A FIFE company has been fined £360,000 after an agricultural worker's coat hood became trapped in a carrot cutting machine and strangled him unconscious.

Remigiusz Cyrek, from Poland, was an employee at Cupar-based agricultural firm Kettle Produce Limited, which grows and produces vegetables.

He was cleaning a machine that produces carrot batons at the firm's Orkie Farm when his coat hood was pulled in, tightening around his neck.

Cyrek was left unable to work for six months after the incident, which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said "could so easily have been avoided".

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An investigation by the UK's health and safety agency found that the firm had failed to provide a safe working environment for employees cleaning machinery.

It was found that the company failed to make sure that equipment was not moving, powered off and disconnected from the power supply when repairs were being made.

Kettle Produce Limited pleaded guilty to breaking health and safety law, and was fined at Dundee Sheriff Court on November 23.

The firm, which employs over 1100 people, recently lobbied Fife Council for retrospective planning permission to house seasonal agricultural workers in caravans on Cupar's Balmalcolm Farm.

A planning statement for the caravan site said: “The applicant requires labour to be present on site to ensure vegetable crops can be planted, harvested, graded and packed to achieve their customers’ orders and maintain food security within the UK.”

HSE inspector Kerry Cringan said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices. 

“While cleaning is an essential part of food processing, hygiene operatives should not be exposed to risks from unguarded moving parts.

“Companies should be aware that we will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”