Packaging company Smurfit Kappa UK has recently pleaded guilty to health and safety regulation violations after an employee had his fingers severed while working at its factory in Whitehaven. In September 2010, the accident occurred when the 25-year-old employee from Egremont was working with a 35-tonne power press for the purpose of stamping out metal lids for cardboard whisky bottle packaging. While he was testing out a part that had just been replaced in the machine, the employee lost two fingers on each hand and two more fingers on his right hand were severed at the knuckle.
Later, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation discovered that the employee’s supervisor had left the company four months before the accident occurred and had been replaced subsequently by staff that had not been sufficiently trained. Furthermore, it was also discovered that the injured staff member had not been correctly trained and that no suitable risk assessment existed for the operation. Smurfit Kappa UK, on 21 March at Carlisle Crown Court, pleaded guilty to breaching a Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 regulation and was fined £200,000 in addition to £19,308 prosecution in costs.
Following the hearing, Andrew Jewitt, a HSE Inspector said –
“The employee was off work for ten months due to the extent of his injuries, but they will continue to affect him for the rest of his life. He now struggles with everyday activities, like writing and cutting up food, which most of us take for granted. The risk of serious injury from power presses is well known in the manufacturing industry and the worker’s injuries could have been avoided if Smurfit Kappa had made sure he and his supervisors had been properly trained. He added: “Incidents like this will continue to happen if employers don’t take the risks seriously.”