A man had to have his left leg amputated after an “avoidable” accident at a food manufacturer, a court has heard.
Jodie Cormack, a short-term contract worker, was working on a production line at Baxters Food Group’s factory in the Scottish village of Fochabers when the devastating incident happened in January 2014.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the accident at work discovered a number of safety failings on the part of the company, which is well known for its range of soups.
Mr Cormack had climbed onto a conveyor belt to clear potatoes into an auger in-feed, Elgin Sheriff Court was told .
This was common practice on the steam peeling line, as the various different types of vegetables needed to be kept separate; but as he did so his left foot slipped and was pulled into the auger.
He was trapped for an hour while orthopaedic surgeons and other emergency services battled to free him.
The air ambulance flew him to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where he underwent a number of emergency operations including the insertion of a metal plate and screws. His right foot was partially amputated, but his left foot could not be saved and he underwent a below-the-knee amputation of his left leg.
Risks not identified
The HSE concluded that Baxters failed to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which workers were exposed when they were engaged in the task of clearing vegetables from the conveyor belt.
It also failed to reasonably provide and maintain a system of work for the task that was safe.
As a result, the company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 33(1) (a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined a total of £60,000.
HSE inspector Penny Falconer says the tragic accident was entirely avoidable.
Falconer says Baxters should have been aware of the risks involved in clearing the conveyors and the precautions that needed to be taken to prevent access to the augers, which are known to be the cause of serious injuries when limbs are drawn in.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: October 8, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown