Firm fined after incident results in amputations

HSE: imported machinery needs to be guarded to UK standards
HSE: imported machinery needs to be guarded to UK standards

A manufacturing company has been handed a six-figure fine after a worker lost three digits because of a blister packaging machine that had inadequate guarding.

The incident occurred on 22 October 2020 at vape liquid and sports supplements manufacturer VN Labs Ltd in Manchester.

An unnamed agency worker was operating a nicotine and liquid pod blister packaging machine when the device became blocked.

While he was removing the plastic that had caused the blockage, the machine’s blade became freed “and sliced the worker’s right hand”, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) reported.  

“This led to the amputation of two of the worker’s fingers (index and middle) and thumb on his right hand after it became apparent they could not be reattached.”

The HSE investigation into the incident found the machine had recently been imported and did not have any guarding.

Although the engineering team at VN Labs had assessed the machine and installed a see-through plastic guard over the top, “access to dangerous parts of the machine was still possible”.

“There was also no formal written risk assessment for the blister pack machines. The company also failed to implement a safe system for clearing blockages and did not effectively supervise and monitor its working processes.”

The HSE told Printweek the machine came from Chinese manufacturer Shenzhen Lei Yue Machinery Co and was a DPP model 80 flat plate blister packing machine.

VN Labs pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act and was fined £180,000 plus costs of £7,490 after the case was heard at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on 16 June.

In a victim statement, the agency worker said he could no longer work, his mental health had suffered as a result of the incident, and his financial situation had deteriorated.

He said: “The accident has had an impact on my daily activities because from day one until now I did not have a day without pain.

“My mind has completely changed. I can’t do simple tasks such as prepare eggs for my children. I used to enjoy hobbies like judo, jujitsu and climbing.”

HSE inspector Joseph Wright commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided. Employers should ensure they carry out an assessment of the risks and put in safe system of works for the operation of all machinery.

“Companies should recognise the need to ensure machinery is guarded to the standard of UK legislation even when imported from another country because they may have different laws around the standard of guarding.”

VN Labs Ltd is owned by AIM-listed PLC Supreme, which had sales of £130.8m in the year to 31 March 2022 with an operating profit of £17m.