Reports Mark Duell in today’s Daily Mail…
A coat hanger factory worker suffered serious injuries to her neck and throat that almost resulted in her death when her hair and scarf became entangled in the chain and drive of a conveyor.
Kelly Nield, 24, of Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, suffered the injuries in April 2009 at a Mainetti factory in Holywell, Flintshire, which manufactures and recycles coat hangers for supermarkets, a court heard.
Miss Nield’s ponytail hair became entangled in the inadequately guarded conveyor on which she was working. She suffered a fractured finger and the loss of her hair, which was pulled from her head.
The factory employs 200 people at its Welsh base and admitted four charges brought by the Health and Safety Executive following what prosecutor Simon Parrington described as a ‘horrific accident’.
The company failed to provide proper instruction, failed to prevent access to dangerous machinery parts and failed to provide an emergency stop button, he told Flintshire Magistrates’ Court.
Agency worker Miss Nield had been provided with some training but it did not cover the dangers of working with conveyors, the court heard. She was sorting, de-labelling and packing coat hangers.
Workers were said to devise their own systems to prevent blockages on the conveyor – and on her first day on the line, she tried to rectify a blockage. But as she bent down her scarf got entangled.
‘She was in a state of great distress as she tried to free herself with her left hand but to no avail,’ Mr Parrington said. ‘Her little finger was trapped, fractured and almost severed.’
She shouted for help and was eventually freed when a co-worker ran to and pushed the main ‘off’ button. Her hair had been torn from her head when she was trapped.
Emergency services were called and she was taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester, Cheshire, where she remained for three months and underwent a number of operations.
Her injuries included a crushed and twisted larynx, scarring of the oesophagus and trachea, scarring of the epiglottis, loss of hair, fracturing to her left little finger and other major injuries.
The injuries had left her with continuing disabilities which still affected her daily life.
Mr Parrington said that the risk of entrapment with conveyors and moving parts were well known and each year there were fatal and serious injury accidents. The accident was entirely foreseeable and avoidable, he added.
Miss Nield is now scarred for life,’ he said. ‘Although this incident had the potential to kill Miss Nield, serious injury rather than death resulted from the company’s breaches of regulations.’
The serious and life-changing injuries, and the potential harm to other workers, were aggravating features, he said.
Kevin Elliott, defending, handed in a basis of plea at Flintshire Magistrates’ Court at Mold. But District Judge Andrew Shaw said that without hearing the mitigation, he had decided that the maximum penalty of £20,000 available in the magistrates’ court was insufficient.
The company would be committed for sentence to the crown court next month, he said. Failure to adequately guard the conveyor or to provide an emergency stop had been ‘desperately serious’ breaches, the judge said. He described the consequences to the victim as ‘utterly appalling’.
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