A chocolate manufacturer, was fined €30,000 by the Circuit Court last month after pleading guilty to not providing a “safe system of work” following an accident which resulted in an employee’s thumb being amputated.

 The HSA inspector giving evidence, told the court that there was difficulty packaging a new product in the warehouse and this led to a slowdown in production. This was caused by a belt on the compressor that needed to be changed.

The inspector told the court that the compressor unit had been switched off, but not unplugged from the power supply. She also indicated that to allow access to the moving parts, the guard was removed. The injured worker was working between two co-workers helping to replace the belt. The machine was started up accidentally when a worker pressed up against the on button, as a result the injured worker’s right hand was caught up in the moving parts of the compressor.

The inspector stated that the compressor should have been isolated from the main power supply. She also indicted that not unplugging the compressor showed a lack of knowledge regarding the hazards of working on live electrical equipment. She also stated that none of the employees changing the belt were qualified to complete the task.

A victim impact statement from the injured worker was read out in court. He said his life had been turned upside down since the accident. He had been happy, outgoing and cheerful but now he was aggressive, anxious and depressed. He still suffered unbelievable pain. He said he found everyday tasks impossible and he felt completely useless. His self-confidence was gone and he could not sleep at night.

The court heard that the company had grown in the two years prior to the accident. Counsel for the company told the court the company employed 22 people. He said the company “had been stepping up a gear” and at the time its main focus was on quality control rather than safety.

The company pleaded guilty to not providing, in so far as reasonably practicable, a safe system of work contrary to the SHWW Act 2005, section 8(2)(e).

Details of the company’s accounts were handed in to the court and disclosed to the prosecutor, but were not disclosed in open court. Having heard that the company was fully insured and had since the accident addressed training and safety issues, Judge Michael O’Shea imposed a fine of €30,000. He gave the company a year to pay the fine. (DPP for HSA v Celtic Chocolates Limited: Trim Circuit Court, June 2016)

Source Helath and Safety Publications