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Food packaging firm gets £33k bill for severed finger

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By Mike Stones+

Last updated on 11-Jul-2014 at 10:48 GMT

“This incident was entirely preventable ...
“This incident was entirely preventable ...", said the HSE

A food packaging firm has been ordered to pay more than £33,000 after one of its workers suffered a severed finger and other hand injuries while trying to unblock a poorly guarded machine.

Andrew Rawson, aged 48, was trying to unblock an food casing machine at Rillatech Limited’s factory in Dronfield, Derbyshire when the incident happened on 8 January 2013.

Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court was told Rawson reached around the guards, while the machine was operating, bringing his fingers came into contact with a clipper. This severed the index finger on his right hand at the first joint and  the tip of his right thumb.

Needed plastic surgery

The worker – who needed plastic surgery to treat his injuries and was unable to drive for three months or work for a year – has since returned to the firm.

The machine, which caused the injuries, and another identical model should have been installed with better guarding to protect workers while removing blockages, according to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE safety officers found a similar incident had happened previously at the firm. While Rillatech had subsequently installed further guarding, this did not prevent workers accessing dangerous moving parts of the machine.

Since the accident, guarding had been improved and safer systems of work implemented to help prevent similar accidents.

After the court case, HSE inspector Stuart Parry said: “It is remarkable that, despite previous similar incidents and risk assessments being carried out, Rillatech Limited still did not install better guarding on their food casing machines.

‘Such serious injuries’

“This incident was entirely preventable and it is most unfortunate that it took an employee to suffer such serious injuries to make the company take action to better protect its employees when operating machinery.”

Also speaking after the hearing, Rawson said: “I am a type two diabetic and when my finger did not heal, I thought that I would have to have my arm up to my elbow amputated. My dad was a diabetic and he had a problem with one of his toes and ended up having his leg amputated below the knee. This caused me real concern and I didn’t know where to turn.”

Rawson added: “If it was not for my mother, brother and sister helping me out in various ways, I don’t know how I would have got through it all. I was not bothered about the actual loss of my finger – it was more the consequences of losing my finger. I was off work, I’d got into debt and my diabetes got worse as I could not eat healthily.”

Rillatech Limited of Callywhite Lane, Dronfield, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £13,000 with £20,353 costs.

HSE advice on safe working practices is available here

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