Packaging firm prosecuted after worker loses part of finger

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Friday 04 July 2014

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Europlast (Blackburn) has been fined £50,010 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £23,102 after an employee had to have part of his finger amputated following an accident in June 2012.

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HSE described safety standards at Europlast (Blackburn) as "appalling"

The Lancashire-based plastic packaging firm appeared in court after an investigation into the worker’s injury revealed safety standards described as "appalling" by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE discovered that two other workers had been injured in similar machinery incidents less than nine months earlier, safety guards were missing or disabled on a number of machines, and workers had not been given suitable training.

Preston Crown Court heard that the 26-year-old employee from Blackburn, who has asked to remain anonymous, had been working on a machine used to produce bubble wrap when the incident happened at the firm’s plant at Shadsworth Business Park on 6 June 2012.

The worker’s hand was pulled in between two rollers when he was trying to remove small pieces of plastic which had become stuck. His hand was trapped for several minutes before another employee found and pressed the emergency stop button to deactivate the machine.

He suffered burns and crush injuries to his hand, required skin grafts and had to have the top half of his middle finger amputated.

The court was told that two other workers had also suffered injuries when their hands became trapped in machinery in September 2011 and April 2012.

Europlast (Blackburn) was first made aware of the need to guard dangerous machine parts during a visit to the site by HSE in September 2009.

The warning was repeated in July 2011 when an external health and safety consultant visited the company and highlighted "intolerable risks" from missing guards on machines at its factory.

The consultant returned to the factory later in the year to stress the importance of implementing his findings when it became clear that no action had been taken.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Mike Sebastian said that the injured worker’s prospects of employment are now severely affected as he can no longer use his hand to hold, grab or lift anything properly.

“When we visited the factory following the incident, we found an appalling state of health and safety with no safe system of work in place for any of the machines,” he said.

The company had also failed to take any action to improve its safety measures despite receiving multiple warnings.

“There appears to have been a complete absence of any attempt to organise or control health and safety at the factory, with the company apparently showing a total lack of care about the safety of its employees,” said Sebastian.

The firm, of Duttons Way, Blackburn, was fined £50,010 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £23,102 after admitting breaches of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Europlast (Blackburn) was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

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