Recycling worker death: Jail term for director after dangerous baling machine still in operation five years after death
A Liverpool-based waste and recycling company has been fined and its director has been jailed after the death of a 39-year-old worker.
Gaskell’s (North West) Limited and Jonathan Gaskell were sentenced both for their part in the death of Polish national Zbigniew Galka in 2010, and for continuing to operate the same baling machine in a dangerous manner for up to five years after his death.
Zbigniew Galka died while working at Gaskells Waste Services in Foster Street, Bootle on 23 December 2010.
The company was operating a machine used to compress recyclable and waste materials into small bales which had a defeated interlock system. This enabled workers to enter the machine while it was still in operation.
Mr Galka had entered the baling chamber of the machine to clear a blockage of waste materials that had caused the machine to stop. The machine automatically activated, and Mr Galka suffered haemorrhaging, shock and severe traumatic injury to both legs. He died on his way to hospital.
In a joint investigation by the HSE and Merseyside Police, it was found that the baler’s safety interlock system had been defeated two months earlier. Poor maintenance of the machine meant it required frequent operator intervention.
Continuing to use the same machine
HSE inspectors then visited the site on 16 July 2015 having been informed that the company was continuing to use the same machine with further critical safety systems on the baler being defeated, five years after Mr Galka’s death. The machine could be operated whilst the guarding was open, meaning it could still run and production could continue with the operator being put at serious risk of injury. This was noted as a serious aggravating factor by the Judge upon sentencing.
Gaskell’s (North West) Limited of Foster Street, Liverpool pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £99,886.57.
Jonathan Gaskell of Peckforton Hall Lane, Tarporley, Cheshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Phil Redman said: “Firstly, our thoughts as ever, are with the family and friends of Zbigniew Galka. A great deal of time has passed since his tragic passing and we would like to publicly thank Zbigniew’s family for their patience throughout this complex investigation.
“This incident was completely avoidable and it is inconceivable that Gaskells continued to operate the same dangerous machine in the way it did for as long as five years after this incident.”
Earlier this year, SHP reported that waste disposal has the highest fatality at work rate of any industrial sector.
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