Crumlin crisp firm fined £15k after worker lost thumb in machine

First published in News

A CRISP company, whose Crumlin factory burnt down last year was dealt another blow after it was ordered to pay £15,000 because a worker lost a thumb in a machine.

Sirhowy Valley Foods’ factory on the Pen-y-Fan Industrial Estate was the victim of a suspected arson last September and the future of the site and its 120 workers has been the subject of much speculation.

At a hearing in Cwmbran yesterday, solicitor Chris Baranowski pleaded guilty on the company’s behalf to contravening a health and safety regulation at the factory which produced Real Crisps.

He quoted South Wales East AM Jocelyn Davies who said the company’s loss would be greatly felt locally and hopes it finds another site nearby, adding: "Any fine would have a financial impact on the company."

The case was brought by the Health and Safety Executive and its solicitor Martyn Jones described how there were four rollers at the factory which took potatoes between the fryers and cutting machines.

However, he said that up to eight times during a nine hour shift, large potatoes would get stuck, halting the process.

In October 2008, an employee got his sleeve stuck in the machine and his shirt ripped, leading to a change of procedure where staff were told to use a set of steps and a pole to clear the rollers.

However, at 7.50am on December 5 2011, senior production assistant Brian Griffiths was working when the machine jammed.

Mr Jones said: "He climbed up the steps and reached in with a gloved hand, which was pulled into the roller. His right thumb was trapped and he was unable to free it. He jumped off the step and tried to do so, resulting in the loss of the top of his thumb."

He called it a "severe" injury, with Mr Griffiths telling HSE officers he’d never been told not to use his hand.

Mr Baranowski said the company’s director Peter Menzies expressed "sincere regret", but said Mr Griffiths had been trained in the correct procedure and told never to use his hand.

He said: "The company accepts it should have fitted a fixed guard rather than rely on operatives to comply."

Mr Baranowski added that Mr Griffiths has made a civil claim that’s now in the hands of the company’s insurers.

Chairman of the bench Brian White said: "It’s a serious accident and injuries to Mr Griffiths have impacted o his daily activities."

He fined the company £8,000 and ordered it to pay £6,914.34p costs and £15 victim surcharge.

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