Fine for Walkers Midshire

Walkers Midshire Foods have been ordered to pay out nearly £20,000 after a worker lost two of his fingers in machinery.

Leicester magistrates heard how 28-year-old Paulo Fernandes stopped a machine which chops up sausage meat after it became blocked by frozen chilli peppers. After waiting for the amount of time he had been trained before touching the machine, he put his hand in. Two of his fingers from the first knuckle upwards were then sliced off by a 25-centimetre-long blade in the machine.

In a prosecution bought by the Health & Safety Executive, Walkers - owned by Leicestershire-based Samworth Brothers - admitted a breach of health and safety and was fined £4,000, plus £15,958 costs. The city-centre factory produces sausages and hams for British supermarkets.

The HSE told the court that Walkers should have ensured that no hand could have reached the blade: "This was a gruesome incident that could have been avoided," said HSE inspector, Peter Snelgrove, speaking after the hearing. "The safety measures in place were inadequate, and Mr Fernandes was using a machine that he had not been fully trained on. The blade could have taken a hand off in a flash. It could have been much worse," he added.

Snelgrove said that Walkers had made changes to solve the problem since the accident, although a risk assessment of the machine had been carried out before the incident. Managing director Steve Crawford said that despite "significant investment and considerable efforts to provide a safe workplace, it regretted the failure to ensure full compliance with the regulations."

Immediate action, including retraining and the provision of additional guarding, had been taken following the accident in July of last year, he said.

Fernandes has returned to full-time employment with Walkers.