Warburtons fined £1.9m after injury to agency worker

Warburtons Ltd has been fined after a worker was injured when his arm got trapped against a running conveyor belt.

Nottingham Crown Court heard how on 4 August 2015 the agency worker was cleaning parts of the bread line when his arm got trapped leaving him with friction burns which required skin grafts.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found CCTV footage showing the worker cleaning parts of the line; as he reached into the line he became trapped between two conveyors and part of the machine had to be dismantled to release him.

HSE inspectors found the machine could have been fitted with localised guarding to prevent access between the conveyors. Warburtons Ltd of Mushroom Farm Eastwood, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The company has been fined £1.9 million and ordered to pay full costs of £21,459.71.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector Edward Walker said:

“Warburtons failed to guard the machine sufficiently to prevent access to the running conveyors, which in this case could have prevented the injuries. “Employers should ensure that all equipment used by agency and their own workers alike are sufficiently guarded and take appropriate measures if any deficiencies are found.”

Phoenix comments:

Wayne Thorpe became trapped in a machine which he was cleaning. His right arm became trapped between a conveyor belt and moulder as he attempted to clean out dough which had become caught between tins. He was left with friction burns requiring skin grafts. Following Mr Thorpe’s arm becoming trapped another worker pressed an emergency stop button, but this did not prevent a conveyor belt from continuing to turn. It was brought to a standstill when another employee put his hand through a light curtain. Mr Thorpe was freed 20 minutes after becoming trapped, following engineers dismantling the equipment. He received first aid and was taken to hospital. The court heard Mr Thorpe died from a kidney infection and pre-existing heart condition two weeks after the incident, but it had not caused or contributed to his death. Judge Rosalind Coe QC was told that cleaning was not one of Mr Thorpe’s roles, but she said he was clearly trying to be a good employee.

Conveyors are involved in 30% of all machinery accidents in the food and drink industries – more than any other class of machine. In particular:

  • 90% of conveyor injuries occur on flat-belt conveyors
  • 90% of the injuries involve well-known hazards such as in-running nips between the belt and end roller, transmission parts and trapping points between moving and fixed parts
  • 90% of accidents occur during normal foreseeable operations – production activities, clearing blockages, cleaning etc.

Safeguarding hazardous parts of conveyors may be achieved by:

  • Design (eg lift-out rollers that prevent finger trapping)
  • Fixed guarding (requiring a hand tool such as a spanner to remove) where daily or frequent cleaning is not required
  • Hinged or removable interlocked guards (eg guards fitted with coded, magnetic interlock switches to prevent the machine running with the guard removed).

A safe system of work should be in place for daily and routine cleaning of conveyors that ensures workers are not placed at risk of injury from unguarded moving parts. The system of work used should be monitored and workers appropriately trained. The HSE provide further guidance called a recipe for safety Health and safety in food and drink manufacture - HSG252 which is available from http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg252.pdf