£1m fine after paper reel incident

HSE: incident could easily have been avoided
HSE: incident could easily have been avoided

A specialist papermaker has been handed a £1m fine after an employee suffered serious injuries when attempting to free a jammed paper reel.

Sofidel UK, based in Neath, manufactures kitchen and toilet tissue paper.  

On 5 November 2019 a man who worked for the company was trying to free a paper reel that had become stuck on the exit rails of a paper machine.

He was using an overhead crane to try to free the reel.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report into the incident said: “During the operation, part of the crane contacted the spinning reel causing the crane hook to swing violently striking the man in the face. He suffered the loss of an eye, multiple fractures to the face and lost nine teeth.”

The HSE investigation found that Sofidel UK had failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the hazards posed by paper reels which did not eject correctly from the machine.

The firm also failed to ensure that control measures were in place and that employees were provided with information and instructions on what to do should this situation arise. 

“The issue was happening regularly, yet no risk assessment had been undertaken despite operators being provided with basic equipment to use in these circumstances,” HSE stated.

At a hearing held at Swansea Magistrates’ Court on 13 July, Sofidel UK pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The company was fined £1m and ordered to pay costs of £13,446.50.

HSE inspector Matthew Gray, commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by carrying out a suitable risk assessment which included non-routine operations such as clearing of blockages, and by implementing appropriate control measures and safe working practices.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

The HSE has specific guidance for managing safety in the papermaking process.

Sofidel UK is part of the Italy-headquartered Sofidel Group which owns brands including Regina and Nicky, and also makes private label products.