Cornish bakery fined for worker's injuries

A night shift cleaner got caught-up in the unguarded machinery of a moving conveyor belt at a Cornish bakery and had to be released by co-workers.

Wioletta Drozdz, 27, from Newquay, had both forearm bones broken in her right arm when the incident happened in the early hours of 10 December 2010.

The court was told that Ms Drozdz was part of a team cleaning the production equipment at the company's bakery. Ms Drozdz had been instructed to clean the 'No.2' conveyor production line by the previous shift cleaning supervisor, who had left site a few hours before the incident.

The line was running when Ms Drozdz began working on the conveyor. She started cleaning dough from a moving steel pressure roller on the end of the conveyor using a metal scraper blade. The scraper slipped and her gloved right hand and arm were drawn into the nip or 'pinch point' between the steel roller and the rubber belt of the conveyor.

The HSE investigation revealed that the fixed guard that should have been in place on the equipment had been missing for a considerable period of time, at least a year before the incident happened. Ms Drozdz had also not received training on how to clean the conveyor safely, nor had she seen the machine's cleaning instructions.

HSE found that Crantock Bakery's training systems, staff training records and cleaning instructions were inadequate, inconsistent and confusing. Whilst some staff cleaned the 'No.2' conveyor when it was stopped, others cleaned the roller in the same manner at Ms Drozdz.

Magistrates heard there had been a previous incident and a number of near-misses relating to the unguarded rollers, which management was not aware of. The cleaning staff had been exposed, over many months, to a serious risk due to the missing guard and incomplete training procedures.

Speaking after the investigation, HSE Inspector David Cory, said:

"This serious incident at the bakery was a classic 'accident waiting to happen'.

"Machinery such as conveyors should be fitted with a guard to prevent this sort of accident happening. There is plenty of well established guidance from the HSE and the industry on how machinery can still be properly cleaned with appropriate guards in place.

HSE produced specific guidance on flat belt conveyor safeguarding as this causes over 30 percent of all food industry machinery accidents - more than any other type. Many of these accidents happen during normal activities like cleaning, as in this case.

Ms Drozdz had surgery on her broken arm and has experienced a great deal of pain and discomfort through her ordeal. It has taken a considerable period of time since the accident for her to recover to a more normal situation with her injured right arm. The company has provided physiotherapy and supported the rehabilitation of Mrs Drozdz and she remains an employee.

Employers should avoid the risks of serious accidents by ensuring appropriate guards are fitted and used along with safe working procedures. Good training for all staff is vital and should ensure tasks can be done safely. Crantock Bakery fell short of what their health and safety responsibilities required."

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