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Packaging firm fined £200k over worker's severed fingers

The remains of the workers glove in the machine at the Smurfit Kappa factory in Hensingham

A packaging firm has been fined £200,000 after an employee severely injured both of his hands when they became trapped in heavy machinery at a Whitehaven factory.

The 25-year-old from Egremont, who has asked not to be named, lost four fingers and severed parts of two others in the incident at the Smurfit Kappa UK Ltd. site at Richmond Works in Hensingham on 14 September 2010.

The company was today (21 March 2013) prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the employee had not received suitable training and was not being appropriately supervised at the time he was injured.

Carlisle Crown Court heard he had been working on a machine, known as a power press, which exerts forces of up to 35 tonnes to stamp out metal lids, used at either end of cardboard tubes in packaging for whisky bottles.

The employee had been changing the part of the machine used to produce the lids, and was testing it to make sure it produced the correct size of lid. As he reached under the pressing tool to remove the lid, it stamped down on his hands.

He lost the little and ring fingers on his left hand, and the ring and middle fingers on his right hand. The little and index fingers on his right hand were also severed to the second knuckle.

The court was told that the employee's supervisor had left the company four months before the incident, in May 2010, but that the workers who took over his supervision had not received suitable training.

The injured worker had also not been given sufficient training on how to operate the machine safely, and there wasn't a suitable risk assessment in place for the work.

Smurfit Kappa UK Ltd. pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after it failed to ensure the safety of its employees. The company, of Water Street in Pier Head, Liverpool, was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £19,308 in prosecution costs.


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