In a recent court ruling, McCain Foods, the world’s largest producer of potato chips, was fined £700,000 following a severe factory workplace accident that led to an employee losing two fingers. The incident, which occurred at one of McCain’s UK factories, has raised serious concerns regarding workplace health and safety and employer responsibilities.
Tom Matthews, a 33-year-old father of two from Grantham, Lincolnshire, suffered the grievous injury while cleaning batter machinery at the company’s factory in Easton, Lincolnshire, during a night shift on September 2, 2019. The accident, which involved his left hand being pulled into a rotary valve, necessitated the amputation of two fingers.
McCain Foods, with over 21,000 employees worldwide, faced legal consequences at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court. The company pled guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulation, resulting in the substantial fine. Additionally, McCain was ordered to pay £6,508.51 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £170.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) led the prosecution, with enforcement lawyer Jonathan Bamro emphasizing the severity of the negligence. The HSE’s investigation uncovered that McCain Foods had failed to install proper guarding on the rotary valve, conduct adequate risk assessments of the machinery, and provide sufficient health and safety training and supervision to employees.
HSE inspector Muir Finlay commented on the preventability of the incident, highlighting the need for companies to adhere to working conditions, safety standards and guard machinery adequately. The HSE stands firm in taking enforcement action against those falling below required standards.
Since the accident, Mr. Matthews has become a health and safety advocate in his new role at a different company. He shares his experience to emphasize the importance of workplace safety and prevent similar incidents.
McCain Foods has responded to the incident by enhancing machinery safety measures across its six UK sites, noting a year without employee safety incidents since the improvements. The company expressed its regret over the incident and extended apologies to Mr. Matthews and his family.
The Workers Union Says…
“This case serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of workplace safety, especially in industrial settings. It underscores the responsibility of employers to ensure a safe working environment and the severe consequences of failing to do so.”