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A food manufacturing firm in Leeds has been ordered to pay a fine of £8,500 following a work accident which a caused a contract electrician to suffer serious personal injuries.
In August 2013, a 26-year-old employee at Country Style Foods was clearing up after carrying out work on a freezer at its premises in Benton Lane. However, the floor on which he was standing was slippery due to a build-up of ice, and he slipped and fell over.
As he fell down, the employee reached out his right hand so he could steady his fall. However, the hand came into contact with the drive chain of a moving conveyor. This cut off the tips of two of his fingers, and a third finger was also injured.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) subsequently carried out a work accident investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident and found that a number of mistakes had been made by Country Style Foods beforehand.
For example, the HSE discovered that workers were not protected from moving machine parts because a safety guard had been taken away at some point before the accident.
In addition, the investigation revealed that a problem with the freezer doors had led to a build-up of ice on the workplace floor, which was not cleared and meant the floor was extremely slippery.
The case against Country Style Foods was heard at Newcastle Magistrates' Court, where the company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
This states that it is the duty of employers to conduct their undertakings in "such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in [their] employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety".
Newcastle Magistrates' Court decided to impose a fine of £8,500 on Country Style Foods, while the firm was also ordered to pay nearly £800 in costs.
Accident Could Have Been Prevented
Following the sentencing, the HSE stressed that the workplace accident which led to the employee losing two fingertips had been entirely avoidable, if the correct safety precautions had been taken in advance.
Shuna Rank, an HSE Inspector said, "This worker's injuries should not and need not have happened. This accident was easily preventable had Country Style Foods ensured safety guards were in place on the machinery. The company should also have taken steps to prevent the accumulation of ice on the freezer floor."
The HSE insisted that guards and safety systems are put in place for a reason, while companies were reminded that they have a legal duty of care to make sure they are "properly fitted and working effectively at all times".
The HSE added that slip and trip accidents at work are the biggest cause of serious injuries in the food and drink sector.
Statistics from the HSE indicate that slips and trips account for more than one in three major accidents in the industry.
By Francesca Witney
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