A British waste recycling firm has been sentenced after admitting safety failings related to a worker being killed at its premises.
Bradford Crown Court heard that on 17 August 2012, Simon Brook, an employee of West Yorkshire firm Gwynn Davies-McTiffin Ltd, was found lying seriously injured at the bottom of a horizontal baling machine.
His legs had been partially severed inside the machine and had to be amputated by a doctor at the scene. The 50-year-old father of six died two days later.
The court heard though there were no witnesses to the incident, it seemed likely the deceased was fatally injured when he fell into the baling machine’s hopper while clearing a blockage. A steel pole was found in the chamber, suggesting that Mr Brook had been using the pole to clear a blockage at the time of the accident.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution, said its investigation found that as the machine was operational at the time, Mr Brook falling into the hopper cleared the blockage and caused the machine to automatically restart.
HSE told the court that failings at the company’s premises were systemic. Health and safety management systems fell far short of what was required, with management failing to ensure that longstanding actions from risk assessments were implemented or that safe working practices for clearing blockages were put in place.
The court heard that blockages occurred every shift at the plant, with employees describing various unsafe methods of clearing blockages in the hopper of the baler. These included standing on the top platform, leaning over the side and prodding the blockage with a stick, climbing over the side of the machine and standing on the conveyor belt at the top of the hopper or jumping on the cardboard blockage within the hopper.
Gwynn Davies-McTiffin Ltd was fined £80,000 with costs of £40,000 after pleading guilty to breaching requirements of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
HSE inspector Andrea Jones, who carried out the investigation, added: “The risks of clearing blockages at baling machines are well known in the manufacturing industries, particularly in waste recycling industries.
“Adequate guarding of dangerous moving parts and the provision of safe systems of work including isolating and locking-off machinery are the basic principles for protecting employees.”