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12th January 2015

Leeds Chocolate Maker Fined £7,000 After Worker Loses Thumb

A Leeds-based chocolate and fudge manufacturer has recently been fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £627 in costs after an employee lost a thumb while cleaning an unguarded stirring machine.

The injured employee, who was not fully trained and was cleaning the chocolate hopper machine by herself for the first time, at the end of a trial product run. When she moved the stirrer using the control buttons, her left thumb was sliced off as the stirrer moved, trapping it between the side of the vessel and the stirrer.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Pecan Candy Deluxe for failing to properly guard the machine’s dangerous moving parts which could have been prevented by a simple interlocked guard, which the company had fitted quickly after the accident occurring.

Leeds Magistrate court was also told the company had been served with an Improvement Notice by HSE back in January 2012 regarding the guarding of mixers following a proactive visit by an inspector.

The employees thumb was surgically re-attached but will never function as before. Being left-handed she has had to relearn how to write and has difficulties with everyday tasks.

After the incident, the HSE inspector involved in the case said:

“This incident need not, and should not, have happened. The company could easily have prevented access to the dangerous parts of the chocolate hopper by making sure it was effectively guarded. It did not and Ms Pirie has suffered a painful and lasting injury as a result.

“Preventing workers from getting too close to moving parts of machinery is vital. Pecan Deluxe Candy had subject to an enforcement notice on guarding before this incident but obviously didn’t sustain the improvements required.

“Too many are injured, limbs are lost and even fatalities can and do happen because employers fail to guard machinery adequately. Employees must also be well trained and supervised.”

The latest statistics for the food and drink industries show that machinery and plant cause more than 30% of fatal injuries and more than 10% of major injuries each year.


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