An international frozen food supplier has been been shown the thumbs down in court with a £10,000 fine following an employee loosing a finger when his hand was crushed at work.

The incident occurred at Pinguin Food Ltd’s site in Boston on 10 February 2009 when the worker tried to straighten some boxes on an automatic palletising machine.

Boston Magistrates’ Court heard that although the box loading machine which the man was working on had a perspex guard attached, the employee routinely entered the enclosure while the machinery was running.

While behind the guard, his fingers were caught between a pallet and the conveyor, resulting in his middle finger being amputated from the tip to the first knuckle. He was subsequently off work for six months.

The company was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and it was found a number of employees had been given interlock parts which effectively overrode the safety systems in place and allowed access to the enclosure.

Pinguin Foods UK Ltd, based on Marsh Lane, Riverside Industrial Estate, is part of The Pinguin Group that has eight vegetable production sites in Belgium, France and the UK.

It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £3,500 at Boston Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE Inspector Scott Wynne said:

“Pinguin is a large international company and it is often assumed companies of this size adhere to health and safety policies at all times.

“The employee regularly gained access to the machinery, defeating the safety device using an interlock mechanism given to him by another member of staff.

“The automatic palletising machine can carry up to a ton of boxes so the employee could easily have suffered more severe injuries. Pinguin should have had robust supervision and monitoring that should have identified staff were overriding interlocks and stopped it happening.”