Ashbury Chocolates fined over severed finger

Ashbury Chocolates
Image caption The employee has since returned to work at the firm

A chocolate maker has been fined £5,000 after an employee's finger was severed while he was cleaning a machine.

Ashbury Chocolates, in Corby, Northamptonshire, admitted a breach of equipment regulations at Kettering Magistrates' Court.

The Health and Safety Executive found the piping machine was only partially guarded as the employee reached inside and struck rotating stirrers.

The firm has yet to comment on the sentence.

Prosecutors said Joao Countinho, 41, of Peterborough, was cleaning a depositor - a machine which pipes liquid chocolate into moulds - on 29 February last year.

It said he had removed the rotors and reached up to check the stirrer cavity was clean, but the stirrers were still rotating.

'Painful injury'

His left index finger then became trapped and was partially severed. It had to be fully amputated later in hospital, it added.

Mr Countinho, 41, of Peterborough, was off work for around three months, although he has since returned to the factory doing the same job.

An investigation found there was an interlocking guard at the top of the stirrer cavity but there was no protective device in place at the bottom, meaning Mr Countinho was able to reach in despite the fact the machine was running.

Ashbury Chocolates, of Darwin Road, Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

As well as the fine, it was ordered to pay costs of £3,500 and a victim surcharge of £15.

HSE inspector Michelle Morrison said: "Ashbury Chocolates Limited had a duty to ensure its employees were protected from the dangerous moving parts of its machines. It failed in that duty.

"The company has since installed a new guard to prevent a recurrence, but it is a pity a man had to suffer a painful injury for that to happen."

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