008 after a colleague started a conveyor-type machine known as a depalletiser unaware that anyone was inside.
Father of three Hussain may have gone into the depalletiser to remove a blockage, the court was told. Earlier in the day large sweet tins had jammed the machine, causing the alarm to sound.
When the machine’s alarm sounded again, Hussain’s co-worker went to investigate. After checking no one was inside, he re-started the machine but it shuddered, stopped and the alarm re-sounded.
Hussain was discovered inside the machine and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Failed to ensure
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that while a safety device to halt the machine was available, Nestlé failed to ensure its employees were aware of its purpose and how to use it.
The firm had received written advice about improving guarding on a palletiser in 2002 but had not applied that advice to the machine operated by Hussain, according to the HSE.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jackie Ferguson said: "This was a terrible tragedy that could have been so easily avoided. Nestlé failed to ensure robust systems were in place to control safe entry into the depalletiser and prevent the machine being re-started while someone was in the danger zone.
"A family has been left without a father and a provider due to Nestlé's inexcusable negligence. If anything positive is to come out of this terrible incident it is that other firms take note.”
During the past five years there have been 44 serious accidents, including one fatality and two dangerous occurrences, involving palletisers and depalletisers. Six cases resulted in prosecution, said the HSE.
Nestlé pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay £41,826 in costs.
The firm told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Our first priority has always been the health and safety of our employees and we deeply regret this accident happened.”
Nestlé said that after the accident it had conducted a full investigation of its health and safety processes. “Corrective action and improvements have been instigated to prevent anything similar from happening again,” it said.