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Confectioner assessing guilty ruling in worker fatality case

By Jane Byrne , 24-Mar-2010

UK sweet maker, Tangerine Confectionery, has stressed that it is committed to maintaining strict health and safety standards in its plants following a court ruling that found the manufacturer guilty of breaching safety legislation in relation to a worker fatality two years ago.

Czech national Martin Pejril suffered fatal injuries on in February 2008, while he was attempting to unblock a jelly bean machine at the manufacturer’s facility in Branksome.

The jury in the Bournemouth Crown Court heard how the machine in question was prone to blockages and could sometimes stop up to 40 times in a single shift.

The court was also told that there had been no safe system in place for staff tasked to investigate and clear blockages, and no written risk assessment existed.

During the trial, it was said that the operator must have misunderstood, misheard or did not hear an instruction to switch off and isolate the machine, as he climbed over the top and began removing trays, but then found himself trapped when the machine re-started.

The court heard that there had been a warning notice over the machine.

Tangerine Confectionery denied two counts of breaching health and safety laws but, after two and a half hours of deliberations, jurors found the company guilty of both charges.

Sentencing has been deferred.

Tangerine Confectionery told this publication that its sympathies remain with Mr Pejril’s family for what it termed a ‘tragic accident’ but that it was disappointed by the court’s verdict and will now “take time to consider the company's position.”

There are growing concerns about the rising number of fatalities in UK food and drink processing.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that, in the ten year period from April 1999 to March 2009, there were 33 fatalities and 83,000 injuries in the food and drink manufacturing industries

These fatalities involved machinery (over 30 per cent), workplace transport (over 25 per cent), falls from height (over 20 per cent) and confined spaces/asphyxiation (over 10 per cent).

The HSE said that the main causes of injury continue to be manual hanlding, slips on wet or food contaminated floors, falls from height, workplace transport, being struck by something sharp or falling objects, processing and packaing machinery.

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