Heinz has been ordered to pay £50,000 worth of fines and costs of £9,961 after an employee lost his hand at the factory in Westwick. The engineer, Alec Brackenbury, is also suing the company for compensation in a separate civil case.
The accident occurred when Mr Brackenbury reached inside a pump that was part of a potato peeling machine he had been working on. He had switched off the potato peeler and believed the pump which cleared away excess peelings was on the same circuit.
The pump began running while his right hand was in the machine and his hand was severed entirely. Surgeons operated eight times on Mr Brackenbury’s arm. The injury has left him being unable to drive, work or live normally.
The Health and Safety Executive investigated the accident and found that the pump was a separate device to the peeler and that Mr Brackenbury had no way of knowing that it would suddenly begin working.
The HSE said the accident was brought about because there was no guard on the peeler which would have prevented Mr Brackenbury being able to put his hand in the machine.
Heinz pleaded guilty to violating Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
It was determined by HSE inspector Tony Brookes that the accident could have been entirely avoidable if the correct safety measures were in place. Mr Brookes said Heinz’s assessment of the risks was completely inadequate and that there was a “lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.”
Solicitor, Ian Comer, has told how the loss of Mr Brackenbury’s hand has been catastrophic and that his career as a mechanical and electrical engineer was over as both jobs required the use of two hands.
Mr Brackenbury is pursuing a civil claim against Heinz and said: “I hope now the HSE prosecution is out of the way the defendant’s insurers will now formally accept responsibility for my claim so that I can start putting my life back together.”
In another blow to Mr Brackenbury, his caravan home was recently destroyed in a storm leaving him without a permanent residence.
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