Alec “Alf” Brackenbury, 49, spent two weeks in hospital and had eight separate operations following the “life-changing injury” in Worstead, near North Walsham, last June. This injury occured at food giant Heinz’s Norfolk Plant. Heinz has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly £10,000 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the engineer’s hand was severed in machinery. He is now unable to drive, work or carry out many day-to-day activities.

Mr Brackenbury was servicing a potato peeling machine at Heinz’s Westwick manufacturing plant, Norfolk, on the first day of a maintenance shut down when he climbed down to retrieve a dropped bolt. Despite the peeling machine being electrically isolated, as he put his hand into the slurry pump below, it started and sliced through his wrist. The HSE investigated the incident and found that although the slurry pump appeared to be an integral part of the peeler, it was in fact a separate machine with its own power supply and isolation point. Mr Brackenbury had not known about this and believed he had isolated the pump along with the peeler at the main distribution box.

The HSE’s investigation also found that a protective grate that should have been bolted to the top of the pump to prevent access was missing. This had allowed the self-employed engineer to reach into dangerous parts of the machine, including the screw auger. The HSE said it was possible that the guard had been absent for some time. H J Heinz Manufacturing Ltd, of Hayes Park, Hayes, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to a safety breach at Norwich Magistrates’ Court and was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,661.

HSE inspector Tony Brookes said: “Alf Brackenbury suffered a horrific injury in an incident that was wholly avoidable. Mr Brackenbury was put at risk by Heinz Ltd’s inadequate assessment of risks and lack of effective measures to stop access to dangerous parts of equipment. It is the duty of the employer to ensure their employees and contractors can carry out their work safely. Sadly in this case Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury.”

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