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May 7, 2009

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Factory worker killed by unsecured roll of paper

A workman at a materials factory was crushed to death by a large roll of paper, which broke free and trapped him against a machine.

Simon Cowan, 32, was working as a paper-slitter machine operator for Avery Dennison Materials UK Ltd, when the accident took place at the firm’s Milton Keynes distribution centre on 25 June 2005.The slitter machine processes sheets of paper, which weigh in excess of a tonne, and chops the paper into different sizes.

Mr Cowan was standing behind the device and was waiting for a colleague to bring over a new roll of paper, so he could change the reel. His colleague transported the replacement roll using a pedestrian-operated pallet truck. The pallet stopped a few feet behind Mr Cowan, but the momentum caused the paper to role over the protective polystyrene wedge, which was securing the reel, and onto the floor.

The paper then rolled approximately three metres and struck Mr Cowan, pinning him against the back of the slitting machine. He was freed by his colleague and rushed to hospital, where he died a few hours later as a result of serious crush injuries to his chest.

Avery Dennison Materials UK Ltd appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court on 6 May and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. The firm was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs.

HSE inspector, Andrew Moore, told SHP that the case suffered a number of delays before Avery Dennison could enter a plea in court.  He said: “Originally it took the HSE over a year to carry-out an accurate reconstruction of the event, as we had to consider many variable factors.

“Once the reconstruction had been carried out new evidence came to light, which meant that we had to carry out new PACE interviews.

“The case first went to court in 2008 but the defendant was unable to enter a plea on three separate occasions, as it was waiting on technical support evidence, which was being produced by specialists.”

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and has subsequently introduced a number of measures to prevent similar accidents from taking place. These include introducing a pedestrian-free zone in the area behind the machine, when new reels of paper are being loaded. Also the rolls of paper are now strapped on to the pallet to make sure they are securely held in place.

Inspector Moore added: “This preventable fatality shows the need for rigorous risk assessments. Employers must consider and assess how heavy loads with the potential for serious injury are moved and restrained. We would urge senior managers in such large organisations to remain vigilant in order to ensure a good health and safety culture is maintained and that necessary precautions are put in place to protect workers from injuries and even death.”

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