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Recycling giant fined for worker death failings

Date:
20 May 2013

A worker at one of the world’s largest metal recycling firms was killed because of a failing to properly segregate people and moving vehicles, a court has heard.

European Metal Recycling Limited, which operates across Europe, Asia and the Americas, was today (20 May) ordered to pay more than £370,000 in fines and costs for its safety failures after also accepting shortcomings linked to training, instruction and supervision.

The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after Linas Mataitis, 25, from Mitcham, was struck by the bucket of a wheeled loading shovel at EMR’s site on Scrubs Lane, Willesden, during a shutdown clean-up on 18 July 2010.

He sustained fatal injuries after being pushed and pinned against a steel column by the large, heavy vehicle.

Southwark Crown Court was told Linas had joined the company two months earlier as a temporary worker.

He was working near a large shredding machine that had been powered down for essential annual maintenance, with surrounding safety zones and interlocking gates opened up to allow worker and vehicle access.

Linas was one of a team of workers using hand shovels to scrape and clear dirt near conveyors feeding the shredder, which they placed into piles for colleagues using machines to clear.

On the morning of 18 July there were three vehicles operating alongside the team on foot; a skid steer loader, a mini excavator and a wheeled loading shovel. The smaller machines were being used to fill the bucket of the loading shovel, which then drove away to be emptied.

The court heard the loading shovel was returning to be refilled for a fourth time when it struck Linas and crushed him against a conveyor support.

A subsequent HSE investigation found that although EMR had a documented procedure for clearing dirt from around the conveyors, which mentioned the use of a skid steer loader, it did not cover the shutdown operation when the safety gates were open, when more vehicles were operating nearby and when there was increased pedestrian movement.

As such, there were inadequate arrangements for safely managing the movement of people and machinery.

HSE also established that the loading shovel was being driven by a partly trained operator who may have been unauthorised to use it. The company had confusing and conflicting records in this regard, highlighting failings to properly manage and audit training and supervision.

European Metal Recycling Limited, of Delta Crescent, Westbrook, Warrington, Cheshire, was fined a total of £300,000 and told to pay a further £72,901 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Jane Wolfenden said:

"Linas’ tragic death was entirely preventable. European Metal Recycling, as one of the world’s largest recycling companies, should have been fully aware of its health and safety duties, and of the clear risks presented by vehicle and pedestrian movements.

"A risk assessment isn’t a paper exercise where a ‘one size fits all’ approach is acceptable, and the company should have properly planned for the shutdown operation where the level of risk was significantly increased -implementing safe systems of work to suit.

"The same can be said for training, instruction and supervision, where there was no clear direction or protocol for monitoring new or inexperienced workers.

"As a consequence of the company’s failings Linas’ family continue to grieve the loss of a son, brother and partner."

Speaking on behalf of Linas’ family, his girlfriend Donata Gerulyte, added:

"It’s almost three years since Linas was killed at work, but it still feels like it happened yesterday such is the hole it has left in our lives.

"His parents have lost their only son, who they hoped would support them as they grew old and who would one day take over the small family business in the Lithuanian village where we grew up. I know that was his dream also once we started our own family together.

"Life is slightly easier for me because I have my own work to keep me busy and family and friends to comfort me. Things are slowly returning to normal, but I will never, ever forget him, or what happened."

Further information on workplace transport safety is available from HSE’s website at www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  3. Section 3(1) states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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