A Bernard Matthews worker paralysed in an accident has resulted in the company being prosecuted. Bernard Mathew’s Food Limited has been fined £400,000 following two separate incidents where employees were seriously injured.
Colin Frewin was left permanently paralysed and spent six months in hospital following an incident at the company’s Suffolk manufacturing plant.
Mr Frewin suffered multiple serious injuries, including a pierced left lung, several broken ribs, four fractured vertebrae and a spinal bleed. He was put in an induced coma for three weeks and is now classed as a T6 paraplegic and has been diagnosed with autonomic dysreflexia (AD).
Prosecution after worker paralysed
Chelmsford Crown Court heard how 54-year-old Mr Frewin suffered the injuries on 28 January 2020. He had been tasked with cleaning a large screw conveyor used to move poultry turkeys along and chill them. While working on the gantry between the spin chillers he noticed a turkey stuck at the bottom of it.
As he attempted to dislodge the turkey using a squeegee, Mr Frewin was drawn into the machine. It was only when a colleague noticed Mr Frewin was missing from the gantry and heard his cries for help, the emergency stop was pulled.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found an unsafe system of work meant the chillers remained running as Mr Frewin went to dislodge the turkey.
In a victim personal statement, Mr Frewin described how his horrific injuries left him feeling “isolated” and in need of daily care.
“I will never walk again and so I will be in a wheelchair permanently. I now have a suprapubic catheter, which was inserted via an operation. The district nurse has to give me bowel care every day and visits me daily at home. I also suffer from AD – a condition which is life threatening, as my body doesn’t register if I’m ill. I have moved from my flat overlooking the sea, to a bungalow. However, I miss seeing the sea and being close to the seafront and all the amenities. I feel isolated as I cannot go out when I want as I need people to assist me. The accident has affected my life and my family’s lives. When I talk about the incident, I sometimes find this upsetting and then have restless nights.”Victim personal statement, Mr Frewin
There was another incident at the same plant five months earlier, on 12 August 2019, when a turkey deboning line had to be shut down after developing a fault.
As a result, 34-year-old Mr Adriano Gama, along with the rest of the employees, were moved to a surplus production line to continue the process.
Whilst working on the surplus production line, one of the wings became stuck in the belt under the machine. Mr Gama attempted to push it out of the way, but as he did do, his gloved hand became caught in the exposed sprocket of the conveyer and was drawn into the machine.
He was eventually freed and taken to hospital having suffered a broken arm and severe damage to the muscles in his forearm.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that on the day of the incident pre-start checks were only completed on the production lines that were regularly used.
Therefore, when workers were asked to move to the surplus deboning line there was no system in place to ensure that it was checked prior to it being put into operation.
The investigation uncovered that two safety guards had been removed and a team leader responsible for the production lines had verbally reported this issue to the engineering team, but it was not followed up by either party.
Bernard Matthews Food Ltd of Sparrowhawk Road, Halesworth in Suffolk pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.
“Both incidents could have been avoided – the consequences were devastating for Mr Frewin in particular.
“If Bernard Matthews had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place they could have easily been prevented.
“Fundamentally, you should not clean a machine while it is running.
“Companies need to ensure that risk assessments cover activities including cleaning and blockages, and that where appropriate, robust isolation and lock off mechanisms are in place for these activities.
“Prior to use you can put in place some pre-start checks and if faults such as missing guards are identified they need to be formally reported, tracked, rectified and closed out.”HSE Principal Inspector Adam Hills
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, often abbreviated to PUWER, place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not. PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:
- suitable for the intended use
- safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate
- used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
- accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include guarding, emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices
- used in accordance with specific requirements, for mobile work equipment and power presses
Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to PUWER. For example, lifting equipment must also meet the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), pressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 and personal protective equipment must meet the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPE).
If your business or organisation uses work equipment or is involved in providing work equipment for others to use (e.g. for hire), you must manage the risks from that equipment. This means you must:
- ensure the equipment is constructed or adapted to be suitable for the purpose it is used or provided for
- take account of the working conditions and health and safety risks in the workplace when selecting work equipment
- ensure work equipment is only used for suitable purposes
- ensure work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair
- where a machine has a maintenance log, keep this up to date
- where the safety of work equipment depends on the manner of installation, it must be inspected after installation and before being put into use
- where work equipment is exposed to deteriorating conditions liable to result in dangerous situations, it must be inspected to ensure faults are detected in good time so the risk to health and safety is managed
- ensure that all people using, supervising or managing the use of work equipment are provided with adequate, clear health and safety information. This will include, where necessary, written instructions on its use and suitable equipment markings and warnings
- ensure that all people who use, supervise or manage the use of work equipment have received adequate training, which should include the correct use of the equipment, the risks that may arise from its use and the precautions to take
- where the use of work equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to health and safety (eg woodworking machinery), ensure that the use of the equipment is restricted to those people trained and appointed to use it
- take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible, such as with the blade of a circular saw, it must be protected as far as possible and a safe system of work used. These protective measures should follow the hierarchy laid down in PUWER regulation 11(2) and the PUWER Approved Code of Practice and guidance or, for woodworking machinery, the Safe use of woodworking machinery: Approved Code of Practice and guidance
- take measures to prevent or control the risks to people from parts and substances falling or being ejected from work equipment, or the rupture or disintegration of work equipment
- ensure that the risks from very hot or cold temperatures from the work equipment or the material being processed or used are managed to prevent injury
- ensure that work equipment is provided with appropriately identified controls for starting, stopping and controlling it, and that these control systems are safe
- where appropriate, provide suitable means of isolating work equipment from all power sources (including electric, hydraulic, pneumatic and gravitational energy)
- ensure work equipment is stabilised by clamping or otherwise to avoid injury
- take appropriate measures to ensure maintenance operations on work equipment can be carried out safely while the equipment is shut down, without exposing people undertaking maintenance operations to risks to their health and safety
When providing new work equipment for use at work, you must ensure it conforms with the essential requirements of any relevant product supply law (for new machinery this means the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008). You must check it:
- has appropriate conformity marking and is labelled with the manufacturer’s details
- comes with a Declaration of Conformity
- is provided with instructions in English
- is free from obvious defects – and that it remains so during its working life
If you require advice on health and safety in your workplace, please contact one of the Jacksons team.