A Kent-based firm Veetee Foods Ltd was prosecuted for safety failings by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), following the accident on March 22 2012.
The 24-year old worker, Craig Brandie, from Maidstone was injured when he joined colleagues to clean the sealing machine after an oil leak.
Medway Magistrates’ Court was told this week (March 18) that an HSE investigation had revealed the machine’s safety guards had been disabled. Magistrates heard that the accident happened at the start of a nightshift at the firm’s Medway City Estate, Rochester, after production was halted to remedy an oil leak on a machine that sealed containers of cooked food.
Crushed index finger
The injured worker suffered a crushed index finger while cleaning a conveyor section of the machine. When the machine began running, the sealer mechanism clamped down, trapping his left hand until colleagues were able to free him.
The HSE investigation revealed the interlocked safety gate to the machine had been de-activated, enabling workers to contact dangerous moving machinery parts. Since the firm had failed to check the guards, the safety watchdog was unable to determine how long the function had been disabled.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said: “If Veetee Foods Ltd had ensured machinery guards were in place and being used, their employee would not have been harmed. Indeed, it was more down to luck that such an event did not lead to a more serious injury.
“Far too many workers are injured because they have come into contact with dangerous machinery that should be properly guarded. It is critical that safety mechanisms are in place, fully functioning and regularly checked.”
Veetee Foods Ltd, of Invicta House, Sir Thomas Longley Road, Rochester, was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,023 costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
The global firm produces dry rice products, supplying customers in more than 70 countries worldwide.
Last month Dina Foods Ltd was ordered to pay £5,400 by Westminster Magistrates Court, after a worker suffered serious finger injuries, while cleaning a poorly-guarded machine.
More HSE information on the safe use of equipment and machinery is available here.