PETCARE giant Nestle Purina has been fined £50,000 after five workers at the Wisbech plant suffered severe burns when a steam pressure system malfunctioned.
The five men were all working on the maintenance of a hydrostat, a high-pressure food-processing machine, when they were hit by an uncontrolled release of steam and boiling water at Nestle Purina’s plant on Cromwell Road, Wisbech.
Today (Wednesday), Cambridge Crown Court heard Gary Coe, David Garner, Mark Mawby, Christopher Newell, and David Naylor suffered severe burns to their faces, arms and hands as a result of the incident on August 4, 2006.
The workers, all from the Wisbech area, were treated in hospital, with one man needing cosmetic surgery to his arm.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the hydrostat control systems had been replaced prior to the maintenance work but no proper assessment of the risks associated with these modifications was undertaken.
Nestle Purina Petcare (UK) Limited, based in Croydon, Surrey admitted breaking the law by failing to ensure the steam pressure system its employees were working on was safe and was fined £50,000 with £22,634.15 costs.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Burns said: “This incident highlights the need for companies to plan and implement all projects with a clear health and safety oversight. Had Nestle Purina followed these regulations properly, this incident may have been avoided and these five men may not have suffered the injuries they did.
“HSE will not hesitate to prosecute companies who fail to take their health and safety obligations seriously.”
Derek Wood, factory manager at the Wisbech site, said: “Our first priority has always been the health and safety of our employees and we deeply regret that this accident happened.
“We would like to take this opportunity to once again express our sympathy to the employees who were injured and their families.
“We have co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive. Following this accident we have also conducted a full and thorough investigation of our health and safety processes. Corrective action and improvements have been instigated to prevent anything similar from happening again.
“We are also pleased to note that the Judge recognised that this accident was a rare blemish on an otherwise safety conscious factory and company.”