Apprentice butcher back at work a month after losing hand

Boss fined for unsafe mincer

Thomas Stevens

A teenaged apprentice butcher returned to work just 26 days after his hand was amputated following an accident with a mincing machine.

Thomas Stevens was just 16 years old and had been working for only six weeks at P and K Meats in Street, Somerset, when his right hand became caught in the mincer. The machine hadn't been fitted with a safety guard.

He was trapped for 30 minutes, while fire and rescue service workers battled to free him, but eventually paramedics were forced to amputate. Boss Paul Jeffery has been fined £15,000 by Somerset Magistrates Court for health and safety offences.

But after just 26 days, Thomas has now returned to work, using his new prosthetic hook.

"I just decided after my accident just to get on with it and not let it hold me back and carry on with what I love. It was a total of 26 days I was out for, that was it. I got bored just sat at home," he says.

"I'm coping really well, I have learnt to adapt with what I have got, I'm doing really well. I have a prosthetic hook which I tend to use when I'm butchering and all that, it's actually much easier, although I have to be careful not to cut my other hand!"

The court heard that the mincing machine was being used without a guard restrictor plate fitted - fine at the time that Jeffery bought the premises, but later introduced as a legal requirement.

"When he bought the premises he took over the lease and all the equipment and at the time it was manufactured it was sold as it is now and it had never had a guard fitted," his lawyer, Ian Dixey, explained.

"However, since then, the British Standards have changed and all such machines come with a guard sitting over the top."

Dixey said that Jeffrey felt "total responsibility" for the accident and was trying to make it up to Thomas by giving him a permanent job.

The court was told that, after the accident, several other local businesses had realised they were in breach of health and safety regulations and asked for advice.

Since 1975, when the Health and Safety Executive was established, the number of deaths at work has fallen from 651 a year to just 133. Around 79,500 injuries are formally reported each year.

"Workplace conditions have improved dramatically in the past four decades, but as employers plan and prepare for the new financial year they need to ensure that health, safety and welfare is a clear focus," says Tim Galloway, HSE's regional director for London and the South East.

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