DEATH DUE TO SAFETY FAILURES
In a recent incident, a textile worker at a Yarns factory in Huddersfield was killed after being crushed in a huge baling machine.
The employee was cleaning a baling machine when it re-activated. He received multiple crush injuries as he was first trapped horizontally by the force of one plate before a vertical compressing ram also operated. A colleague heard shouts minutes after he had begun cleaning the machine and rushed over to hit the emergency stop button. Unfortunately the employee was found to have severe crush injuries and he was later pronounced dead at the scene.
The company was fined £60,000 at Bradford Crown Court on 7th June and ordered to pay £20,625 in costs.
Management Safety Failings
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which mounted the prosecution, said management safety failings were responsible for the tragedy. Bradford Crown Court heard that the employee who had worked at the company for over 20 years, had received no proper training in how to clean the baling machine but had tackled the task on 3rd January 2008 when asked to do the job.
In its investigation the HSE suggested that an electronic sensor may have been inadvertently obscured, which re-activated the operation of the baling compressors as the machine had been left in automatic mode. It should instead have been shut down completely.
HSE inspectors found a lack of supervision and consistency in work processes at the factory and a lack of equipment meant some procedures could not be carried out properly.
Immediately after the incident, an enforcement notice was served on the firm requiring improvements to ensure the cleaning operation of the baler was carried out safely.
The inspecting investigator was of the view that this was an entirely preventable tragedy. There was a common misunderstanding that isolation and lock-off at the mains were not required and no one seemed to appreciate fully how the baling machine worked from a safety perspective. Dangerous assumptions were made which led directly to the death. The company fell well short of its duty to protect employees from a known hazard with employees working in a system that allowed poorly controlled work practices to develop. Ineffective monitoring meant these were not picked up and corrected.
Whilst the outcome is always tragic when a work place fatality results it is important to consider what lessons can be learned. It goes without saying that we urge all employers to reinforce the message to their key managers and staff that Health and Safety is to be seen as a normal and integral part of the job. Making sure your safety arrangements are put to work is an important step in demonstrating compliance and discharging responsibility …. and hopefully avoiding injury, death and of course prosecution.
If you have any need for clarification or advice on anything in your organisation that relates to aspects of the above or anything else for that matter – don’t hesitate to contact us.