Smurfit Kappa UK fined 200,000 after employee severs fingers

Packaging giant Smurfit Kappa UK has pleaded guilty to health and safety regulation breaches after an employee severed his fingers at its Whitehaven factory.

The accident, which happened in September 2010, occurred when a 25-year-old employee from Egremont was working with a 35-tonne power press used to stamp out metal lids for cardboard whisky bottle packaging.

While testing a newly replaced part on the machine, the employee lost two fingers on each hand while two more on his right hand were severed at the knuckle.

A subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the employee’s supervisor had left the company four months prior to the accident and been replaced by staff who had not had the relevant training.

It also found that the injured staff member had not been given the correct training and that no suitable risk assessment existed for the process.

On 21 March at Carlisle Crown Court Smurfitt Kappa UK pleaded guilty to breaching a regulation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 plus £19,308 prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Jewitt said: "The employee was off work for ten months due to the extent of his injuries, but they will continue to affect him for the rest of his life. He now struggles with everyday activities, like writing and cutting up food, which most of us take for granted.

"The risk of serious injury from power presses is well known in the manufacturing industry and the worker's injuries could have been avoided if Smurfit Kappa had made sure he and his supervisors had been properly trained.

He added: "Incidents like this will continue to happen if employers don't take the risks seriously."