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Firm warned after serious breaches

PUBLISHED: 10:46 18 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:00 07 July 2010

A multi-national company that committed serious health and safety breaches at a Norfolk factory, resulting in injuries to two workmen, was yesterday warned that it faced a hefty fine.

A multi-national company that committed serious health and safety breaches at a Norfolk factory, resulting in injuries to two workmen, was yesterday warned that it faced a hefty fine.

One employee had the tips of some of his fingers sliced off by a machine, and a self-employed handyman received an electric shock from a light fitting in separate incidents at the Tulip works at Thetford.

The meat processing firm, which closed most of its Caxton Way operation last year, also failed to take steps to prevent falls from the ceiling of its production hall, the town magistrates' court was told.

Representatives of Tulip yesterday admitted three counts of breaching health, safety and welfare laws over a four-month period.

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

Swindon-based Ecolab, the business which conducted 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 (HSE), said the three separate incidents, which happened between October 2005 and February 2006, were serious breaches.

Tulip had had two previous convictions in the past five years and had received 20 previous warnings from HSE officers, she said.

On October 4, 2005, Tulip employee Michael Warnes lost the tips of three fingers as he changed a mould on a packing machine. Miss Barber said the installation of a finger guard, advice given to Tulip after a worker lost a finger on a bacon slicer in February 2002, would have prevented the accident.

On November 25, 2005, a sub-contractor broke a shoulder after receiving an electric shock while trying to fix a light in an office at the Caxton Way site. The factory had inadequate electrical systems maintenance, the court was told.

Miss Barber added that both Tulip and Ecolab had failed to meet health and safety legislation on February 28, 2006 by letting workmen use a wooden catwalk to access a fragile ceiling.

Malcolm Savory, for Tulip, said the company had taken instant and effective action after the incidents and it had not cut corners for its own financial gain.

He said the company had invested a lot in Thetford since it arrived in

the 1960s but had lost £13m of revenue through its unsustainable operation.

Ninety employees remain at the site, following the loss of more than 350 jobs last year.

Richard Green, for Ecolab, said its 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 told to pay nearly £2,500 in

costs.


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