An international paper manufacturer has been fined £200,000 after a worker was crushed to death between two large rollers at a mill in Devon.
Richard Zebedee, 45, was working for Arjo Wiggins at Stowford Mill in Ivybridge, when the incident took place on 28 April 2009. There had been significant blockages and production problems on the day of the incident, prior to Mr Zebedee starting his shift in the drier area of the mill.
He gained access to a set of large rollers on the production line by opening a gate, which had been left unlocked, and used a long-handled tool to clear waste material, known as ‘broke’.
The device got caught and he was pulled into the machine, while its rollers were running at a production speed of 131 metres a minute. Colleagues pulled him out of the machine and began to administer first aid. But he was unresponsive and died at the scene from crush injuries.
The HSE investigated the incident and learned that the padlock on the gate was often left unlocked, giving workers potential access to the rollers. Workers were also seen accessing other dangerous parts of the machine.
The investigation found that although Mr Zebedee had worked at the mill for 18 months, he had only started work as a ‘drierman’ a fortnight before the incident. He had received some training but several items on his training log had not been signed-off.
HSE inspector Jo Fitzgerald said: “Mr Zebedee lost his life in a tragic incident that could have been prevented if basic safety measures had been put in place by the company.
“Fast-moving machinery is a well-known hazard and must be properly guarded. Staff must also be given a full level of training when they are expected to work with potentially dangerous machinery.”
Arjo Wiggins (Ivybridge) Ltd appeared at Plymouth Crown Court on 22 October and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. In addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay £60,000 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it had a good safety record and had made improvements to the mill since the incident.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Zebedee’s widow, Sarah Zebedee, said: “Words cannot describe the gap left in our lives by Richard’s death. Today’s court decision can never bring back Richard but does give us a sense of justice. We hope that this prosecution has given Arjo Wiggins food for thought and that they make sure this can never happen again.”
Earlier this month, the company announced that the Mill would be closing in 2014, which will see nearly 100 workers lose their jobs.
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