An international food manufacturer has been fined after a production worker lost the tip of a finger in an unguarded dough-proving machine at a pizza factory in Harrow.
58-year-old Sushila Patel had the top of a middle finger sliced off when she was tasked with picking up dough balls being discarded from a faulty machine.
Bakkavor Foods Ltd., which operates across the UK, Europe, Asia and North America, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after safety failings were identified at the Bakkavor Pizza factory following the incident.
Westminster Magistrates heard last week that Mrs Patel, a line leader, was asked to pick up dough balls that kept dropping out of the prover machine because of an ongoing fault. It did not name the manufacturer of the equipment, but said a guard on the machine, which was normally locked, was wide open and at one stage she had to reach inside to pick up the fallen dough balls.
As she did this, her right middle finger became caught between a moving chain and a sprocket, badly slicing the tip.
HSE found that a lockable guard on the machine had been left open, giving no protection to employees using the machine from coming into contact with dangerous moving parts.
Lincolnshire-based Bakkavor Foods was fined £20,000, the maximum fine magistrates were able to impose, and ordered to pay £12,484 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Charles Linfoot said: “The fact that a lockable guard was removed highlights poor supervision of staff. The incident could have been prevented had the company rectified the machine fault and ensured guarding was effective at all times.”
HSE said it had been dealing with Bakkavor Foods regarding management failings in safety in recent years, and has dealt with the company over similar machinery guarding issues at another site.
“Food production has one of the worst safety records within the manufacturing sector. Companies must ensure that machinery is adequately guarded at all times to ensure the risk of contact with moving machinery is minimised.”
Manufacturing accounted for about 10% of the British workforce in 2011/12 but recorded 25% of fatalities and 16% of reported injuries to employees, with 31 deaths and nearly 17,500 injuries.
Food manufacture had a rate of reported major injury of almost twice the rate for manufacturing as a whole.