Loscoe Chilled Foods Limited has been fined after an employee severed the tip of his finger in a mincing machine. The man injured his left index finger as he tried to remove meat from a blade on the machine at Loscoe Chilled Foods Limited’s Grange Farm factory.
The court heard that the machine had been stopped and was slowing down when the employee went to collect a tub of mince from the end of the production line. He noticed some had got stuck in the outfeed so he removed the guard and reached in to remove the mince. However, his hand came into contact with the still-moving blade. He required emergency surgery at hospital and was off work for three weeks before later retiring.
Clearly this man did not set out to hurt himself but was trying to do a task that he thought would help his employer; unfortunately a lack of appreciation of the risks led to this painful injury. I regularly see cases where employees remove guards or take short cuts to get jobs done and the results often result in injuries. Only recently we helped another business to understand some of the risks its workforce was placing themselves in by the way they operated the machinery in its factory. In this case many guards had been removed or ways of working added to defeat the guarding in trying to keep production flowing. Unfortunately, the HSE had become involved following some accidents on site and the business was instructed to get independent advice on the standard of guarding needed; which is why they came to MESH.
For Loscoe Chilled Foods the HSE investigation found that while the guard was not required to be fixed, it was only supposed to be removed by a trained operative with a specific method followed. The employee had not been trained to perform that task, so did not follow the correct procedure.
The court also heard the company had failed to implement a proper training system for the machine, despite a similar incident having occurred in the past and specific advice having been given by HSE. Loscoe Chilled Foods Limited was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay £16,192 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
The HSE inspector on the case commented that the fact that a specific procedure had to be carried out to remove the guard shows the firm recognised the risk, yet it failed to ensure its employees were adequately trained and supervised. There was a lack of control which resulted in a man suffering a painful injury.
If your business has machinery of any type then I would suggest that you relook at your risk assessments and ensure they reflect how the job is actually done as opposed to how you would like the work to be done. Often, these are vastly different – particularly if you operate a shift system. Importantly, make sure your workforce is fully trained as doing a task they have not been trained in is a contributing factor in too many incidents.