Bernard Matthew’s Food Ltd has been handed a fine totalling £400,000 following two separate incidents where employees were seriously injured.
Colin Frewin was left permanently paralysed and underwent a six-month stint in hospital following an incident at the firm’s Suffolk-based manufacturing plant.
Chelmsford Crown Court recently heard that Frewin suffered multiple serious injuries, including a pierced left lung, several broken ribs, four fractured vertebrae and a spinal bleed.
He was put in an induced coma for three weeks, is now classed as a T6 paraplegic and has been diagnosed with autonomic dysreflexia (AD).
The 54-year-old suffered the injuries on January 28th, 2020. He had been tasked with cleaning a large screw conveyor used to move poultry turkeys along and chill them.
While working on the gantry between the spin chillers, he noticed a turkey stuck at the bottom of it.
As he attempted to dislodge the turkey using a squeegee, he was drawn into the machine.
It was only when a colleague noticed Frewin was missing from the gantry and heard his cries for help, the emergency stop was pulled.
A HSE-led investigation found an unsafe work system meant the chillers remained running as Frewin went to dislodge the turkey.
Victim personal statement
In a victim personal statement, Frewin described how his horrific injuries left him feeling “isolated” and in need of daily care.
“I will never walk again, and so I will be in a wheelchair permanently. I now have a suprapubic catheter, which was inserted via an operation. The district nurse has to give me bowel care every day and visits me daily at home.”
“I also suffer from AD – a condition which is life-threatening, as my body does not register if I am.”
“I have moved from my flat overlooking the sea to a bungalow. However, I miss seeing the sea and being close to the seafront and all the amenities.”
“I feel isolated as I cannot go out when I want as I need people to assist me,” he added.
Mr Frewin, who lives on his own, is visited by carers at least three times a day and cannot shower on his own, the court heard.
He said he cannot socialise with his friends and family as much as he used to, as he cannot fit his wheelchair into their homes.”
He revealed that when he talks about the incident, he sometimes finds this “upsetting” and then has restless nights.
“The accident has affected my life and my family’s lives,” he concluded.
There was another incident at the same plant five months earlier, on August 12th 2019, when a turkey deboning line had to be shut down after developing a fault.
As a result, 34-year-old Adriano Gama, along with the rest of the employees, were moved to a surplus production line to continue the process.
Whilst working on the surplus production line, one of the wings became stuck in the belt under the machine.
Gama attempted to push it out of the way, but as he did, his gloved hand became caught in the exposed sprocket of the conveyer and was drawn into the machine.
He was eventually freed and taken to hospital, having suffered a broken arm and severe damage to the muscles in his forearm.
A HSE-led investigation found that on the day of the incident, pre-start checks were only completed on the production lines that were regularly used.
Therefore, when workers were asked to move to the surplus deboning line, there was no system in place to ensure that it was checked before being put into operation.
The investigation uncovered that two safety guards had been removed, and a team leader responsible for the production lines had verbally reported this issue to the engineering team, but it was not followed up by either party.
Bernard Matthews Food Ltd of Sparrowhawk Road, Halesworth in Suffolk, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.
- Bernard Matthews pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in relation to Colin Frewin and was fined £300,000.
- Bernard Matthews pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in relation to Adriano Gama and was fined £100,000.
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