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Veetee prosecuted after worker suffers crushed fingers

By Joe Whitworth+

30-May-2014
Last updated on 30-May-2014 at 12:39 GMT

Veetee Foods has been prosecuted for a second time in two months for worker safety related failings.

Veetee Rice was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £5,492 in the case brought by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation.

Veetee Foods was also fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,023 in March this year after a worker’s hand was trapped by a sealing machine in March 2012.

Latest ruling

The firm appeared before Maidstone Crown Court this week after an incident in March 2012 when Chatham employee Khalil Ahmed had three fingers crushed at its factory in Rochester.

The court heard that the worker was one of a number of employees working on a line where a machine was attaching labels to packets of rice.

HSE discovered the safety interlock mechanism had been intentionally defeated, allowing workers to get too close to the dangerous moving parts.

At one point, boxes were not lining up properly and Ahmed was turning any boxes that needed it before being labelled.

However, he was standing 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 on one of the unguarded rollers. Ahmed tried to pull it off but his right hand became trapped, injuring three fingers.

Past incidents

In the prosecution earlier this year, HSE found the interlocked safety gate to the machine had been defeated, allowing workers to get too close to dangerous moving parts of machinery.

The agency could not determine how long it had not been functioning as suitable guard checks were not done by the company.

HSE said it was the second time the food manufacturer had been prosecuted for safety failings, after a worker was injured using a machine with a guard that had been intentionally disabled.

In November 2009, the company was fined £140,000 for similar failings relating to unguarded machinery that led to the death of one of its employees in 2006.

Guy Widdowson, HSE Inspector, said the incident was ‘entirely preventable’.

“Veetee Rice 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.”

He said that 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.”