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Firm's 'serious' health and safety rap

PUBLISHED: 17:00 18 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:00 07 July 2010

A multi-national company that committed "serious" health and safety breaches at a Thetford factory which resulted in injuries to two workmen, was this week warned it faced a hefty fine.

A multi-national company that committed “serious” health and safety breaches at a Thetford factory which resulted in injuries to two workmen, was this week warned it faced a hefty fine.

One employee had the tips of his fingers sliced off by a machine and a self-employed handyman was injured by an electric shock from a light fitting in two separate incidents at the Tulip plant in Caxton Way.

The meat processing firm also failed to take steps to prevent falls from the ceiling of its production hall, Thetford Magistrates' Court heard.

Representatives from Tulip admitted three counts of breaching the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act on Monday over a four-month period.

Swindon-based Ecolab Ltd, which carried out the factory's pest control operation, also pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of an employee after not drawing up a proper risk assessment for working in the ceiling of the Thetford processing factory.

Ruth Barber, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, said the three separate incidents between October 2005 and February 2006 were “serious” breaches. Tulip had had two previous convictions in the last five years and received 20 previous warnings from HSE officers.

The first incident happened on October 4, 2005, when Tulip employee Michael Warnes lost the tips of three fingers as he changed a mould on a Multivac packing machine. Miss Barber said the installation of a finger guard would have prevented the accident.

On November 25, 2005, a sub-contractor fractured a shoulder after being shocked while trying to fix a light in an office at the Caxton Way site. The company's ageing factory

had “inadequate” electrical systems maintenance, the court heard.

Miss Barber said both Tulip and Ecolab had failed health and safety legislation on February 28, 2006, by allowing workmen to use a wooden catwalk to access a “fragile” ceiling.

Malcolm Savory, mitigating for Tulip, said the firm had taken “instant and effective” action following the incidents.

Richard Green, in defence of Ecolab, said the offence was isolated and the company had since improved its health and safety procedures.

The pest control firm was given a conditional discharge for 24 months and ordered to pay nearly £2,500 in costs.

Magistrates decided Tulip's offences were beyond their sentencing powers of a £20,000 fine per offence and sent the case to Norwich Crown Court.

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