Nestlé fined £800,000 after Newcastle worker gets arm caught in Rolo machine at Fawdon factory

The Nestlé factory in Fawdon employs 550 people. Credit: NCJM

Nestlé has been fined £800,000 after a Newcastle worker was left seriously injured when his arm got caught in a Rolo machine at the company's Fawdon factory.

The 25-year-old maintenance technician was underneath the machine - known as the Rolo Racetrack - assessing an issue on 30 November 2020 when his sleeve got caught in a roller and trapped his arm.

After shouting for help, he was eventually freed and taken to hospital. He suffered multiple fractures to his left arm and soft tissue damage.

Earlier this month, Nestlé UK Ltd pleaded guilty at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court to being an employer that failed to discharge general health, safety and welfare duty to an employee; and contravening a health and safety regulation.

The court heard the food and drinks company failed to provide a safe system of work in relation to the maintenance of the Rolo Racetrack machine and failed to provide a guard which would have prevented access to dangerous parts of it.

Judge Zoe Passfield sent a written judgement to Nestlé, which fined the company £800,000. Nestlé was also ordered to pay costs of £7,776.50 and a court surcharge of £190.

During an earlier hearing at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court, the court was told a problem was identified on a belt of the Rolo Racetrack machine the night before the incident.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the roller that caused the injury had never been guarded. Credit: NCJM

The technicians found the belt was "tracking to one side" but adjustments were made and the machine was restored.

But the next night, at about 2am, the technician who came to be injured went to inspect the machine for a blockage after an alarm began to sound.

Simon Clegg, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: "When he went underneath the machine, he reached to steady himself and the sleeve of what he was wearing was caught in the roller above his head. This dragged his left arm into the roller and was trapped between the roller and the belt. He was unable to free his arm and he shouted for help."

A machine operator was notified and the emergency stop was hit before the roller had to be unscrewed and lowered in order to free the worker's arm. The court was told that the roller was "believed to be idle" and that at the time of the accident, the roller was "not guarded". Following the incident, guards were fitted to the machine.

Mr Clegg said: "The employee was seriously injured and taken to the office for first aid before being taken to hospital. He sustained multiple fractures to his left arm and soft tissue damage."

Mr Clegg said that he also suffered infections and was on morphine for three months afterward. The employee has since returned to work at the site following a phased return.

An investigation by the HSE found that the roller that caused the injury had never been guarded, but should have been due to it having a "nip point". Mr Clegg said that Nestlé "failed to conduct a proper risk assessment" while the machine was running.

Tim Hill, appearing on behalf of Nestlé, said the company had entered an early guilty plea and employs 550 people at the Fawdon factory, which is "an instrumental part of the Nestlé business."

He said following the incident in November 2020, Nestlé had accepted the machine should have been guarded and that more than £700,000 had since been spent at the Fawdon factory to make the site and machines safer. He said specific assessments on the roller were not done and Nestlé "accept that".

The Nestlé factory in Fawdon is due to close down in 2023, with about 475 jobs going as production is moved to plants in the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and West Yorkshire.

City leaders, trade unions, and the Government have sat down with Nestlé chiefs in the hope of finding ways to protect the livelihood of factory staff and find a new occupier to take over the site.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...