Machine protection rules highlighted as firms fined over deaths 01 November 2009

Plant managers are being reminded of their duty of care, as rice producer Veetee Rice, in Rochester, is fined £140,000 plus costs for health and safety breaches after one of its employees died when his leg became entangled in a machine.

The incident took place in 2006 when an employee accessed a silo and his leg became trapped in an under floor screw conveyor.

HSE says the company had failed to ensure that dangerous parts of the machinery could not be accessed, or that dangerous moving parts were stopped before anyone entered the danger zone.

Mike Walters, HSE principal inspector in Kent, says: "If the company had fitted a padlock on the access hatch – which could have cost as little as £15 – this tragic incident would not have happened."

The incident is far from a one-off. On the same day last month, pet foods manufacturer Butcher's Pet Care was fined £100,000 with £28,380 costs, after a worker was crushed to death at its Northamptonshire factory.

That incident involved an employee accessing an automatic palletising machine. The machine should have been fully enclosed with an interlock system, but the operator entered the caged area, via a gap in the fencing between stair rails, to reposition a jammed pallet – common practice at the time. When the pallet was freed, it set the machine in motion, trapping and killing him.

Brian Tinham

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Health & Safety Executive

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