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HJ Heinz fined after Engineer’s hand is sliced off

Internationally known food manufacturer, HJ Heinz, was sentenced on 16 May for serious safety failings after an engineer had his hand severed whilst working on a machine in their Norfolk plant.

Alec Brackenbury, 49, was a self-employed engineer contracted to service a potato peeling machine at the time of the incident. After switching it off, he was unaware that a separate machine, with its own power supply, was still active.

The court heard how, whilst stripping the potato peeling machine down, Mr Brackenbury dropped a bolt into a slurry pump located underneath. As he reached inside to retrieve it, the pump activated slicing through his wrist. He was treated in hospital for two weeks, but is now unable to work, drive or carry out many simple day to day activities.

A HSE investigation showed that the slurry pump was indeed a separate machine to the potato peeler. Mr Brackenbury was unaware of this, so believed the machine had been switched off when he reached inside. The report also revealed that a protective grate that should have been bolted onto the top of the machine was missing – this would have prevented access to the most dangerous parts of the machine. The guard had been missing for some time.

After pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), H J Manufacturing Ltd was fined £50,000 for the accident at work, and ordered to pay additional costs totalling almost £10,000.

Following the sentence, HSE Inspector Tony Brookes said “…it is the duty of the employer to ensure their employees and contractors can carry out their work safely. Sadly in this case Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury.”

Source: - 29 May 2014