The accident happened at Tattenhall Dairy Products Ltd – which produces Cheshire Farm Ice Cream – at Drumlan Hall Farm on August 8 2013 when an employee, aged 60 was asked to clean the fruit feeder in preparation for the next batch of ice cream.
The woman worker – who asked to remain anonymous – assumed the machine was switched off, Chester Magistrates’ Court was told yesterday (March 26). When she tried to remove pieces of cookies at the back of the machine with her left index finger, it became caught by the rotating blades. Her finger was severed below the second knuckle.
Dangerous moving parts
Workers were told to clean the machine up to three times every day, magistrates heard during a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Before cleaning began, employees removed the chute which fed in the fruit, resulting in potential exposure to dangerous moving parts.
While workers had been told to switch off the machine before cleaning began, no other safety measures were put in place to protect them, according to an HSE investigation. That failure meant there was a high risk of injury if they forgot to check the machine was indeed switched off.
After the accident the firm installed an interlocking device to automatically cut power from the machine when the chute is removed.
Speaking after the ruling, HSE inspector Lorna Sherlock said since the fruit feeder needed to be cleaned several times every day, it was “almost inevitable” that an employee would forget to check it was switched off on one occasion.
‘Lost her index finger’
“Tattenhall Dairy Products should have had suitable guarding or, as a minimum, a robust safe system of work in place to make sure no one was injured but there was none. A worker lost her index finger as a result,” said Sherlock.
“It would have been relatively easy to fit a device to the machine which automatically cut the power when the chute was removed. However, the company waited until after the incident before making this vital safety improvement.”
Tattenhall Dairy Products Ltd, of Newton Lane in Tattenhall, was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £11,287.22 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
HSE advice on improving workplace safety is available here.