International frozen veg processor fined for safety breaches

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

An international frozen vegetable supplier has been ordered to pay ₤13,500 for health and safety breaches by UK authorities after a worker’s finger was amputated when his hand was crushed.

Pinguin Food Ltd was fined ₤10,000 and ordered to pay ₤3,500 costs after an incident at its plant in Boston, England, when a worker was injured when trying to straighten boxes on an automated palletising machine.

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) crticised the firm and said the cased showed that large companies do not always follow safety regulations.

Boston Magistrates Court imposed the penalty after hearing that although the box loading machine that the man was working on had a perspex guard attached, the employee routinely entered the enclosure while the machinery was running. While behind the guard, his fingers were caught between a pallet and the conveyor, resulting in his middle finger being amputated from the tip to the first knuckle. He was subsequently off work for six months.

An investigation launched by the HSE in the wake of the accident in February 2009 revealed that a number of employees had been given interlock parts which effectively overrode the safety systems in place and allowed access to the enclosure.

The company, which has eight vegetable production sites in Belgium, France and the UK, was handed the fine after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

"Pinguin is a large international company and it is often assumed companies of this size adhere to health and safety policies at all times,”​ said HSE inspector Scott Wynne. "The employee regularly gained access to the machinery, defeating the safety device using an interlock mechanism given to him by another member of staff.”

He added that the automatic palletising machine was able to carry up to a ton of boxes which meant the injuries suffered by the employee could have been more severe.

“Pinguin should have had robust supervision and monitoring that should have identified staff were overriding interlocks and stopped it happening,"​ said Wynne. contacted Pinguin Lutosa UK but the company declined to make a comment on the case.

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