The accident happened while the teenager, who cannot be named due to his age, was clearing a blockage on a biscuit crumbing machine at the firm’s Bilston plant at Atlas Trading Estate, Cross Street on November 25 2011.
Rotating screw blade
When the worker reached too far into the hopper, his right hand was pulled into a screw conveyor. This machine uses a rotating screw blade to break biscuits as they travel up a tube.
The worker injured a number of fingers but his middle finger was damaged so severely it had to be amputated.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that both the hopper and the screw conveyor were unguarded. They had been operated without guards since the machine was bought several years earlier.
Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court heard that the worker, who is now 17, and who left the bakery company after the accident was working part-time before he started a college plumbing course. Although he missed two months of the course due to the accident, the court was told he has since made good progress and is catching up with his peers.
Phoenix Brands pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Wolverhampton magistrates fined the company £7,000 with full costs of £4,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Evans said: “To be injured so seriously just a few weeks into his working life has been profoundly upsetting for this young man. The incident was entirely avoidable.”
Evans added that Phoenix Brands had not identified properly the risks of clearing blockages. If the risks had been categorised appropriately at the Bilston plant, workers would not have been able to access dangerous moving parts of machinery.
"The company has since fitted a guard,” said Evans. “It is just a shame they did not do this before someone suffered life-changing injuries.”