In a case that took seven years to come to court, a Warwickshire recycling company has been fined £140,000 and told to pay £100,000 in costs after a worker died while checking an unguarded shredding machine.
At the time fo his death, Steven Bennett, 31, was working alone at the former premises of JFC Plastics in Bold, Lancashire. His colleagues last saw him alive in the early hours of 24 November 2005.
Liverpool Crown Court was told on 28 September that the most likely cause of Mr Bennett’s death was that he fell into the machine while carrying out checks to see if it was running smoothly.
The court heard that JFC Plastics did not take steps to prevent access to the machine, which was used to break apart bales of plastic bottles, while it was operating. The company also failed to ensure there was no power to the machine before maintenance work was carried out and it did not have an adequate risk assessment in place. The firm’s employee training did not meet acceptable standards, while a lack of management supervision and monitoring of work were also evident.
HSE Principal Inspector Tanya Stewart said it had been regular practice for employees to enter the machine to remove entangled wire, but there were no safeguards in place to prevent them carrying out this work while the machine’s parts were still moving.
JFC Plastics, previously known as Delleve Plastics, pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA1974, by failing to ensure Mr Bennett’s safety. The company was sentenced following a lengthy Newton hearing with no jury present, in which the judge found that its failings were a significant cause of Mr Bennett’s death.
PI Stewart said: “This was a tragic death that could have been prevented if JFC Plastics had put more thought into the safety of its employees and the adequacy of its working practices.
She added: “I hope this case will act as a warning to companies to think more carefully about the safety of workers who clean, maintain or repair machines, or who clear blockages.”
JFC Plastics expressed profound regret at the death of Mr Bennett and sent its sincere condolences to his family.
In a statement, it stressed that the debaler involved was a standard machine used extensively in the recycling industry and confirmed that its installation and commission had been approved by the manufacturing company.
It added that it had no previous safety convictions and cooperated fully with the HSE investigation.
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