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Food manufacturer fined after worker's skull crushed

10 September 2010

The UK's biggest food manufacturer has been fined £14,000 after a 65kg metal pillar fell on a maintenance engineer in Merseyside, crushing his skull. Thomas Williams, from Prenton in Wirral, was working at Premier Foods Group's site at Manor Bakeries in Moreton on 24 July 2008 when a four-metre section of pillar fell on his head.

Premier Foods, which has an annual turnover of £2.6 billion and owns brands including Hovis, Mr Kipling and Bisto, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to ensure the safety of its employees.

Wirral Magistrates' Court heard the 61-year-old suffered severe traumatic brain and spinal injuries, and was in hospital for more than six months. He now has difficulty speaking and moving, and his wife hasn't been able to work since, in order to look after him.

Williams and a colleague had been helping to remove cages and pillars from a storage area at the Reeds Lane site. They used an angle grinder to cut the pillar, but when they levered it free at the base it came detached from the ceiling at the same time and struck Williams.

The HSE investigation found that the company had not properly planned the task, and had not trained workers on how to carry out the work safely.

Phil Redman, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: "A man's life has been turned upside down because basic health and safety procedures weren't followed. Mr Williams has been permanently disabled from his injuries and will never be able to return to work.

"Premier Foods could have brought in specialists to carry out the work but instead Mr Williams and a colleague were just told to get on with the job.

"Mr Williams did not have any previous experience of carrying out this kind of work, and he should not have been put in a position where he had to make decisions about how to do it. There really is no excuse for a company the size of Premier Foods to make this kind of error when it comes to health and safety."

Premier Foods Group Ltd, of Centrium Business Park, Griffiths Way, St Albans, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was ordered to pay £6,808 towards the cost of the prosecution in addition to the fine on 9 September 2010.

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