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UK Health and Safety Executive Fines Cargill After Worker Loses Fingers in Wheat Milling Machine

Date Posted: October 30, 2012

A multinational company has been sentenced after one of its employees lost three fingers in machinery at a factory in Trafford Park.

The 46-year-old from Boothstown in Salford, who has asked not to be named, was trying to clear a blockage in a wheat milling machine when the glove on his left hand was dragged in by a roller on 29 October 2010. He also lost part of his index finger and has required a significant amount of surgery.

His employer, Surrey-based Cargill plc, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found a lockable plastic guard to prevent access to the rollers was rarely, if ever, used.

Trafford Magistrates' Court in Sale was told today (26 October 2012) that the company's procedure for sampling flour actually required operators to put their hands under the rollers while they were still rotating.

HSE found that another employee had also suffered injuries in May 2009 when his right hand was drawn into the rollers on the machine at the same Trafford Park Road factory, which produces wheat products for fish food and bakeries.

He managed to pull his hand out but lost three nails and small fragments of bone from his fingers.

The court heard that despite the worker's injury, Cargill continued to operate the machine without using the lockable plastic guard on the rollers so employees could still see inside.

This remained the case until the October 2010 incident, which led to the company fitting a large transparent sheet over the rollers with a small gap near the top where a scraper can be used to remove blockages.

Cargill plc, which employs 140,000 people in 65 countries around the world, pleaded guilty to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The offences relate to failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery and failing to ensure the safety of employees.

The company, of Fairmile Lane in Cobham, Surrey, was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £12,484.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Dave Shorrock said:

"Sadly two employees have suffered needless injuries at Cargill because the company didn't do enough to ensure the health and safety of people working at its Trafford plant.

"It is extremely disappointing that the company only took action to make the wheat milling machine safe after the second incident, when an employee lost several fingers.

"It was simply unacceptable for the firm to decide not to use the plastic guard on the wheat milling machine without finding an alternative way of protecting workers.

"The company has since been able to install a transparent sheet over the rollers, which means the machine can now been used effectively and safely."

A total of 27 workers lost their lives while working in the manufacturing industry in Great Britain in 2010/11, and nearly 4,000 suffered a major injury.

Information on preventing injuries is available at www.hse.gov.uk/manufacturing.

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