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Food Company Fined £20,000 After A Worker's Fingertip Severed

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A food production company was fined £20,000 yesterday after a worker had his fingertip severed at a factory in Southall.

The Heath and Safety Executive prosecuted Noon Products Ltd, based in Egham, Surrey, for breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

On top of the £20,000 fine, Noon Products were ordered to pay costs of £5,491.

City of London Magistrates' Court heard that on 17 February 2007 a worker was asked to repair a dough divider machine at the company's Collett Way premises in Southall.  The employee had removed a guard and was cleaning the middle part of the machine with a screw driver and an air gun.  As he put his right hand into the enclosed space, a dangerous part of the machine severed the tip of his right index finger.

The Heath and Safety Executive investigation found that the machine was in a poor state of repair and crucial safety devices were broken or had been removed.  In particular, the display screen which provided safety information to the operator was illegible and critical safety switches were disconnected. 

The company had already been served with an Improvement Notice for a separate incident, which should have alerted them to proper maintenance systems throughout the general workplace.

Heath and Safety Executive Inspector Neil Fry said:

"This worker suffered serious injuries because Noon Products Ltd failed to protect its workers from harm.  The company had a poor health and safety record at the time of the incident.

"This case stresses the need for employers to have safe systems of work in place so that guards and crucial safety devices are working properly to ensure that maintenance on dangerous machinery can be carried out safely."

Following the incident, Noon Products Ltd successfully undertook a collaborative project with the Heath and Safety Executive aimed at introducing a good health and safety management system and addressing cultural attitudes to health and safety within the organisation.  The Heath and Safety Executive reports these new management systems have had a positive effect throughout the workplace.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

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