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Firm fined for putting workers’ lives at risk

Date:
2 April 2013

A Durham recycling firm has been fined for putting workers’ lives at risk after two machines were found to have vital safety mechanisms deliberately disabled.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an unannounced inspection at the Spennymoor premises of Foreman Recycling Limited, on the Merrington Lane Industrial Estate, on 29 March 2011.

Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard today (2 April) that inspectors found there had been deliberate bypassing and disrepair of several machine guards on two baling machines, which were used to compress material such as cardboard and cans for recycling.

Prohibition Notices were served stopping all work on the two machines. The company was also served with an Improvement Notice requiring implementation of a routine guard checking procedure to ensure interlocks and emergency stops were working correctly.

HSE found a total of eight serious faults on the two machines, including the deliberate bypassing of key control systems to allow access to the compaction chambers, and damage to one of the emergency stops on a feed conveyor.

The court was told that as a result of the failings employees had been put at risk of serious and potentially fatal injury over a number of months.

Foreman Recycling Limited, of Albert Works, Kenninghall Road, Edmonton, London, was fined a total of £27,200 (£13,600 for each offence) and ordered to pay £4,802 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Victoria Wise said:

“The dangers associated with operating baling machines are well-known in the waste and recycling industry, as is the history of serious and fatal injuries resulting from their use.

“These are tremendously powerful machines with a number of mechanical moving parts that have the potential to cause serious harm. Appropriate safeguarding of these machines is extremely important and should include all operations including blockage clearance.

“The two baling machines inspected at Foreman Recycling Limited were found to have a significant number of fundamental safety features disabled, a situation the company’s management was aware of.

“The standards found at the site were unacceptable. Fortunately no-one was injured by the machines, but this prosecution should act as a wake up call to companies who do not have a robust safety management system or who put profit before safety.”

The combined fatal and major injury rate in waste and recycling is more than four times the average across all industries.

More information about the safe use of machinery can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/work-equipment-machinery/puwer.htm

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 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.”

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