Safety & Assurance Bulletin May 2022

In the News Elsewhere

A scrap metal recycling firm has been fined £2 million after admitting the corporate manslaughter of an employee ‘in an incident waiting to happen’.

Three company directors have also been fined after pleading guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As part of a three­ year joint investigation, Police and the HSE examined weeks of CCTV footage and uncovered hundreds of safety breaches prior to the death.

The IP was killed on 24 June 2017 accessing an area beneath a hopper which feeds scrap metal onto a conveyor belt via a broken gate. The Court heard the firm should have prevented access to dangerous machinery and that the machine should have been switched off before workers performed any cleaning or maintenance. The company had been warned previously about the lack of lockable gates to prevent access to the machine. They had installed gates but, at the time of the death, they were damaged.

CCTV from the weeks leading up to the incident showed employees climbing in and on the machine and going underneath it to clear blockages. On the day he died – just 40 minutes before the incident – CCTV again showed the IP working close to the hopper but the manager, who was standing nearby, failed to take any action.

HSE inspector Jan Willets confirmed that fixing the gate would have been straightforward and inexpensive, but a culture existed in which management regularly turned a blind eye to workers taking dangerous short cuts.

Learning Points:

  • Dangerous parts of machines must be guarded to prevent access.
  • We all have a duty to follow safety rules and use any safety equipment provided to us. We also have a duty to ensure our employees do so.
  • Evidence of turning a blind eye led to the personal convictions for the three company directors.