A DAIRY firm has been fined thousands of pounds after a worker severed the tops of three of her fingers in an accident at its Droitwich plant.

The incident happened in April 2006 at Robert Wiseman Dairies on Stonebridge Cross Business Park.

A female employee was changing machinery that puts labels around plastic milk bottles when automatic guards which prevent access to the machine's cutting blades were manually over-ridden. The tops of three of the woman's fingers were severed.

It is not known how the guards had been manually over-ridden.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 when it appeared at Redditch Magistrates Court.

The Act states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

The firm was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £6,200 court costs.

A spokesman for the firm said: "We very much regret that this incident took place, and have worked with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure that there can be no repetition.

"In practical terms, we have changed working practices and introduced measures to ensure that automatic safety guards cannot now be over-ridden."

He said the company had been in business for 60 years and has eight dairies across the country and this was the first time it had had a prosecution of this kind.

"We take this very much to heart," he said.

The HSE is now warning all employers to ensure they assess workplace risks properly.

HSE investigating inspector Ritchie McCrae said: "It is a fundamental expectation that employees should be able to work in safety, operating under systems that are regularly assessed and appropriately maintained."