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Kent Food Manufacturer prosecuted for Safety failings

A Kent-based food manufacturer has been prosecuted for the second time after a worker had his fingers crushed by an unguarded machine at its Rochester factory.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the safety interlock mechanism on the machine had been intentionally disabled, allowing workers to get too close to the dangerous moving parts.

HSE found that Khalil Ahmed was one of a number of employees working on a line where a machine was attaching labels to packets of rice. At one point, boxes were not lining up properly and the employee was positioned to turn any boxes that needed it before being labelled.

However, he was standing at a point where a safety interlock guard on the conveyor rollers and labeller had been deliberately defeated. When the machine failed to stick a label to a box, it ended up on one of the unguarded rollers. He tried to pull it off but his right hand became trapped, injuring three fingers.

Veetee Rice Ltd was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £5,492 in costs. An order of £500 in compensation against the company was made for the employee.

The business was previously fined £140,000 in November 2009 for similar failings relating to unguarded machinery that led to the death of one of its employees.

HSE inspector Guy Widdowson said: "Mr Ahmed was fortunate he was not more seriously injured and suffered no long term affects. It was an entirely preventable incident. The risks of production machinery are well recognised in the industry and Veetee Rice Ltd should have ensured that all machinery guarding mechanisms were not just in place but functioning properly.

"Veetee Rice Ltd was sentenced for an offence brought under the same regulations just three years earlier, for a 2006 fatality of one of their staff, and patently did not sufficiently learn from that experience and the lessons it offered.

"Food production has one of the worst safety records within the manufacturing sector. Guards are critically-important elements and they can and do save injury and even life when working as they are intended."

Source: - 28th May 2014