Dorset sweet firm fined £300,000 over employee's death

22 April 10 / Julie Magee

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THE UK’s largest confectionery firm was yesterday fined £300,000 after a night shift worker was crushed to death in one of its sweet-making machines.

Czech national Martin Pejril died on February 20, 2008 while attempting to unblock a 6ft high jelly bean machine at Tangerine Confectionery in Alder Road, Branksome.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard how the machine was prone to blockages and could sometimes stop up to 40 times in a single shift.

Prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, Mark Balysz said there had been no safe system in place for staff tasked to investigate and clear blockages and no written risk assessment.

The court was told how starch room operator Mr Pejril, 33, from Draycott Road, Bournemouth, must have “misunderstood, misheard or didn’t hear” an instruction to switch off and isolate the machine.

Instead he climbed over the top and started removing trays but found himself trapped when the machine re-started.

A colleague attempted to help but unwittingly pressed the wrong button.

In Tangerine Confectionery’s defence, the court heard that there had been a warning notice over the machine.

Defence barrister John Cooper said: “We are dealing with an awful, awful human tragedy.”

The company denied two counts of breaching health and safety laws but was found guilty of both.

Judge John Harrow imposed fines of £150,000 on each charge and ordered the firm to pay £72,901 prosecution costs.

A Bournemouth inquest heard how safety procedures at the factory had been stepped up following Mr Pejril’s death.

A Tangerine Confectionery spokesman said the company was disappointed by the conviction and sentence and were considering lodging an appeal.

He added: “We are committed to maintaining and investing in the highest possible safety standards. Our sympathies remain with Mr Pejril’s family following this tragic accident.”

Mr Pejril’s widow Leona described him as “a loving, caring and hard-working man.”

HSE inspector Simon Jones said: “This tragic case highlights the need to ensure that machines are safely isolated before any maintenance takes place.

“A proper risk assessment would have highlighted the dangers of entrapment.”

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