GettyImages-154919248 MarkGillow

Source: Getty Images / MarkGillow

Pork pie specialist Pork Farms has been hit with a £800k fine after incidents at two of its Nottingham bakeries led to finger amputations.

During a hearing last week, Nottingham Magistrates’ Court heard how the manufacturer had failed to ensure that conveyors were adequately guarded in its facilities, with the incidents occurring just weeks apart in 2022.

An x-ray image of Mahamad Hassan’s left hand showing the injuries suffered from the 2022 incident at Pork Farm's Riverside Bakery in Nottingham

Source: Health and Safety Executive

An x-ray image of Mahamad Hassan’s left hand showing injuries suffered from the 2022 incident at Pork Farm’s Riverside Bakery in Nottingham

The first took place on 16 November 2022, when a 22-year-old worker had his hand trapped between a chain and sprocket while trying to clear a blockage on a conveyor at the firm’s Tottle Bakery on Dunsil Drive in the southside of Nottingham. The extent of the injury resulted in the man requiring his finger to be amputated.

Then on 24 December 2022, 19-year-old Mahamad Hassan suffered similar injuries at Pork Farms’s Riverside Bakery, just a short walk away. The teenager’s gloved left hand was entangled in a rotating driveshaft on a conveyor and was so badly damaged that a finger was later amputated.

An investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that dangerous parts of both conveyors were accessible at the time of each incident. At the Tottle Bakery, an unsuitable interlock was used on a hinged guard over a chain conveyor system and an inadequate inspection and maintenance regime led to this interlock failing.

At the Riverside Bakery, a section of the driveshaft of a lineshaft style conveyor was unguarded and spacing of the rollers was sufficient for a person’s arm to pass through and reach the driveshaft below. In addition to physical guarding issues, there was no warning system to give notice that the conveyor was about to start working and emergency stop controls were not readily accessible, added the HSE report.

“Both of these incidents were completely preventable”

Pork Farms plead guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £600k and £200k for the incidents at the Tottle and Riverside bakeries respectively. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £6,482.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Tim Nicholson said: “Both of these incidents were completely preventable. They left two young men with injuries that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“Companies shouldn’t overlook important machinery safety basics, including provision and maintenance of adequate guards and protection devices, to ensure that access to dangerous parts of machinery is prevented,” added Nicholson, reminding that “the HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.

The Pork Farms case has striking similarities to another HSE-led investigation that was heard just a few days prior at Bolton Crown Court – pizza supplier Stateside Foods also ended up with an £800k fine for two workers suffering ‘life-changing’ injuries at its factory in separate incidents in 2020.

Pork Farms, which also produces savoury goods such as quiches, is part of The Compleat Food Group’s portfolio of bakery brands including Wall’s Pastry, Wrights Food Group, and the recently acquired SK Chilled Foods and Zorba Foods. These collectively employ upwards of 3,800 staff across 10 sites in the UK.