Heinz: Food giant fined after engineer has hand sliced off

Potato peelings Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption A "live' slurry pump below the isolated peeling machine sliced through Mr Brackenbury's wrist

A man suffered a "life-changing injury" in a "wholly-avoidable" incident when his hand was cut off at a Heinz factory in Norfolk, a court heard.

Alec Brackenbury, 49, from Bacton, was servicing a potato peeling machine at the food company's Westwick plant in Worstead last June when he was injured.

He is now unable to drive, work or carry out many day-to-day activities.

The firm was fined £50,000 at Norwich Magistrates' Court on Friday, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

Mr Brackenbury, known as Alf, was servicing the machine on the first day of a maintenance shutdown when he climbed down to retrieve a dropped bolt, the court heard.

The peeling machine was electrically isolated but as he put his hand into the slurry pump below it started and sliced through his wrist.

Image caption Heinz "failed to protect" Mr Brackenbury, said the HSE

Upon investigation, the HSE found that although the slurry pump appeared to be an integral part of the peeler, it was in fact a separate machine with its own power supply and isolation point.

Mr Brackenbury was unaware of this and believed he had disabled the pump, along with the peeler, at the main distribution box.

The investigation also found a protective grate bolted on top of the pump to prevent access was absent, enabling the self-employed engineer to reach into dangerous parts of the machine.

'Horrific injury'

H J Heinz Manufacturing Ltd of Hayes Park, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to a safety breach and ordered to pay costs of £9,661 in addition to the fine.

Following the case HSE inspector Tony Brookes said: "Alf Brackenbury suffered a horrific injury in an incident that was wholly avoidable.

"Mr Brackenbury was put at risk by Heinz Ltd's inadequate assessment of risks and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment.

"Sadly in this case Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury."

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