£73,000 bill for ‘appalling’ safety at packaging firm

The firm apparently showed 'a total lack of care about the safety of its employees', said the HSE

A firm that makes plastic food packaging has been ordered to pay more than £73,000, after its “appalling” safety standards led to a worker’s injury.

The Lancashire packaging firm, Europlast (Blackburn) Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an accident in which a worker’s left hand became trapped in unguarded machinery in June 2012.

Two other workers had been injured in similar machinery incidents fewer than nine months earlier, according to a HSE investigation. Many safety guards were missing or disabled on machines, and management had failed to ensure workers received safety training, the investigators revealed.

Preston Crown Court was told that the 26-year-old employee from Blackburn, who asked to remain anonymous, had been working on a machine used to produce bubble wrap at Shadsworth Business Park on June 6 2012.

Trapped for several minutes

His hand was pulled between two rollers, as he tried to remove small pieces of plastic which had become stuck. The man was trapped for several minutes before a colleague found and pressed the emergency stop button.

The worker suffered burns and crush injuries to his hand, required skin grafts and had the top half of his middle finger amputated. The court heard two other workers were injured when their hands became trapped in machinery in April 2012 and September 2011.

The safety watchdog alerted Europlast to the need to guard dangerous machine parts during a site visit in September 2009. The HSE said: “This warning was repeated in July 2011 when an external health and safety consultant highlighted ‘intolerable risks’ from missing guards on machines at the factory.” 

Safety warnings were repeated later in the year when the consultant returned to the site and discovered no action had been taken.

‘Prospects of employment ... severely affected’

After the hearing, HSE principal inspector Mike Sebastian said: “The injured worker has only ever carried out manual work but his prospects of employment are now severely affected, as he can no longer use to his hand to hold, grab or lift anything properly.

“When we visited the factory following the incident, we found an appalling state of health and safety with no safe system of work in place for any of the machines. What’s even more shocking is that the company had failed to take any action to improve safety despite receiving numerous warnings and at least two other workers also suffering injuries.”

Sebastian added: “There appears to have been a complete absence of any attempt to organise or control health and safety at the factory, with the company apparently showing a total lack of care about the safety of its employees.”

Europlast (Blackburn) Ltd, of Duttons Way in Blackburn, was fined £50,010 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £23,102 after admitting breaches of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Health and Safety at Work  Act 1974.

No one from the firm – which makes plastic food packaging, shrink wrap supplies and bubble manufacturing – was available to speak to FoodManufacture.co.uk.

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Comments (2)

Raymond S Jackson - 25 Jun 2014 | 06:05

Enforcement failures

With major problems being identified in 2009 why didn't the HSE visit the company regularly from that date to ensure the improvements were made. The HSE must do more to enforce compliance with legislation and not wait until more employees are injured before prosecuting.

25-Jun-2014 at 18:05 GMT

Robert Elsey - 25 Jun 2014 | 03:16

Health and Safety

Here we are 40 years on from the introduction of HASAWA 1974 and yet serious failures continue to occur, cost people their lives and cause serious injuries. The penalties need to be reviewed and custodial sentences made mandatory where there is clearly a complete disregard for the safety of people.

25-Jun-2014 at 15:16 GMT

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