Heinz hit by £50,000 fine after engineer’s hand cut off

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Food giant Heinz has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly £10,000 after an engineer had his hand severed in machinery at one of its plants, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

Alec “Alf” Brackenbury, 49, spent two weeks in hospital and had to undergo eight separate operations following the “life-changing injury” last June and is now unable to drive, work or carry out many day-to-day activities.

He was servicing a potato peeling machine at Heinz’s Westwick manufacturing plant in Worstead, Norfolk, on the first day of a maintenance shutdown when he climbed down to retrieve a dropped bolt.

The peeling machine was electrically isolated but as he put his hand into the slurry pump below it started and sliced through his wrist.

The incident was investigated by the HSE, which found that, although the slurry pump appeared to be an integral part of the peeler, it was in fact a separate machine with its own power supply and isolation point.

Mr Brackenbury was unaware of this and believed he had isolated the pump along with the peeler at the main distribution box.

The investigation also found that crucially, a protective grate bolted on top of the pump to prevent access was absent, enabling the self-employed engineer to reach into dangerous parts of the machine, including the screw auger. The HSE said the guard may have been absent for some time.

HJ Heinz Manufacturing Ltd, of Hayes, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to a safety breach at Norwich Magistrates’ Court and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,661.

Following the case HSE inspector Tony Brookes said: “Alf Brackenbury suffered a horrific injury in an incident that was wholly avoidable.

“Mr Brackenbury was put at risk by Heinz Ltd’s inadequate assessment of risks and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.

“It is the duty of the employer to ensure their employees and contractors can carry out their work safely.

“Sadly in this case Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury.”

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