Chocolate firm Thorntons fined £20,000 after worker injury

CHOCOLATE firm Thorntons has been fined £20,000 after a worker broke her finger while operating a wrapping machine at its Somercotes factory.

Thirty-seven-year-old Ellen Yardley, from Derbyshire, was working on a foil wrapping machine, where chocolates were wrapped in foil and dispensed down a chute into a tray.

During a short break in production, while the machine was still running, Ms Yardley attempted to clean the inside of the output chute which had become covered in caramel.

However, the cloth she was using became tangled in rotating parts which gripped the chocolates and her right hand was dragged into the machine.

Ms Yardley’s middle finger was fractured and cut and she was off work for 10 weeks following the incident in November, 2009.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the machine had guarding installed, but it was inadequate.

A subsequent audit of other machines in the factory found safety improvements were necessary to a range of machines, including to prevent access to dangerous parts or repairs to existing safeguards.

Thorntons, based at Thornton Park in Somercotes, admitted breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Stuart Parry said that Thorntons should never have allowed the machinery guarding to fall below the legal safety standards.

“It was effectively asking its employees to work on machines that put them at risk of injury,” he said.

“It was entirely foreseeable that the inadequate guarding could lead to injury and even if Ms Yardley had not used a cloth, her hand could still have been drawn into the machine while cleaning it.

“If the company had carried out an adequate risk assessment of its machinery, its workers would not have been put at risk and in Ms Yardley’s case painfully injured.”

A Thorntons spokesman said: “Thorntons accepts the court’s decision regarding the fine imposed in relation to the two technical breaches.

“Providing a safe workplace for our employees is a priority and we deeply regret that one of our colleagues was injured in this instance.

“We carried out a thorough review of our systems and procedures following this incident to ensure that such an accident cannot reoccur.

“Thorntons has co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive throughout its investigation.”

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court also ordered the company to pay £7,680 costs.