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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Firm's £200,000 fine after Cumbrian worker loses fingers

A packaging firm must pay £220,000 after a man lost six fingers in a “tragic” accident.

Smurfit Kappa Ltd, which makes paper-based packaging at a factory in Hensingham, Whitehaven, was fined at Carlisle Crown Court after admitting failing to ensure the safety of its employees.

Worker Stephen Stamper, 25, lost four fingers and severed parts of two others in the accident at the factory.

The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after an investigation found he had not received suitable training and was not being properly supervised at the time.

Mr Stamper reached inside a machine without ensuring its power supply was isolated and it activated, trapping and smashing his hands.

Sentencing, Judge Peter Hughes QC said: “It was a tragic accident and one that ought never to have happened. He sustained grievous injuries to the fingers of both hands and has found it extremely difficult to return to the work environment.

"This is made even more serious by the fact that in the previous three years, the defendant company had been served with notices in relation to isolation procedures.”

But Judge Hughes took into account that the company had co-operated fully with the investigation and supported Mr Stamper following the incident, which happened on September 14, 2010.

He lost the little and ring fingers on his left hand, the ring and middle fingers on his right hand and severed the little and index fingers on his right hand to the second knuckle.

Defending, Michael Hayton said that the Whitehaven depot has a satisfactory safety record and has not had an accident since. But Smurfit has had previous convictions following similar incidents in Bristol, County Durham and Norwich.

The court heard that Mr Stamper had not been given sufficient training on how to operate the machine safely and that there was not a suitable risk assessment in place for the work.

The supervising employee had been off work for a number of months due to illness. Another employee was put in place to oversee Mr Stamper’s department despite not having the expertise to do so.

Training records show that he had not been given adequate training on the equipment he was using.

Speaking after the sentencing, Health and Safety Executive inspector Andrew Jewitt said: “The employee was off work for 10 months due to the extent of his injuries, but they will continue to affect him for the rest of his life.

“He now struggles with everyday activities like writing and cutting up food, which most of us take for granted.

“The risk of serious injury from power presses is well known in the manufacturing industry and the worker’s injuries could have been avoided if Smurfit Kappa had made sure he and his supervisors had been properly trained.

“Incidents like this will continue to happen if employers don’t take the risks seriously.”

The company was ordered to pay a £200,000 fine, as well as £19,308 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Judge Hughes said he had taken into account that the company made £7.3 billion in sales revenue in 2012, and has 350 factories worldwide with 41,000 employees.

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