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Fine for Downland Bedding Company Ltd

The HSE instigated prosecution of Liverpool bedding firm after a machine cut off three fingers and thumb of the right hand of employee.

The unnamed thirty-two year old female employee had her fingers chopped off by a blade of a duvet-making machine while endeavouring to disentangle a quilt.

The HSE investigation revealed that the employee was untrained in the use of the machine, and had accessed a dangerous part while it was still in operation.

The Liverpool Magistrates Court heard that while the employee worked at the Blackstock Street factory on 13 January 2011, she observed the quilt about to wrap round the rollers above the cutting blade of the duvet-making machine. As she tried to dislodge it, the clamps holding it in place closed, with her hand inside. Her screaming was heard by a colleague, who immediately pressed the emergency button, but failed to stop the machine in time to prevent it cutting through her right hand.

The employee’s fingers and thumbs were sewn back on but it is unknown yet, whether she will regain full movement of the hand.

Downland Bedding Company Ltd, manufacturers of duvets, pillows and mattress protectors, pleaded guilty. The company were fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs amounting to £5,876.

The HSE investigating officer stated that the workers usual job entailed working on a sewing machine however, the company also allowed her to help colleagues on the duvet-making machine although she was untrained for this particular job.

Quilting jamming in the machine was a regular occurrence, but no instructions were in place for safely removing materials, resulting in workers ducking under the protecting mesh to unblock jams.

The employee was one of 3,806 workers in this industry to suffer major injury at work during 2010/11. A further 27 workers had actually lost their lives during this period. Safety measures certainly need urgent revision.