Potato machinery firm hit with £31,000 court bill

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SUPPLIERS of a potato crusher in which a casual worker had three tendons in his right hand severed have been ordered to pay more than £30,000 in fines and costs.

Grantham Magistrates’ Court was told that a potato crusher, designed and built by Grimme (UK) Ltd, of Station Road, Swineshead, had been fitted on a potato harvester but had no guard in place to protect workers against dangerous moving parts.

The 25-year-old victim, who does not wish to be named, had been working for farmer Timothy Dean (55), at Waterloo Farm, Wilsford near Sleaford on June 15, 2009.

On the first day of using the crusher it kept getting blocked with stones. The team decided that each time a stone got stuck, they would signal the harvester driver, who would isolate the power on the machine, and the workers would reach into the crusher and knock the stones out using a lump hammer.

At one point when the crusher was blocked, the worker signalled the tractor driver, who stopped.

However, the driver had stopped for another reason and had not isolated the power on the crusher. When the worker put his hand in it got caught up in the machinery severing the tendons.

The worker has since regained some use of his hand.

In a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) magistrates heard that Grimme (UK) Ltd supplied the crusher attachment to Dean. There were defects found with the machine in that there was no safety guard to stop people accessing the dangerous moving parts and an instruction manual was not provided.

Grimme (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £16,000 with £15,000 costs.

HSE found that Dean had failed to properly assess the risks entailed in the work and hadn’t got a safe system of work for the farm workers.

Dean, of Thorpe Drive, South Rauceby, Sleaford, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 3 (1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

He was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,566.

Since the incident Grimme (UK) Ltd has modified the crusher and provided an instruction manual.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sarah Jardine said: “This incident could have been a lot worse given the nature of the machine. The young man is very lucky to have regained some use of his right hand.

“This wouldn’t have happened at all if Mr Dean had carried out a risk assessment and put in place a safe system of work and if Grimme (UK) Ltd had supplied a crusher that included a safety guard, and provided instructions on how to safely clear blockages.

“Both the supplier and user of the machine had a clear duty to ensure the machine was safe and that the critical parts were assessed and the appropriate measures were taken.”