Kent brewer in court

Britain’s oldest brewery business – Shepherd Neame – has been prosecuted for safety breaches after a 21 year-old agency worker lost a finger in an unprotected machine.

Billy Scanlan, from Sheerness, had entered a fenced-off section housing a running production machine, and was hosing down an area when he slipped.

His left arm instinctively shot out as he tried to regain his balance, but his hand came into contact with one of the operating parts of the machine. It immediately began to be drawn in by a sprocket at the end of a conveyor.

Mr Scanlan, realising what was happening, pulled his arm back but when he managed to free his hand, he realised he had lost the top part of his index finger and crushed his thumb and middle finger.

The incident at Shepherd Neame Ltd, at Court Street, Faversham, on 23 June 2014 was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It found the company had failed to make sure that staff couldn’t access dangerous moving parts of the machine.

Maidstone Magistrates’ heard  (29 Jan) that the area around the machine was mostly protected with interlocks and lightguards. However, Mr Scanlan, who had been employed at the site for over a year, used a maintenance gate that wasn’t interlocked to access the area where he slipped. Because there was no automatic shut-off, the machine kept running.

As a result of the incident he needed a full amputation of the left finger and repairs to his thumb and middle finger. He has been unable to return to work since and still suffers significant phantom pain and flashbacks.

HSE established that the maintenance gate had been only sporadically secured since it had been installed. It had been seen to be open during an earlier inspection by HSE in 2012, at which time the company agreed to lock and secure the gate as soon as the line became operational again following repair work.

The court was told that despite this agreement, the later incident proved that little had changed.

Shepherd Neame Ltd of Court Street, Faversham, Kent, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,007 in costs after admitting a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Rob Hassell said:

“This was an entirely-preventable incident. Shepherd Neame was aware of the guarding requirements for such a machine, but neglected to make sure that these safety measures were fully and consistently implemented.

“Those failures led to Billy Scanlan suffering a painful injury that has permanent consequences.

“Shepherd Neame had received previous advice from HSE on the same issue, but didn’t act sufficiently robustly to prevent this type of incident happening. All employers have a duty to protect their staff from risks they face doing their work and, in this case, that means making sure running machinery is effectively guarded.”

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.  Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states:” Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken… which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”


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