A major Bolton company has been fined £100,000s after a worker lost a finger in a health and safety breach, while another suffered lasting injuries.

The two separate incidents happened at pizza maker Stateside Foods, based at Wingates in Westhoughton, in 2020.

Nearly four years on, Judge Nicholas Clarke KC told Bolton Crown Court how the injury to the first worker was done after “roller” put in between two conveyer belts trapped his hand.

Judge Clarke said: “However there is no record of who fitted it or when it was fitted.”

He added: “This created a trap into which fingers could be drawn under the power of the belt.”

The Bolton News: The case was heard at Bolton Crown CourtThe case was heard at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

At a previous hearing prosecutor Kate Harney had told the court that this was exactly what happened.

This came about on January 8, 2020 when a 52-year-old agency worker put his hand into the “nip point” to retrieve a box, which then became stuck.

The man’s hand was badly injured and after being treated at the scene the man needed surgery, including a skin graft.

He was left with permanent hypersensitivity in his left hand.

Judge Clarke noted that Stateside Foods was “wholly unaware” that the conveyor belts had been adapted in this way but that afterwards they had brought in new safety measures.

These included markings on the floor and new training for agency staff, while the company had cooperated fully with an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

But another worker was injured that same year on October 14, when he tried to reach into a machine to retrieve dough that had become stuck.

Judge Clarke heard how the machinery was protected by a “castell” key system, but workers were regularly bypassing this system by unscrewing bolts, without switching the machine off.

They did this because it was much quicker than switching the machine off and going through the castell key system.

In this case the 30-year-old had reached in with his right hand which became stuck.

Judge Clarke said: “When he was able to pull his hand free, his fingers were hanging off.”

The man was taken to hospital where eventually his middle finger had to be amputated down to the knuckle.

After a phased return to work he eventually handed in his notice and left.

Again, the court heard how Stateside Foods cooperated fully with the ensuing investigation and brought in new safety measures afterwards.

Brought before the magistrates court on November 22 last year the company pleaded guilty to failing to discharge health and safety duty to an employee.

It also pleaded guilty to failing to discharge health and safety duty to a person other than an employee, taking account of the first man’s status as an agency worker.

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Judge Clarke had previously heard from Richard Matthews KC, defending Stateside Foods, about the company’s generally strong health and safety record.

He noted that “all of the directors clearly take their responsibility seriously” and that the company is “said to be one of the largest employers in the local community.”

But he ruled that given the size of the company, the fines he handed down would have to have a “real economic impact” to show the seriousness of health and safety rules.

Judge Clarke fined Stateside Foods £300,000 for the first incident, £500,000 for the second and ordered them to pay costs of around £5,340.

This brought the total fine to just over £800,000.

Judge Clarke closed by thanking barristers, solicitors and litigators involved in the case.

He also paid commended the cooperation of the directors which he said “demonstrates the commitment that the firm has to the ongoing health and safety of its employees.”