A Fruitful Ice-cream firm coughs up lolly after conveyor injuries

A factory worker’s forearm was broken in two places when it became entangled in a mesh conveyor belt at the premises of one of Europe’s largest ice-cream manufacturers.

Sam Goodall, 20, Production operative of Northallerton, had been working on an ice cream production line at R&R Ice Cream in Leeming Bar on 8 August 2011, when his arm was drawn into an in-feed conveyor belt.

A HSE Inspector who investigated and prosecuted the case, explained to SHP that, at the time of the incident, two mesh conveyors had been feeding into a spiral freezer, a large unit that flash-freezes the ice cream at -35OC.

Some of the air blades used to chill the ice cream before it goes into the spiral freezer, on the side of the lower mesh conveyor belt, had been removed by the company some time prior to the incident, leaving a circular aperture and exposed in-running nips.

Mr Goodall put his hand through the gap to try to retrieve some ice-cream lids that had become entrapped. The glove he was wearing got caught on the mesh, pulling his hand up and drawing his arm into the unguarded dangerous moving part of the machine, fracturing his right forearm and dislocating his wrist. He managed to pull himself free, but his injuries were such that he could not go to work for six weeks.

R & R Ice Cream, which makes brands such as Fruit Pastilles lollies, Thorntons and Smarties ice cream, as well as supermarket own-labels, was fined a total of £10,000 and told to pay full costs of £3294.

The company pleaded guilty at Northallerton magistrates on 24 September to breaching reg.11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998, by failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery and reg.3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999, by not making a appropriate and satisfactory risk assessment. It was fined £10,000 on the PUWER charge with no separate penalty for the MHSWR charge.

R & R said in mitigation that the machine had only been unguarded for a short period of time. The incident had not been a purposeful, reckless breach and there had been no financial gain for the company. Although it said it had a good safety record, the inspector told SHP that four Improvement Notices related to machine guarding had been served at another of the company’s locations.

Inspector Dixon concluded: “R&R Ice Cream failed to make sure that the unsafe moving parts of the in-feed conveyor were not accessible by the workforce on the production line. This failure could have been addressed at minimal cost.

“It also failed to re-assess the risk to the workforce after the change it made to the production line. Even temporary changes to machinery should be fully considered to make sure further risks are identified and addressed.”

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