Firm in court after worker’s hand severely injured

A food packaging firm in Gateshead has been fined after a worker suffered serious injuries to his hand when it was caught between a feed belt and drive roller.

The 30-year-old, from Swalwell, was working as a trainee for Integrated Packaging Ltd at its factory in Team Valley when the incident happened on 22 November 2013.

The worker, who does not wish to be named, was preparing for a new run of cartons on a machine which cuts windows and film onto packaging.

He removed some parts of the feed section of the machine, leaving only the drive roller and feed belts in place. The machine was running and as he attempted to swap two belts, lifting one over the other with his hand, his finger was caught between the belt and roller.

The top of his right index finger was removed. He had to undergo two operations on his hand and was off work for two months. He still struggles with pinching movement between finger and thumb.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) yesterday (26 March) prosecuted Integrated Packaging Ltd at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court for serious safety failings after an investigation into the incident.

The court heard that the as well as poor guarding around the nip point – the gap between the roller and belt – there was also a lack of adequate instruction, information, supervision and training.

The injured man had not worked with that size of carton before and had not been clearly instructed that the machinery should have been switched off before the task was carried out.

Magistrates heard the company had been prosecuted in 2009 following an incident when it was found there was no guard in place on a different nip point on a similar machine. In addition HSE had served an Improvement Notice on the company in 2007 relating to the training of operators of the machines.

Integrated Packaging Ltd, of Interlink Way South, Bardon Hill, Coalville, Leicestershire, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £941.35 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing an HSE Inspector said:

“This incident could have been easily prevented if Integrated Packaging Ltd had suitable measures in place to ensure workers did not come into contact with the nip point on the machine. In this case the machine should have been switched off.
“HSE had taken enforcement action against the company on previous occasions yet it chose to ignore the lessons of the recent past and once again it put workers at risk.
“There was no safe system of work in place for the task as well as a lack of instructions and training to ensure workers knew how to carry out the task safely.
“Instead, the firm’s failures mean a worker suffered a severe injury, losing the tip of his finger.”