A YOUNG woman suffered life-changing injuries when her hair and scarf became tangled in a conveyor at a factory in Deeside.
Kelly Nield, 24, from Ellesmere Port, could have been killed in the accident, a court was told yesterday.
Mainetti UK Ltd, which employs 200 people in the manufacture and recycling of coat hangers for supermarkets, admitted four charges brought by the Health and Safety Executive following what Simon Parrington, prosecuting, called “a horrific accident” in April 2009.
He said Miss Nield sustained serious injuries to the neck and throat, together with the loss of her hair which was pulled from her head, and a fractured finger.
Her hair had been tied in a ponytail but it became entangled in the “inadequately guarded” chain and sprocket drive of the conveyor on which she was working.
Mr Parrington said the company failed to provide proper instruction, failed to prevent access to dangerous parts of the machinery or provide an emergency stop button.
Miss Nield, an agency worker, had been provided with some training but that did not cover the dangers of working with conveyors.
On her first day at the factory Miss Nield was sorting, de-labelling and packing coat hangers when she tried to rectify a blockage.
But as she bent down her scarf became entangled in the inadequately guarded chain and drive.
“She was in a state of great distress as she tried to free herself with her left hand but to no avail.
“Her little finger was trapped, fractured and almost severed,” Mr Parrington explained.
She shouted for help and was eventually freed when a co-worker pushed the main ‘off’ button.
Emergency services were called and she was taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital 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, fracture to her left little finger and other major disabling injuries, all of which had left her with continuing disabilities which still affected her daily life.
Mr Parrington said the risk of entrapment with conveyors and moving parts was well known, and each year there were fatal and serious accidents.
The accident, he said, was entirely foreseeable and avoidable.
“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 in Mold.
But District Judge Andrew Shaw said that without hearing the mitigation, he had decided the maximum penalty of £20,000 available in the magistrates’ court was insufficient and said the company would be committed for sentence to the crown court.
Failure to adequately guard the conveyor or to provide an emergency stop had been “desperately serious” breaches, he said.
He described the consequences to the victim as “utterly appalling”.
The company will appear for sentence at Mold Crown Court next month.