Rice firm fined £35k for safety failings

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

The HSE has prosecuted Veetee Foods for the second time this month
The HSE has prosecuted Veetee Foods for the second time this month

Related tags Safety failings Guard

A rice processor has been fined for safety failings for a second time this year, after a worker crushed three fingers in unguarded machinery.

Kent-based Veetee Foods was prosecuted for safety failings by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), following the incident on March 27 2012.

On that occasion, employee Khalil Ahmed was injured using a machine with a guard that had been intentionally disabled at the firm’s factory on the Medway City Estate, Rochester.


The firm was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £5,492 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, thereby exposing workers to danger.

An order of £500 in compensation against the company was made for Mr Ahmed.

Maidstone Crown Court was told, earlier this week (May 27), that Ahmed was one of a number of employees working on a line where a machine was attaching labels to packets of rice. At one point, boxes were not lining up properly and he was positioned to turn any boxes that needed it before being labelled.

The HSE said he was standing at a point where a safety interlock guard on the conveyor rollers and labeller had been deliberately disabled. When the machine failed to stick a label to a box, it ended up on one of the unguarded rollers. Ahmed tried to pull it off but his right hand became trapped, injuring three fingers.

The HSE investigation revealed the safety interlock mechanism had been intentionally disabled, allowing workers to get too close to the dangerous moving parts.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said: “Mr Ahmed was fortunate he was not more seriously injured and suffered no long term affects. It was an entirely preventable incident.

“The risks of production machinery are well recognised in the industry and Veetee Rice should have ensured that all machinery guarding mechanisms were not just in place but functioning properly.”

Other incidents

In March this year, the firm was ordered to pay £15,000 for a separate incident​, on March 22 2012, in which another worker crushed his finger in an unguarded sealing machine.

In 2009, Veetee Rice was fined £140,000 for health and safety breaches after one of its employees died when his leg became entangled in a screw conveyor machine.

Widdowson said: “Veetee Rice was sentenced for an offence brought under the same Regulations just three years earlier, for a 2006 fatality of one of their staff, and patently did not sufficiently learn from that experience and the lessons it offered.

“Food production has one of the worst safety records within the manufacturing sector. Guards are critically-important elements and they can and do save injury and even life when working as they are intended.”

Related topics Legal Ambient foods

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