Cwnbran Magistrates' Court heard yesterday that Brian Griffiths was clearing a blockage from a potato sorting machine at the factory on December 5, 2011.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Griffiths was wearing gloves when he tried to clear the blockage in the unguarded machine while it was running. His glove became caught in between the rollers, severing the right thumb.
System of work not always followed
The court was told the usual company procedure for clearing machine blockages was to use a long-handled pole. However, due to the need to clear such blockages quickly, this system of work was not always followed.
Sirhowy Valley Foods Ltd of Earlstrees Industrial Estate, Corby, Northants, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £6,914.
"This incident could have been prevented if the machinery was properly guarded and a safe system for clearing blockages in the machine was in place,” said HSE inspector Stuart Charles, speaking after the prosecution. “Sirhowy Valley Foods Ltd clearly failed to ensure the safety of its employees, with very painful consequences for Mr Griffiths.
"The law clearly states that employers should take practicable steps to protect employees from harm arising from their work. In the case of machinery, moving parts that could cause injury should be guarded or made safe so that people cannot come into contact with dangerous moving parts. Non-routine operations such as cleaning or maintenance are not exempt from this requirement."