Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Wombwell factory safety measures 'not fit for purpose'

The Cranswick factory in Wombwell, Barnsley
Image caption A worker at the Cranswick factory in Wombwell, Barnsley, said "people's lives are at risk"

A worker at a food factory where three people with Covid-19 died says measures brought in to protect staff from the virus are "not fit for purpose".

The warning comes as MPs called on the Health Safety Executive (HSE) to do more to protect workers at Cranswick's factory in Wombwell, Barnsley.

Cranswick confirmed 10 new cases at the site and said "we are doing everything we can to protect our team".

The HSE said its inquiries into the food supplier were continuing.

The whistleblower, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "Management are just not doing enough.

"The scanner that takes your temperature when you walk into the factory isn't working half of the time so managers just say go round it.

"They've given us face masks and visors that steam up in the cold so they're no use, people are just putting them on their heads.

"They've tried putting Perspex sheet up but they're not fit for purpose. They've done too little too late.

"Most of the office staff are working at home. When you're on the factory floor, it's like you're just left to rot.

"What can you do, you've got to put food on your kids' table haven't you?"

Stephanie Peacock MP said she had been contacted by workers concerned the safety measures were not being properly followed or enforced.

Ms Peacock, the Labour MP for Barnsley East, said: "It's of particular concern not just for the individuals working there but for their families and the wider community."

Cranswick said additional measures to "protect both the physical and mental wellbeing of our team" had been in place since the end of February and that these included social distancing "where practical".

The company said it had also provided personal protective equipment "in line with, and beyond the requirements" of guidelines from the World Health Organization and Public Health England.

There are also "additional cleaning and hygiene measures" with employees told not to come to work if they have any symptoms.

A spokesperson said: "We are aware of cases in the communities local to Valley Park and as the lockdown restrictions ease, there is a risk of further community infections. 

"There is no evidence to suggest the outbreak started at a Cranswick site and we remain on high alert with all our social distancing and hygiene practices remaining in place and under strict supervision in all our premises."

"Cranswick employees are designated key workers and are at the forefront of maintaining vital supplies of fresh food into the supermarkets. We are doing everything we can to protect them while they carry out this critical role."

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Dave Baxter's partner described him as a "kind and gentle man"

Dave Baxter, 55, and two other colleagues died after the coronavirus outbreak in April.

John Healey MP said he had been contacted by Mr Baxter's partner with "one of the most distressing emails or letters I've had in 20 years as an MP".

Mr Healey, the Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said the HSE had not visited the site after the deaths and had "simply taken the word and the information of the management" instead.

He said: "The HSE should be at the centre of reassuring workers that there work places are safe but they've simply not been doing this job - it seems to me they're sleepwalking through this pandemic."

The HSE said it gathers intelligence in a number of different ways with visits decided on a case by case basis after assessing information and evidence.

A spokesperson added: "Our thoughts and sympathy are with the families of the workers at this site who have sadly lost loved ones after testing positive for Covid-19."

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