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The risks of food manufacturing

Posted in: Employer Negligence Workplace Injuries 

A number of recent cases reported by the Health and Safety Executive have highlighted the risks faced by workers in the food manufacturing sector.

Unguarded machinery leads to loss of thumb

In one case, an employee at a crisp manufacturer in Newport lost his thumb while working with an unguarded machine.

He was attempting to clear a blockage from a potato sorting machine when one of the gloves he was wearing got caught between the rollers and his right thumb was severed.

Apparently, the usual company procedure was to use a long-handled pole to clear blockages of this type. Unfortunately, because there was pressure to ensure blockages of this nature were cleared quickly, this procedure was not always followed by workers.

HSE Inspector Stuart Charles explained how important it was for employers to ensure proper guards were in place for dangerous machinery, and that safe systems of work were in operation. If these measures had been in place, the worker would have been spared a very painful injury.

Following an HSE prosecution, the company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £6,914.

Food manufacturing safety

The use of machinery is a major cause of risk in the food and drink industries. Figures from the HSE show that, in the industry, machinery and plant use causes:

  • over 30% of fatal injuries,
  • over 10% of major injuries (eg requiring hospitalisation),
  • over 7% of all injuries (ie major injuries and over-3-day absence injuries), and
  • almost 500 injuries per year reportable to HSE.

A four year analysis of injuries investigated by HSE in the food and drink industries revealed that the riskiest types of machinery were:

  • Conveyors (responsible for 30% of injuries)
  • Fork lift trucks (12%)
  • Bandsaws (5%)

Worker suffers hand crush injury

Another recent case in the food manufacturing sector resulted in an HSE prosecution after safety breaches by an employer caused a worker to suffer a severe injury.

The 28-year-old worked in a sweet factory and was running a machine when it got jammed. He put in his hand to remove the sweets but the glove on his right hand got caught, pulling his hand into the dangerous moving parts.

He suffered severe damage to the hand, and had to undergo a number of operations to straighten the tendons. He was off work for four months and continues to have physiotherapy and struggles with use of his damaged hand.

Importance of guards on machinery

The subsequent HSE investigation found that the company had failed to put a guard in place that would have prevented access to dangerous parts of the machine. 

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1988 and was fined £1,500 with costs of £5,175.

Organisations have a duty to protect their workforce and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute those who break the law in this way,” explained HSE Inspector Elizabeth Hornsby. 

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.


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