Company fined for repeated safety failings

An Essex-based company has been ordered to pay almost £33,000 after three employees sustained injuries in machinery in three separate incidents.

Two agency staff and a contracted worker, a maintenance engineer, were all hurt at the processing plant of fruit importer and distributor Winfresh (UK) Ltd.

If you have suffered an injury at work, then you could be eligible to make a work injury claim. Accident Advice Helpline would be happy to help you.

Repeated safety failings

The latest incident at the plant on High Cross Lane East, Little Canfield, Great Dunmow, happened on August 25, 2012 as a female agency employee cleaned beneath a conveyor on a production line.

Her gloved hand was pulled into the drive shaft and then lodged between rollers. She was forced to miss nearly three weeks of work with severe bruising to her lower arm.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found two prior occasions when employees’ hands became trapped in machinery. The firm was prosecuted for
persistent safety failings.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court was told on Tuesday that the plant processes and packs bananas. Foreign agency staff tend to work on the production lines, which are made up of several conveyors.

Workers forced off work for months

Investigators discovered the machinery had no guards on July 1, 2010 when an agency worker tried to get rid of an empty box from beneath a conveyor but instead got his hand caught in a drive chain after he lost his balance. The man lost part of his finger and could not work for two to three months.

On November 8, 2011, a maintenance engineer noticed a number of drive bands were not working on a conveyor. He brought the production line to a halt while he replaced the faulty bands before restarting it.

The worker then realised another free-running band was stuck. He decided against stopping the line this time and attempted to resolve the problem by flicking the band.

However, he instead managed to get his forefinger lodged in the machinery, leaving it broken and with tissue damage. Work was not an option for two to three months.

Hefty fine for three safety breaches

HSE inspectors said Winfresh UK Ltd did not conduct a satisfactory risk assessment despite the first incident highlighting guarding standards were not up to scratch.

In the case of the maintenance engineer, he had not been given enough training, was unsupervised and was unaware of correct isolation and safe working procedures.

Winfresh (UK) Ltd admitted to one breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and two breaches of the Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations 1998. It was fined £32,000 with £771.50 payable in costs.

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