A poultry firm has been fined £4000 after an employee using a carcass de-skinning machine tore the skin off his own hand.

The employee was using the machine to skin chickens when his glove became caught and his hand was pulled on to the cutting blade.

The skin on the back of his hand – from his knuckles to his wrist – was torn away from the underlying tissue in the incident. Crown Chicken Ltd processes 365,000 birds weekly at Diss on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, Thetford Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday (27 September).

The company pleaded guilty to four breaches of health and safety law, including a separate incident where a second worker’s hand was crushed.

The first incident took place on 24 July 2009, the court was told.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found the machine had inadequate guards and no emergency stop button.

Gloves worn by the worker were not suitably protective, said HSE officials.

Five months later, on 7 December 2009, another employee severed a finger when his hand was crushed by the lifting mechanism of a forklift truck.

The employee was standing on the forks to access the back of a trailer.

Although unsafe to stand on the forks of a forklift truck, the company had not provided a safe way for workers to access the back of the trailers.

“These two incidents resulted in very serious and painful injuries to both men,” said HSE inspector Saffron Turnell.

“What is more, both could easily have been avoided if Crown Chicken had taken the correct health and safety precautions.

“The company failed to ensure that simple measures were in place to protect employees using the de-skinning machine.

“Similarly, the company had no safe method for staff to access the refrigerated trailers.”

Employers must ensure that appropriate health and safety measures were in place and that appropriate equipment is used, said Ms Turnell.

The HSE would not hesitate to take action against employers failing to comply with the law and putting workers at risk, she added.

Crown Chicken, of Crown Farm, Weybread, Diss, admitted two breaches of health and safety legislation – one breach in relation to each incident.

Magistrates fined the firm £4000 for each charge (total £8000) and ordered it to pay £5500 in costs.