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Premier Foods fined for “basic” health and safety failures

By Rory Harrington , 13-Sep-2010

Premier Foods has been ordered to pay out almost ₤21,000 and slammed by UK safety authorities after an industrial accident in which a 65-kg metal pillar crushed the skull of one of its workers.

The UK’s largest food manufacturer was fined ₤14,000 and ordered to pay costs of ₤6,808 after the incident at its Manor Bakeries in Moreton, in the north west on England, two years ago.

The Health and Safety Executive said Premier foods had “no excuse” for a failure to follow “basic health and safety procedures” and launched a prosecution for failing to ensure the safety of its employees. The company last Friday pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Wirral Magistrates' Court.

No planning, no training

The court heard Thomas Williams was working at the plant when a four-metre section of pillar fell onto his head.The 61-year-old suffered severe traumatic brain and spinal injuries, and was in hospital for more than six months after the accident on 24 July, 2008. Although he survived, the maintenance engineer has difficulty speaking and moving, said a HSE statement.

Mr Williams had been helping to remove cages and pillars from a storage area at the Reeds Lane site. He and a colleague used an angle grinder to cut the pillar, but when they levered it free at the base it came detached from the ceiling at the same time and struck him.

An investigation by the safety body found that the company had not properly planned the task, and had not trained workers on how to carry out the work safely.

‘No excuse’

"A man's life has been turned upside down because basic health and safety procedures weren't followed. Mr Williams has been permanently disabled from his injuries and will never be able to return to work,” said HSE inspector Phil Redman.

He added: "Premier Foods could have brought in specialists to carry out the work but instead Mr Williams and a colleague were just told to get on with the job. Mr Williams did not have any previous experience of carrying out this kind of work and he should not have been put in a position where he had to make decisions about how to do it. There really is no excuse for a company the size of Premier Foods to make this kind of error when it comes to health and safety."

A Premier Foods spokesperson said: "Premier Foods sincerely regrets the accident at Manor Bakeries that resulted in the injury to Mr Williams. Premier Foods has an excellent health and safety record and takes its responsibilities extremely seriously and steps have been taken to prevent a similar incident occurring."

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