A Northern Ireland animal-feed manufacturer has been fined a total of £40,000 for an incident whereby a worker lost a hand in an unguarded machine.

John Thompson and Sons Ltd. pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety at work offences at Belfast Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday, January 18).

The prosecution was led by the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) following its investigation into the incident in question which happened on December 21, 2019.

The HSENI investigation found that the worker was carrying out maintenance on a grain roller in an attempt to clear a blockage when his right hand was drawn into two counter-rotating rollers.

The incident caused severe crush injuries to his hand, according to the HSENI, and it later had to be amputated above the wrist.

HSENI described the injury as “life changing”.

Speaking after the hearing, HSENI inspector, Kiara Blackburn said: “This serious incident could easily have been avoided.

“It is essential that safe systems of work are developed and implemented to ensure the safety of employees and other people working near dangerous parts of machinery.

“During any maintenance activity, machines must always be safely isolated from energy sources to prevent inadvertent start-up,” Blackburn added.

Workplace incidents

Reported fatal injuires by year and work sector. Bar chart: HSENI

According to HSENI’s latest Annual Report and Accounts, which covers the period April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, work-related injuries are on the rise.

Fatalities in areas that the HSENI is responsible for increased by seven (from 11 to 18) in the year and fatalities in areas under both the HSENI and Local Council’s responsibility increased by six (from 13 to 19).

The report mentioned that fatalities in the agriculture sector increased rom five in the year 2020-2021 to six during 2021-2022.

Major injuries, it added, increased by 51% on the year prior and all reportable injuries increased by 18%.