Packaging Firm Fined £200,000 after Worker Suffered Serious Hand Injuries

Smurfit Kappa UK Ltd, a packaging firm, has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £19,308 in prosecution costs by Carlisle Crown Court after a 25-year-old employee had his hands stuck in heavy machinery and subsequently sustained serious injury at their Whitehaven factory on 14 September 2010. The employee from Egremont, who wishes not to be named, ended up suffering the loss of four fingers and severed parts of two others in the accident at the company’s site at Richmond Works in Hensingham.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company following their investigation which discovered that the employee had not been tried adequately prior to the accident and that he also had not been supervised at the time. At the time of the accident the employee was working on a power press, a machine which applies a force of up to 35 tonnes for the purpose of stamping out metal lids, which is then used either at the end of cardboard tubes or for packaging for whisky bottles.

He had been changing the lid producing part of the machine, while trying to make sure that it was producing the correct lid size. To remove the lid, he reached under the pressing tool.  This pressing tool then stamped down on his hands. He subsequently lost the little and ring fingers on his left hand, the ring and middle fingers on his right hand in addition to the little and index fingers on his right hand which had been severed to the second knuckle.

Apparently the employee’s supervisor had left the company four months prior to the incident, however workers that replaced this supervision had not been given adequate training. Furthermore, the injured employee had not been trained sufficiently prior to the incident and adequate risk assessment had not been carried out.

HSE Inspector Andrew Jewitt stated –

“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.

“Incidents like this will continue to happen if employers don’t take the risks seriously.”