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August 21, 2007

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GBP 620,000 fine for offal tank death

Animal-rendering firm John Pointon & Sons of Cheddleton, Staffordshire, has been fined £620,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in costs over the death of a worker on its premises three years ago.

In August 2004, the animal carcass-rendering machine at the plant became blocked. In an attempt to unblock it, employee Ivan Torr was lowered into a deep and narrow part of the machinery on the sling of a crane, which hung from the ceiling. Overcome by fumes, he fell into the offal tank. Electrician Glyn Thompson entered the narrow space on the crane sling to try and rescue Torr, but was also overcome by fumes, and fell into the offal tank.

Ultimately, both men had to be rescued by the Fire Service. Torr survived, but Thompson died in hospital. A post-mortem examination found that Thompson had ‘foul-smelling material’ in his air passages, ‘widespread bronchitis’ and his brain was ‘very swollen’, indicating that he had been poisoned by the fumes.

In May, company director Carl Pointon and the firm pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges and were acquitted by a jury.

In a separate case, sentenced at Stafford Crown Court on 24 July, the company pleaded guilty to the following health and safety breaches:

– s2(1) and s33(1)a of the HSWA — for which it was fined £480,000;

– failing to adequately assess the risks to the health and safety of employees and others affected by its undertaking as required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 — for which it was fined £40,000.

The company pleaded not guilty to:

– failing to provide a safe system of work in a confined space, contrary to regulation 4(2) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997, and s33(1)c of the HSWA — for which it was found guilty and was fined £50,000;

– failing to provide suitable and sufficient arrangements for rescue from a confined space under regulation 5(1) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997, and s1(c) of HSWA — for which it was found guilty and fined £50,000.

Defending John Pointon & Sons, Richard Matthews said that criticism of the company at the time was accepted. However, a £4m programme of investment in health and safety showed how much the company had changed.

In sentencing remarks, Judge Simon Tonking said: “The system to clear blockage of equipment had obvious and inherent dangers. Also inherent was another deadly danger, the gases given off from animal waste.

“There was serious dereliction of duty, which fell short of what should have been done. The attitudes towards a health and safety structure were flimsy and ineffective.

“There were several incidents, both singular and collectively, which should have urged the company to look at its health and safety, but they were ignored.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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