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Published Mon, Aug 15th 2011

Unguarded meat mixing machine severs workers fingers

A worker severed 2 fingers in the bowl of an unguarded mixing machine whilst trying to retrieve a foreign body from the bowl. The employee from Tulip Ltd. lost his index finger and his middle finger in the accident in December 2009.

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A worker severed 2 fingers in the bowl of an unguarded mixing machine whilst trying to retrieve a foreign body from the bowl. The employee from Tulip Ltd. lost his index finger and his middle finger in the accident in December 2009. After several operations and nearly a year off work he went back to the company but can no longer do the same job because his nerve endings are damaged and he's now facing more surgery.

Other mixers on the premises had electrically locked gates at the top of a set of access steps, and if gates had been in place on this mixer they would have prevented the paddles inside the machine from turning as the seasoning was added. A risk assessment conducted months earlier had identified the danger, but no action had been taken.

Tulip pleaded guilty to breaking safety rules and will pay £20,000 in fines and costs.

Speaking after yesterday's hearing, HSE inspector Dr David Lefever said:

"This incident has had a profound effect on the worker.  Simple, everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces or doing up buttons have become difficult.

"This incident was entirely foreseeable and easily preventable. The risk could have been removed at no cost to the company by removing the access steps and only using the machine for tasks that did not require feeding from the top. Alternatively they could have provided a new set of locked steps at a cost of £960. Unfortunately, a much larger price has been paid, not least by their employee.

"This case shows that risk assessments are not just about producing pieces of paper. Employers have a duty to act on their findings. If Tulip had taken prompt action at the time, this incident would not have happened."

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