In a harrowing incident at a Fife-based vegetable production facility, a 37-year-old food factory worker, Remigiusz Cyrek, experienced a life-threatening accident involving a carrot baton machine. The worker was strangled unconscious when his hood jacket became entangled in the machine’s roller during a cleaning task. This alarming accident has brought to light significant safety oversights by the employer, Kettle Produce, a company boasting a £150 million turnover.
The event occurred at the company’s Orkie Farm production centre near Freuchie, where Mr. Cyrek, a Polish national living in the UK since 2011, was performing a weekly cleaning of the carrot baton line. While pressure washing the line, which was still running, his jacket got caught in a rotating power roller, leading to severe injuries at work including loss of consciousness.
Colleagues found Mr. Cyrek unconscious, his jacket ensnared in the roller, and quickly acted to shut down the machine and free him. Following this traumatic experience, he was hospitalized with extensive neck injuries and numbness in his fingertips. The repercussions of the accident at work were so severe that Mr. Cyrek was unable to work for six months, later returning only to light duties due to ongoing hand pain.
The Dundee Sheriff Court heard from fiscal depute Gail Adair that the conveyor belt and rollers should have been entirely isolated and switched off before the cleaning commenced. However, this safety protocol was not followed, leading to the accident. Kettle Produce admitted to failing in ensuring the health and safety, and welfare of its staff, particularly in implementing a safe system of work.
Barry Smith, representing Kettle Produce, expressed the company’s deep regret over the accident and acknowledged their shortcomings in ensuring a safe work environment. He highlighted that while the company had a safety system in place, it was not adequately implemented or understood by all employees.
Sheriff Jillian Martin-Brown, presiding over the case, deferred sentencing to deliberate on the level of fine appropriate for the company. She noted the fortunate nature of Mr. Cyrek’s survival but emphasized the serious lapse in safety standards at the facility.
This incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of workplace safety and the dire consequences of its neglect. It underscores the necessity for companies, especially those in high-risk industries, to rigorously implement and enforce safety protocols to protect their employees.
The Workers Union Says
“Ensuring workplace safety is not just a regulatory requirement but a moral obligation for employers. This incident at Kettle Produce is a wake-up call for all organizations to prioritize the safety and well-being of their workforce.”