SERIOUS injuries to a worker in a factory owned by a Jedburgh-based company could have been avoided if correct safety precautions were taken, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
Mainetti, which has its UK base in Oxnam Road, was prosecuted after worker Kelly Nield had a substantial part of her hair ripped from her head in an accident at its Welsh factory in 2009.
The coat-hanger producing, recycling and distribution firm pleaded guilty to breaching four regulations and was ordered to pay out more than £80,000 at Mold Crown Court last week.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Wynne said: “These horrific, life-changing injuries sustained by Miss Nield could easily have been avoided if the right safeguarding measures had been taken by Mainetti (UK) Ltd.
“There are well-known risks associated with working with conveyor belts. It is vital, therefore, that the risks are fully assessed and guarding provided to prevent access to moving parts.
“Where appropriate, emergency stop controls should be installed in readily-accessible places.
“Employers must also ensure that workers are properly monitored, supervised and trained when working with this sort of equipment.”
Miss Nield was sorting clothes hangers on a conveyor at Mainetti’s Deeside factory in north Wales on April 11, 2009, when her scarf and hair became caught in the chain and sprocket drive of the belt.
The 25-year-old sustained serious throat injuries, lost a large chunk of her long hair and broke a finger in the incident.
Miss Nield spent three months in hospital afterwards, and said in a statement read out during the court hearing: “I was in total shock, so I couldn’t feel much pain to begin with, but I was panic-stricken.
“I knew I was in trouble. I started banging on the belt and shouting for help.
“I was coughing up blood and thinking, ‘Oh my god, oh my god’. It all happened so fast. I could see my finger dangling there and I couldn’t breathe, but the factory was noisy and nobody had seen it happen.
“Then my friend spotted me and ran to press the main off button, but as I watched her it felt like it all happened in slow motion.
“A workman raced over and found some scissors to cut the scarf, but my throat immediately began to swell up and I couldn’t speak.
“I was very gurgly and I could hardly breathe. I remember feeling very weak and wanting to sleep. Later, I kept asking doctors, ‘Am I going to die?’”
Prosecutors said in court that Miss Nield has suffered trauma, flashbacks and needs a stomach peg to feed her liquids because she is unable to swallow.
They added that Miss Nield had never been told the dangers of using conveyors, which she was working with for the first time.
HSE’s investigation found that Mainetti had fitted a guard to the conveyor, but it did not fully enclose the dangerous moving parts.
There was also no emergency stop button on the conveyor, which could have lessened the impact of the incident.
Finally, the company’s risk assessment failed to identify the dangers of entanglement in conveyors, and the need to keep hair and loose clothing secure when near the machinery was poorly enforced, according to HSE.
Mainetti’s lawyers said their client accepted full responsibility and had apologised to Miss Nield, while also pointing out its previously good safety record.
Mainetti was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,668.
One of the biggest employers in the Borders, Mainetti shed 64 jobs three years ago after moving its distribution centre to north Wales.