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Pizza supplier Stateside Foods has been fined £800k after two of its employees suffered ‘life changing’ injuries at its Bolton site in 2020.

The arm of one worker and the hand of another were caught up in machinery during separate incidents spaced nine months apart.

During a hearing last Friday (15 March), Bolton Crown Court heard how a man’s arm had been drawn into an inadequately guarded conveyor belt on 8 January 2020, resulting in the removal of muscle which required a skin graft. The staff member has been unable to return to work since and was subsequently diagnosed with hypersensitivity in the affected arm.

The second accident occured on 14 October 2020. Active team leader Andrew Holloway had been investigating a production line issue during his night shift when his hand was drawn between an unguarded roll and a conveyor. Holloway said his “fingers were hanging off” when he pulled out his hand and had been going in and out of consciousness on his way to the hospital due to the shock and pain.

Surgeons managed to save his ring finger by inserting a wire, but the extent of the injury saw him lose the top part of his middle finger, which also required a second operation. Holloway claimed he still suffers from daily pain and struggles to hold cutlery. He took six months to return to work but was forced to leave two days later and restart his career elsewhere.

“This case should send a message to industry”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the manufacturer did not adequately guard its machinery, failed to provide suitable and sufficient checks to ensure effective protective measures, and allowed the disabling of guarding systems and access to dangerous parts.

Stateside Foods plead guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) and 3 (1), of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, which saw it receive a £800k fine and ordered to pay £5,340 in court costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Leanne Ratcliffe said: “This is one of the country’s major food companies. The injuries sustained by both of these workers has been truly life changing.

“This case should send a message to industry about how important it is to understand the risks of bypassing guarding arrangements, and to re-evaluate their own guarding arrangements and procedures to eliminate any access to dangerous parts of machinery.

“We will always be prepared to take action when companies fall short of their duties and responsibilities to protect their staff,” Ratcliffe added.

Another incident of a hand and arm being drawn into machinery, which occured at David Wood Baking’s site in Sheerness, Kent in 2021, resulted in the worker having his arm amputated. The firm was later fined £858,000 for breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.

According to its website, Stateside Foods has over 30 years’ experience in bringing innovative, high quality, chilled prepack pizzas to market. From snack-sized 6” pizzas to 12” wood-fired premium products, these cover entire own-label ranges at major UK supermarkets.

Its most recent accounts filed to Companies House for the year ended 28 February 2023 reported turnover of £189.5m, up almost 18% on the previous term. However, the rising cost of sales due to inflationary pressure saw operating profit margin fall from 7.1% in FY22 to 4.5%, with profit down from £6.6m to £4.4m.