Vitacress Salads Limited was prosecuted for safety failings at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court, following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Magistrates were told the operator of the bagging line – who asked to remain anonymous – had reached under the machine’s guard to pull film through the machine on the day of the accident: April 21, 2015.
But the heat sealing and cutting jaws of the machine closed on his fingers – amputating his left middle and ring fingers.
An investigation by the HSE revealed the bagging machine had a hole cut in the interlocked guards to allow larger bags of salad out of the machine on a conveyor. The hole meant the operator had access to the bagging machine’s heat sealing and cutting jaws.
Commenting after the hearing, HSE inspector Kate Clark said: “Cutting a hole in the guards led to access to dangerous parts being possible.
“The company had not properly considered the risks from making this alteration.”
Vitacress Salads Limited, of Lower Link St Mary Bourne, Andover, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), and was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,088.
Meanwhile, packaging machines are used in most manufacturing industries, but the food and drink sector has the highest number, with the pharmaceutical industries the second largest user.
Food and drink manufacturing
While it is impossible to pinpoint an injury rate for any particular type of machine, HSE research in food and drink manufacturing revealed the types packaging machine that require particular attention.
Those were: conveyors, thermoform, fill and seal machines, palletisers and de-palletisers, Pre-formed rigid container machines, wrapping machines, pallet wrapping machines, group packaging machines and strapping machines.
“Injuries arising from the use, maintenance or clearing blockages at packaging machines can be severe or even fatal – for example with palletizers,” according to the HSE website.
HSE advice on avoiding accidents involving packaging machines is available here.
High risk packaging machines
- Thermoform, fill and seal machines
- Palletisers and de-palletisers
- re-formed rigid container machines
- Wrapping machines
- Pallet wrapping machines
- Group packaging machines
- Strapping machines