Construction product manufacturer Saint-Gobain Weber has been fined £16,000 after a worker's finger and thumb were severed as he tried to unblock machinery.
Production supervisor Simon Partridge was in charge of the night-shift at the firm's Flitwick factory in Bedfordshire, when he suffered the injuries on 28 November 2007.
The plant was manufacturing façade tiling and materials for the construction industry when a waste extraction system – which took dust out of the workplace – became blocked.
Partridge, 37, of Clapham, near Bedford, attempted to clear the blockage with his left hand and it became entangled in the rotary valve. His finger and thumb were cut off by the machine and could not be saved, despite extensive surgery.
Investigations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the machine's safety guards could be removed by members of staff using tools the company had provided, which is against the legal requirement for guarding to be in place. Inspectors were also concerned about the system for isolating the power from machinery, which was below expected standards.
Saint-Gobain Weber appeared at Bedford and Mid-Bedfordshire Magistrates' Court on Tuesday to face charges brought by HSE. It admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Magistrates fined the company £16,000 with £3,560 in costs.
HSE inspector Graham Tompkins said: "Unfortunately this kind of horrific injury is all too common. This case would not have happened if a suitable system of work had been used, including power isolation arrangements and safety guards that were not so easily bypassed.
“Employers have a legal obligation to protect the safety of their workers and help prevent serious injuries like this occurring. HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when companies fail in this basic duty."
A statement from the maunfacturer said "Saint-Gobain Weber very much regrets the injuries sustained by our employee, Simon Partridge, in November 2007.
"Following the accident, immediate action was taken to improve our systems of work to prevent a recurrence of any incident of this type. This was done in full consultation with the Health and Safety Executive, which accepted from its investigation that Weber had committed to a wider responsible attitude towards ensuring the safety of its employees.
"Whilst the Company is obviously extremely disappointed and saddened by this incident, Saint-Gobain Weber is totally committed to maintaining the highest standards of health and safety across all its operations. Since the incident it has put every effort into ensuring that the shortcomings identified in this case are not repeated and that the health and safety of our employees and all those that come into contact with our operations are our number one priority."