UK Prosecution

Owners of Ayrshire meat processing plant fined £30,000 after worker loses three fingers in machinery

The owners of a Prestwick meat processing plant have been convicted of failing to have a safe isolation procedure in place for machinery, after a worker lost three fingers when a machine he was attempting to repair started up.

In June 2008, employee Steven Glass was working on an Endoline tape packaging machine which had been under repair. When it would not work, he attempted to fix it. As the machine could not be properly isolated to prevent accidental operation, it started, trapping three of his fingers, which were amputated. Later at hospital, one finger was successfully reattached. Mr Glass no longer works for the company.

Since the accident to Mr Glass, the company has been taken over, and there have been significant improvements in health and safety.

At Ayr Sheriff Court today (Thursday 2 July, 2009), Belcher Food products Ltd, Glenburn Road, Prestwick, was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1); 2 (2) and 33 (1) (a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today warned companies about the importance of ensuring machinery is capable of being isolated to prevent operation, and of ensuring employees are given adequate training instruction and supervision .

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Investigating Inspector Helen Diamond is now warning companies about the importance of companies maintaining machinery and ensuring it is properly guarded.

This serious accident was entirely foreseeable and preventable. The company themselves had identified a large number of serious faults with their machinery well before this accident, yet little was done to rectify these faults. The company also failed to follow the advice of our inspectors.

It is vital for the safety of all employees that companies ensure machinery is properly maintained and that systems are in place to ensure it cannot accidentally be operated when under repair. Our investigations showed that it was normal practice for employees to repair their own machines.”

The court heard that a year before the accident, the company commissioned an electrical inspection of their premises which identified 866 faults with the electrics and wiring system, of which nearly 200 were rated as most urgent. By the time of the accident, little or no work had been done to rectify these faults.

Three months before the accident, HSE inspectors had visited the plant and told the company they must have a procedure in place to ensure machinery could be properly isolated while being repaired. This had not been carried out at the time of the accident.

Notes to editors

  1. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”
  2. Section 2 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees.”