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October 30, 2015

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Firm lands £100k fine after ‘ignoring’ warning

A worker at a waste and recycling firm suffered serious fractures when his arm was dragged into the rollers of a moving conveyor belt.

The 32-year-old employee was working at F&R Cawley Limited’s Covent Garden Close site on 28 February 2014 when he was asked to clear a blockage on a material recycling facility (MRF) machine.

The control room operator turned off the power to the machine but Luton Crown Court was told how the company’s lock-off and isolation procedure had not been followed on site for some time. As the worker attempted to remove a bit of waste from the rollers the power was turned back on by the control room operator and his arm was pulled into the rollers.

He sustained serious fractures and required three metal plates in his left arm which he is still unable to use. He will need further operations involving transplanting bone from his hip – with no guarantee of success; it is unlikely he will be able to do manual work again.

HSE say its investigation found the company’s procedures for lock-off/isolation and clearing blockages was inadequate, noting:

  • the computer system in the control room had not been working properly for some time;
  • walkie-talkie radios were faulty;
  • blockage team members were inadequately supervised and trained; and
  • the injured worker was not suitably trained to work as a mechanic.

The court also heard that a previous HSE inspection in 2012 requested the company review its blockage processes after it was observed that it was not following safe procedures. The potential for a breakdown in communication between the blockage team and the person in the control room was also discussed.

The company provided a new documented procedure but the court heard it fell into disuse within weeks. The judge was satisfied that HSE’s 2012 intervention constituted a “warning that was ignored” and that if the company had followed its own procedure, the chance of this accident happening was remote.

F & R Cawley Limited of 1 Covent Garden Close, Luton pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £20,763.

Following sentencing HSE inspector Andrew McGill said: “This worker has been left unable to work following an incident that could easily have been avoided if the company had ensured their staff were properly trained and supervised. This man used to enjoy cycling with his two children but now can’t do this or any other active play with them”.

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