Whisky packaging firm told to pay £219k for severed fingers

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Smurfit kappa, Accident

The pressing tool stamped down on both the worker’s hands, Carlise Court was told
The pressing tool stamped down on both the worker’s hands, Carlise Court was told
The packaging firm Smurfit Kappa has been ordered to pay £219,000, after a worker lost four fingers and severed parts of two others in an accident with a whisky packaging machine at its Whitehaven factory, Cumbria on September 14 2010.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the employee had not received suitable training and was not appropriately supervised when the accident took place.

Carlisle Crown Court was told that the 25-year-old from Egremont had been working on a machine, known as a power press, which exerts forces of up to 35t to stamp out metal lids, used at the ends of cardboard tubes to package whisky bottles.

Pressing tool

The worker, who asked not to be named, had been changing the part of the machine used to produce the lids. As he was testing the machine to ensure it produced the correct lid size, the pressing tool stamped down on both of his hands.

As a result of his injuries, the man lost the little and ring fingers on his left hand, and the ring and middle fingers on his right hand. The little and index fingers on his right hand were also severed at the second knuckle.

The HSE investigation revealed that the employee’s supervisor had left the company four months before the accident and that the employees who took over his supervision had not received suitable training.

‘No appropriate risk assessment’

Also the injured worker had also not been given sufficient training on how to operate the machine safely, and there was no appropriate risk assessment in place for the work.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Jewitt said: “The employee was off work for 10 months due to the extent of his injuries, but they will continue to affect him for the rest of his life. He now struggles with everyday activities, like writing and cutting food, which most of us take for granted.

"The risk of serious injury from power presses is well known in the manufacturing industry and the worker’s injuries could have been avoided if Smurfit Kappa had made sure he and his supervisors had been properly trained.”

Jewitt added that similar accidents would continue “if employers don't take the risks seriously”.

Smurfit Kappa UK pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company, of Water Street in Pier Head, Liverpool, was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £19,308 in prosecution costs.

Related topics: Drinks, Packaging equipment

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