Dried fruit supplier fined £8k for safety failings

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Whitworth's failed to protect its worker against dangerous moving machinery parts, said the HSE
Whitworth's failed to protect its worker against dangerous moving machinery parts, said the HSE

Related tags Occupational safety and health

Dried fruit, nuts and seeds supplier Whitworths Limited has been fined £8,000, after one of its workers was injured in a machinery accident.

The worker – who asked to remain anonymous – was trying to clear a blockage in a machine at the firm’s Wellingborough site on 24 October 2014.

After removing a flexible hose attached to a short length of outlet pipe, the worker’s hand touched the rotating blades of a rotary valve, Northampton Magistrates’ Court was told, during a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Amputated part of a finger

The blades amputated part of a finger on her right hand, resulting in serious injury.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Michelle Morrison said the firm’s failure to adequately guard the machine was responsible for the accident.

“Had the company ensured access to the dangerous moving parts of the rotary valve was prevented, by ensuring the length of the pipe complied with British Standards, then this young woman would not have lost the top of one of her fingers,”​ said Morrison.

Whitworths Limited, of Wellingborough Road, Irthlingborough, Wellingborough, was fined a total of £8,000, and ordered to pay £1,653 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998.

Pleading guilty

The firm fully accepted the court’s judgement, a spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “Whitworths would like to express its regret that a colleague suffered an injury whilst at work. Whitworths is committed to the health and safety of all those that work on its premises and has co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive in all matters related to this incident.

“Whitworths is grateful for the testimony of the Health & Safety Executive that reflected the company’s commitment to Health and Safety and the high standards of its past Health and Safety record.”

The manufacturer produces home baking and cooking ingredients – including fruit and nuts in pre-prepared, chopped, ground, roasted and toasted form – and snack pack products.

HSE advice about safe machinery guarding is available on the executive’s website​.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Baxters was fined £60,000 after a worker suffered life-changing injuries​ on one its production lines at Fochabers in Scotland last year.

HSE machinery advice

Ensure the machine is:

  • safe for any work that has to be done when setting up, during normal use, when clearing blockages, when carrying out repairs for breakdowns, and during planned maintenance
  • properly switched off, isolated or locked-off before taking any action to remove blockages, clean or adjust the machine

Identify and protect against risks from:

  • electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic power supplies
  • badly designed safeguards. These may be inconvenient to use or easily overridden, which could encourage your workers to risk injury and break the law. If they are, find out why they are doing it and take appropriate action to deal with the reasons/causes

Source: HSE

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