The worker, who asked not to be named, lost two fingers on her right hand when she tried to clear a blockage in an industrial-sized mixer, used to combine ingredients for flapjacks at the company’s McVities Cake Company, Hopwood Lane, Halifax.
A HSE investigation revealed that the employee had climbed a two-metre fixed step ladder in order to reach the machine, empty the mixture inside, and then restart it. Although the mixer had stopped, the blades inside were still rotating which severed her fingers.
Commenting after the hearing, HSE Inspector Rachel Brittain said: "An incident like this should not happen in any company, but taking place in such a large-scale food manufacturer such as this is absolutely unacceptable.
"Preventing access to moving parts and fitting guards is an elementary and essential precautionary measure and inexpensive. By not putting these measures in place United Biscuits failed to fulfill its duty of care to its employees."
A HSE spokesperson told BakeryAndSnacks.com: “Given the large size of United Biscuits, it should be setting an example to smaller companies and offering a lead on safety issues.”
United Biscuits pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at a hearing conducted at Halifax Magistrates Court. This section requires every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees.
The company was also ordered to pay £2,889 in costs.
A spokesperson for United Biscuits told BakeryAndSnacks.com: “We can confirm that a member of staff at our Halifax site was involved in an accident on 9th April 2009, that was subsequently investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. The employee suffered the loss of the top of two of her fingers in the accident and returned to work in September 2009.”
The company said it takes health and safety extremely seriously.
“After the incident a full and thorough investigation of our health and safety processes was carried out and corrective action and improvements were immediately instigated to prevent anything similar from happening again,” added the spokesman.
Meanwhile, the HSE spokesperson said that there were 83,000 serious or reportable injuries in the UK food and beverage sector in the past 10 years to April 2009. “The figures add up to 160 injuries each week and include 33 fatal accidents – most involving falls,” said the spokesperson.