Shepherd Neame brewery fined for severed finger

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Billy Scanlan still suffers phantom pain and flashbacks
Billy Scanlan still suffers phantom pain and flashbacks

Related tags Hand Finger

Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewery business, has been ordered to pay more than £11,000 for safety failings, after a young worker suffered a severed finger in an unguarded machine.

The 21-year old agency worker Billy Scanlan, from Sheerness, was hosing down a running machine in a fenced-off area when the accident happened at the brewery’s Court Street site in Faversham, Kent on June 23 2014.

Maidstone Magistrates’ Court was told last week (January 29) the worker slipped and instinctively shot out his left arm to regain his balance. But his hand came into contact with the operating parts of the machine and was drawn in by a sprocket at the end of a conveyor.

Index finger had been severed

While Scanlan – who had worked at the site for more than a year – managed to pull his arm back to free his hand, the top part of his index finger had been severed and his thumb and middle finger crushed.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the brewer had failed to ensure staff could not access dangerous moving parts of the machine.

Although the area around the machine was protected with interlocks and lightguards, Scanlan used a maintenance gate that wasn’t interlocked to access the area where he slipped. The machine kept running during the accident because no automatic shut-off had been fitted.

The accident resulted in the amputation of his left finger and repairs to his thumb and middle finger. Still suffering significant phantom pain and flashbacks, he has been unable to return to work.

Phantom pain and flashbacks

The HSE probe revealed the maintenance gate had been secured only sporadically since installation. An earlier HSE inspection in 2012 noted the gate had been left open. At the time, the company agreed to lock and secure the gate as soon as the line became operational after repairs.

Despite this agreement, the accident proved little had changed, claimed the HSE.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Rob Hassell said the accident was entirely-preventable. “Shepherd Neame was aware of the guarding requirements for such a machine, but neglected to make sure that these safety measures were fully and consistently implemented.”

Those failures led to the worker suffering a painful injury that has permanent consequences, he added.

“Shepherd Neame had received previous advice from HSE on the same issue, but didn’t act sufficiently robustly to prevent this type of incident happening. All employers have a duty to protect their staff from risks they face doing their work and, in this case, that means making sure running machinery is effectively guarded.”

Shepherd Neame Ltd of Court Street, Faversham, Kent, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,007 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. 

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