A Liverpool bedding firm has been prosecuted after one of its employees had three fingers and a thumb cut off in machinery.

The 32-year-old from near Kirkdale, who has asked not to be named, was trying to stop a quilt becoming entangled in a duvet-making machine when the fingers and thumb on her right hand were struck by a blade.

The machine which caused the employee’s injuries

Her employer, Downland Bedding Company Ltd, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the injured worker had not been given suitable training, and had been able to access a dangerous part of the machine when it was still operating.

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court was told the employee had been working at the Blackstock Street factory on 13 January 2011 when she noticed the quilt was going to wrap around the rollers above the cutting blade on the duvet-making machine.

She ducked under the mesh guard to pull the quilt free on the cutting section of the quilt line when the clamps that hold it in place closed, trapping her hand. A colleague heard her screaming and pressed the emergency stop buttons but they failed to prevent the blade cutting across her right hand.

Her fingers and thumb were sewn back on in surgery but it is not known whether she will ever regain full movement in her hand.

Downland Bedding Company Ltd, which manufactures duvets, pillows and mattress protectors, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £5,876 in prosecution costs on 9 March 2012.

Speaking after the hearing, Nanette Cox, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“The worker’s usual job was to work on a sewing machine but Downland Bedding also allowed her to work on the duvet-making machine to help out colleagues, despite not having any training.

“The quilt often became jammed in the machine but there were no procedures or written instructions on how to safely remove it. This meant that workers often ducked under the mesh guard to unblock jams.

“The company should have acted to introduce a safe way of working. If it had, one of its employees would not have suffered this serious injury.”