Tulip Ltd fined thousands of pounds for health and safety breach

Rebecca Gough A meat-processing plant with an “appalling” health and safety record was yesterday ordered to pay almost �100,000 in costs for breaching rules it helped to design.

Rebecca Gough

A meat processing plant with an “appalling” health and safety record was today (Weds) ordered to pay almost �100,000 in costs for breaching rules it helped to design.

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

As the EDP reported yesterday , Ludmila Jurkevica had the middle and forefinger of her left hand crushed in a Multivac machine at the company's Kings Lynn plant on November 27, 2007.

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

Summing up, Judge Simon Barham said the court had heard how a guard protecting the moving parts of the machine was too short and the Multivac was not fitted with a so-called “falling finger” guard.

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“It's agreed the falling finger guard would not have made it impossible to reach into the moving parts of the machine but I accept they would have provided a further deterrent by making it a little more difficult,” he said.

He went on that Ms Jurkevica required six weeks of physiotherapy and in February, 2008, she was still having difficulties. She has now returned to work, however.

The court heard how there had been no pressure on staff to compromise health and safety and that she had known she shouldn't put her hand into the machine.

But Judge Barham added: “The failure to carry out a (risk) assessment was a serious one. The risk of injury when working on a Multivac machine was high and similar accidents have occurred in the past. There have been five previous convictions and 25 enforcement notices, many of which were related to convictions.

“I don't accept they have a good safety record. Their record at the time of the offence was appalling. This is a large company and fines need to be large enough to bring the message home.”

Judge Barham fined the company �65,000 and ordered it to pay �29,523 in costs.

HSE inspector Steven Gill said: “This was a nasty incident which could have been avoided had the company checked how safe the machinery was and taken precautions to protect staff. Machines like these can be incredibly dangerous and cause serious injury.

“No company should take these risks lightly.”