Bitter end for worker in sweet factory

A Leeds-based chocolate and fudge manufacturer has been fined after an employee lost a thumb while cleaning an unguarded stirring machine.

Maria Pirie, 46, from Sherburn-in-Elmet, was cleaning the chocolate hopper at the end of a trial product run at Pecan Candy Deluxe (Europe) Ltd’s site in the Moor Lane Trading Estate when the incident happened.

Ms Pirie, who was not fully trained and was cleaning the machine by herself for the first time, moved the stirrer using the control buttons. Her left thumb was sliced off as the stirrer moved, trapping it between the side of the vessel and the stirrer.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Pecan Candy Deluxe for failing to properly guard the machine’s dangerous moving parts.

Leeds Magistrates heard the incident, on 25 January 2013, could have been prevented by a simple interlocked guard, which the company had fitted quickly afterwards.

Ms Pirie’s thumb was surgically re-attached but will never function as before. Being left-handed she has had to relearn how to write and has difficulties with everyday tasks.

The court was told the company had been served with an Improvement Notice by HSE in January 2012 regarding the guarding of mixers following a proactive visit by an inspector.

Pecan Candy Deluxe (Europe) Ltd, of Moor Lane Trading Estate, Sherburn-in-Elmet, was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £627 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the incident, HSE inspector Rachel Brittain said:

“This incident need not, and should not, have happened. The company could easily have prevented access to the dangerous parts of the chocolate hopper by making sure it was effectively guarded. It did not and Ms Pirie has suffered a painful and lasting injury as a result.

“Preventing workers from getting too close to moving parts of machinery is vital. Pecan Deluxe Candy had subject to an enforcement notice on guarding before this incident but obviously didn’t sustain the improvements required.

“Too many are injured, limbs are lost and even fatalities can and do happen because employers fail to guard machinery adequately. Employees must also be well trained and supervised.”

In the food and drink industries, machinery and plant cause more than 30% of fatal injuries and more than 10% of major injuries each year.

Information and advice on safe machinery guarding can be found on the HSE website at

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”


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