McCain Foods fined £700k after employee loses two fingers

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The company was fined £700,000 earlier this month. Credit: Getty/nirat
The company was fined £700,000 earlier this month. Credit: Getty/nirat

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Frozen food manufacturer McCain Foods has been fined £700,000 after an employee lost two of his fingers.

The incident occurred at a McCain site in Lincolnshire on 2 September 2019 where Tom Matthews, from Grantham, had been working on the night shift.

Matthews was cleaning the company’s batter system machinery, when the 33-year-old attempted to remove string dangling from a chute which resulted in his left hand being drawn in and contacting the machine’s rotary valve. His index and middle finger were later amputated due to the incident.

In order to ensure that others avoid future accidents of this nature, Matthews now champions health and safety in his current job at a different company.

The last four years have been hard and an ongoing struggle both physically and mentally​,” Matthews said.

I still have circulation problems in my left hand following the incident that should never have happened.While I’m currently working, my new role is with the health and safety team at a different company as I want to use my story as an example to others and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again​.”

The subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that McCain Foods had failed to provide appropriate guarding to prevent access to the dangerous parts of machinery, namely the rotary valve. It had also not conducted an adequate risk assessment of the batter machine and had failed to provide employees with adequate health and safety training or supervision.

As a result, McCain Foods (G.B.) Limited, of Havers Hill, Eastfield, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Section 11(1) of Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

The company was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay £6,508.51 in costs at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court earlier this month (22 November 2023).

HSE inspector Muir Finlay said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided had the company taken simple steps to guard dangerous parts of machinery and provide employees with suitable training and supervision.

Companies and individuals should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards​.”

The prosecution was led by HSE enforcement lawyer Jonathan Bambro and supported by Rubina Abdul-Karim.

McCain Foods has issued the following statement: "At McCain, we take the health and safety of our colleagues extremely seriously and have co-operated fully throughout all stages of this case. Since the incident in 2019, we have further enhanced our machinery safety measures, and across our six UK sites we have had zero employee safety incidents over the past 12 months. We sincerely regret this incident and extend our apologies to Tom Matthews and his family​."

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