Fudge firm fined £7k after worker loses thumb

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

HSE: 'preventing workers from getting too close to moving parts of machinery is vital'
HSE: 'preventing workers from getting too close to moving parts of machinery is vital'

Related tags Guard Hse

A Leeds-based chocolate and fudge manufacturer has been fined £7,000 after an employee lost a thumb while cleaning an unguarded stirring machine.

Maria Pirie, 46, from Sherburn-in-Elmet, was cleaning the chocolate hopper at the end of a trial product run at the Pecan Candy Deluxe (Europe) site in the Moor Lane Trading Estate when the incident happened.

Pirie, who was not fully trained and was cleaning the machine by herself for the first time, moved the stirrer using the control buttons. Her left thumb was sliced off as the stirrer moved, trapping it between the side of the vessel and the stirrer.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Pecan Candy Deluxe for failing to properly guard the machine’s dangerous moving parts.

Leeds Magistrates heard the incident, on 25 January 2013, could have been prevented by a simple interlocked guard, which the company had fitted quickly afterwards.

Surgically re-attached

Pirie’s thumb was surgically re-attached but will never function as before. Being left-handed she has had to relearn how to write and has difficulties with everyday tasks.

The court was told the company had been served with an Improvement Notice by HSE in January 2012 regarding the guarding of mixers following a visit by an inspector.

Pecan Candy Deluxe (Europe) Ltd, of Moor Lane Trading Estate, Sherburn-in-Elmet, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £627 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

‘Painful and lasting injury’

“This incident need not, and should not, have happened​,” said HSE inspector Rachel Brittain. “The company could easily have prevented access to the dangerous parts of the chocolate hopper by making sure it was effectively guarded. It did not and Ms Pirie has suffered a painful and lasting injury as a result.

“Preventing workers from getting too close to moving parts of machinery is vital. Pecan Deluxe Candy had been subject to an enforcement notice on guarding before this incident but obviously didn’t sustain the improvements required.

“Too many are injured, limbs are lost and even fatalities can and do happen because employers fail to guard machinery adequately. Employees must also be well trained and supervised.”

The HSE warned that machinery and plant caused more than 30% of fatal injuries and more than 10% of major injuries each year in the food and drink industry.

Related topics Confectionery

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1 comment

Can HSE Enforce Rules Before "Accidents"

Posted by Duncan,

The article would seem to highlight that Safety is still not the number one priority of businesses and that the HSE is toothless when it comes to enforcement and fines:
1. the company involved in the incident did not correct establish safety protocols for the equipment concerned;
2. the company involved [negligently?] did not progress the Improvement Notice issued by the HSE (12 months earlier) on fitting guards to mixing equipment;
3. the HSE seems not to have followed up on their Improvement Notice to have guards fitted, in the following months;
4. the comany involved had not fully trained the indiviudal before allowing her to work alone on the equipment;
5. despite failing to risk assess, fit guards after the Improvement Notice and allowing a not fully trained employee to lone work ont he equipment, the HSE could only convict the organisation to the tune of a fine of £7000+costs.
CONCLUSSION: companies may continue to take short cuts, particularly if it seems Improvement Notices are unenforceable, taking a chance that no "accident" will happen, rather than invest a small cost to remidy the situation. Maybe, there are businesses out therer who will even accept an "accident" will happen if the fines are so tiny.

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