A worker who had only been on site for two weeks, died after his head was crushed while he was clearing a conveyor.
Peter Clarke, 47, was working for brick manufacturing company Hanson Building Products Ltd, when the incident occurred at the firm’s distribution plant in Coleshill, Warwickshire, on 26 April 2008.
Mr Clark was employed as a ‘brickman’ and was stationed next to a conveyor that transferred concrete blocks from a kiln to a packaging area. He was responsible for clearing waste bricks from the production line, and collecting samples of the blocks for quality-control testing.
Sections of blocks were formed into larger groups for packaging by switching the conveyor’s direction of travel backwards and forwards. Mr Clarke was standing next to a low bridge over the conveyor when he leaned forward to remove some blocks from the machine. As he did so, another worker changed the direction of the conveyor, which caused Mr Clarke’s head to be crushed between the stack of blocks and the metal platform. The operator of the 30-metre conveyor could not see Mr Clarke because his view was obscured.
HSE inspectors visited the site on the same day and immediately issued a Prohibition Notice, preventing against the machine from being used until the safety risks were properly eliminated. HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove said: “This tragic incident could have been prevented if Hanson Building Products had carried out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify all the hazards for workers operating in this area.
“There were no safe systems of work for removing the blocks and the company failed to supervise Mr Clarke adequately. The area where he was working was well known as a danger zone by other workers, but he had been on site for less than two weeks and nobody had told him about the risks.”
On 23 June, Hanson Building Products appeared at Warwick Crown Court and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA. It was fined £280,000 and ordered to pay £29,204 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it regretted the incident and had fully complied with the investigation and the terms of the Prohibition Notice. It has removed the low bridge and installed a light guard, which isolates the machine if a worker leans over the conveyor. It has also provided staff with fresh training on what constitutes a safe method of work, and the defined work area.
During sentencing the judge recognised that the company had previously been prosecuted for breaching the same regulation in September 2003. It was fined £95,000 after a worker suffered serious spinal injuries after falling from a tower that was attached to a conveyor.
Speaking after the case, Mr Clarke’s widow Barbara said: “Pete’s death has devastated our family and for him to have lost his life due to a work-related incident is beyond belief. He was a much-loved husband, father and grandpa and our lives will never be the same without him.”
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