Baker and Baker headquarters

Source: Baker & Baker

Baker & Baker UK headquarters and factory on Stadium Road in Bromborough, the Wirral

Sweet treat supplier Baker & Baker has received a £400k fine after an employee had to have her left leg amputated following an incident at its Wirral production site.

At a hearing on Monday (25 March), Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard how 58-year-old Sharon Bramhall had been supervising four other members of staff at the company’s premises in Bromborough as they completed high-level cleaning tasks during a night shift on 22 April 2022.

Bramhall had been acting as a ‘banksman’, helping to marshal a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), aka cherry picker, controlled by another employee. Captured CCTV footage showed that as the MEWP turned through 90 degrees into the warehouse it struck Bramhall, crushing her left leg.

She was hospitalised for three months and had a total of nine operations including several skin grafts to cover up the amputation.

“I have a huge scar on my stomach from where the surgeons took a piece of it to use as a flap over my stump,” said Bramhall, adding that the part above the stump was badly scarred and damaged.

“The recovery afterwards was awful. It is difficult to put in to words just how much the accident has impacted me. I have had to uproot and move my family,” she continued.

“I am struggling with blistering on my stump, even now, rendering me wheelchair dependent. I am not able to leave the house on my own. I am fearful about what the future holds for me.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed Baker & Baker had failed to have in place a suitable and sufficient safe system of work when escorting MEWP’s from a parked position to point of use. It had also failed to provide information, instruction and training for the movement of the MEWP and use of banksman and also failed to adhere to its normal practice and company policy to ensure a trained MEWP operator acted as banskman.

“Sharon’s injuries could have been avoided”

Baker & Baker Products UK Ltd, the UK division of the European manufacturer, plead guilty to breaching section 2(1) and 33(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £400k and ordered to pay costs of £7,266.

“Sharon Bramhall suffered terrible injuries that will affect her for the rest of her life due to the failings of her employer,” commented HSE inspector Ian Betley after the hearing.

“Vehicles continue to be a major cause of serious injuries in the workplace, and the first principle of any employer should be to keep people and vehicles apart. The risk assessment decided that someone was needed to escort the MEWP, thus a safe system of work needed to be devised. Employees should have been given appropriate banksman training, including how to effectively communicate with the driver.

“Had these been in place, Sharon’s injuries could have been avoided,” Bentley concluded.

A Baker & Baker spokesperson said the company accepted the findings of the HSE investigation and had co-operated fully throughout the case. “We sincerely regret the trauma and injuries caused, and we are extremely sorry for the impact this incident has had on our colleague and her family,” added the spokesperson.

“We take the health and safety of our colleagues extremely seriously and consistently seek to instil a robust health and safety culture throughout our business to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.”

The case marks the third time in a week that a UK bakery firm has received a fine for failing to prevent serious injuries to workers. Pork pie specialist Pork Farms was fined £800k after employees in two of its Nottingham bakeries lost fingers in 2022. A few days earlier, pizza supplier Stateside Foods was hit with the same penalty amount for two separate incidents at its Bolton site in 2020, which resulted in life-changing injuries to two staff members.