Firm slapped with hefty fine after dad loses finger in factory accident

A firm has been slapped with a hefty fine after a worker lost a finger in an industrial accident at a factory in Oldham. The dad in his 30s underwent a 10 hour operation to try and save his middle finger but doctors ruled that it needed to be amputated.

His hand became caught in a piece of machinery while he worked for Azura Soft Furnishings UK Ltd (ASF) in the town. The firm was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and have now been fined. Company director Tariq Majid was also handed a caution by the HSE.

Minshull Street Crown Court heard that the worker was one of 19 warehouse staff based at the firm’s premises on Highfield Industrial Estate in the town centre. The firm, which manufactures cushions, pillows and duvets, had bought a new coiling machine to help make duvets smaller to assist with packaging.

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A safety feature which would stop the machinery if someone got too close to the ‘quickly moving machine parts’ had been disabled by another employee, the court heard. A piece of foil had been placed over a sensor which would stop the machine, to allow the employee to gain access to it because the machine had been damaging duvets if they were not loaded in a straight manner.

The court heard this was not condoned by company bosses, and that they had placed too much trust in a ‘senior’ and ‘trusted’ employee who had told the victim to use this unsafe method. In November 2018 he was working on the machine when his hand became stuck. He shouted out for help and the emergency stop button was pressed.

He was rushed to hospital, but had to have his middle finger amputated after a 10 hour operation was unable to save it. The tragic incident has had a devastating effect on the victim’s life, and continues to do so years later.

He continues to suffer significant pain and has been referred to a psychiatrist for depression. He can’t play with his children and has to rely on his wife for support.

“He says he simply cannot lead an ordinary life anymore,” prosecutor Rosalind Emsley-Smith said. Defending the company, Tom Gent said the firm apologised to the victim and was ‘extremely saddened’ about his life-changing injury.

He said the company takes its responsibility to its employees ‘very seriously indeed’, and moved to assure the victim that ‘such an incident will never again occur’. “He will be compensated in another court fully,” Mr Gent said.

The barrister said the company had never been in trouble before and otherwise had a good health and safety record. The firm accepted that it had not done enough to adequately monitor the staff member who had instructed the victim.

They said he had not been given permission to train the victim or allow him to use the machine, which had arrived a few months earlier and had been undergoing tests.

“The failings were numerous and they were cumulative, they were not minor,” the judge, Recorder Jon Close said. He said there was an ‘absence of checks and balances’.

ASF were fined £13,600 and ordered to pay costs of £17,260 to the HSE. The judge decided on the level of fine after being told the business, which has an average turnover of £1.3 million, had recent profits of about £64,000.

The company pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham