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Thetford company admits safety breach

PUBLISHED: 09:42 04 November 2009 | UPDATED: 21:45 07 July 2010

A THETFORD-based meat-processing plant which advises a government body on health and safety practices in the food industry pleaded guilty yesterday to breaching its own rules.

A THETFORD-based meat-processing plant which advises a government body on health and safety practices in the food industry pleaded guilty yesterday to breaching its own rules.

Tulip Ltd appeared at Norwich Crown Court and was charged by the Health and Safety Executive with failing to advise on the risks associated with a wrapping machine which was insufficiently guarded.

The court heard how Ludmila Jurkevica had the middle and forefinger of her left hand crushed in a Multivac machine on November 27, 2007.

The Russian woman was working as a line operative when she reached past a protective guard to remove a blockage.

Mark Harris, prosecuting, argued the guard was inadequate and too short and therefore unable to deter Ms Jurkevica from reaching into the machine.

“At the time of the accident the machine was not fitted with the “falling finger” guard. These were also not present on some other machines at the plant,” he said.

“The absence had been noted in the company's monthly safety assessment report.

“While it would not have made it impossible to reach into the dangerous parts of the machine it would have made it more difficult and deterred someone.”

Mr Harris went on that Ms Jurkevica was also unable to understand her safety training because of a language barrier, a point the company strongly refuted.

Mitigating on behalf of Tulip Ltd, Richard Lissack said the company was sorry for the accident but said it was a “technical breach” rather than a lack of health and safety training.

Mr Lissack said: “They much regret the injury this lady has sustained. Since the impact statement was taken she returned to work in July 2008 and was back fully operational in mid August 2008, having been fully retrained. She accepts she knew she should not have put her fingers into the machine.”

Mr Lissack emphasised how seriously the company, which employs more than 2,000 people in Claxton Way in Thetford, took health and safety and said all the necessary training had taken place.

The company has a number of breaches under its belt however, not least being in 2008 when it was forced to pay more than

£286,000 in fines and costs after breaches at its Norfolk factory left two workers injured.

One employee had the tips of three fingers sliced off by a machine and a self-employed handyman broke his shoulder after he got an electric shock from a live light fitting, in two separate incidents.

Sentencing of the case yesterday was adjourned until today but the prosecution requested £29,523 in costs.

Visit Thetford and Brandon Times online for the outcome of the case at www.tbtimes24s.co.uk


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