South East Wales

Sirhowy Valley Foods: Crisp firm fined as man loses thumb

A crisp maker has been fined £8,000 after an employee lost his thumb as he tried to clear a potato blockage in a machine at a factory near Caerphilly.

Brian Griffiths, of Bargoed, tried to clear the unguarded machine while it was running at the Crumlin plant, Cwmbran magistrates heard.

Sirhowy Valley Foods pleaded guilty to breaching regulations covering the provision and use of work equipment.

The Health and Safety Executive said the machine should have been guarded.

Glove caught

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.

Mr Griffiths was wearing gloves when he tried to clear the blockage in the potato sorting machine while it was running on 5 December, 2011.

His glove became caught in between the rollers, severing his right thumb.

Sirhowy Valley Foods, of Corby, Northamptonshire, 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.

Speaking after the prosecution, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Stuart Charles, said: "The incident could have been prevented if the machine had been properly guarded and if there had been a safe system for clearing blockages in the machine.

"Sirhowy Valley Foods Ltd clearly failed to ensure the safety of its employees, with very painful consequences for Mr Griffiths," he said.

"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."

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