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Waste recycling firm sentenced over young worker’s death

Date:
25 September 2013

A Bridgend recycling firm has been ordered to pay £250,000 in fines and £53,100 in costs after a 21 year-old worker was crushed to death when he was struck by a skip lorry on a weighbridge he was cleaning.

Geraint Eagle, of Nant–Y-Moel, near Bridgend, was cleaning sensors on the weighbridge at the waste site run by Nolan Recycling Ltd at The Old Quarry, Stormy Down, Pyle, when the incident happened on 2 December 2010.

Cardiff Crown Court heard today (25 September) that Mr Eagle, who had only worked at the site for six months, suffered fatal head injuries when he was hit by the lorry as he lay on the bridge to chip mud off the sensors – completely unseen by the driver.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Nolan Recycling for serious safety breaches.

The court was told that Mr Eagle had been told to clean mud off the sensors on the weighbridge and, as he had not done the job before, he worked alongside a more experienced worker who also looked out for traffic. However after taking a break, he returned to work alone.

A skip lorry drove onto the weighbridge where Mr Eagle was lying prone and chipping away at the hard mud. He picked up his tools and moved out of the way. The driver briefly got out of his cab and went into the site office, returned and drove on, unaware Mr Eagle had returned to his work on the weighbridge.

The lorry hit the young worker, and he died at the scene. Geraint Eagle had been in a total blind spot to the driver when he decided to return to his work.

The HSE investigation uncovered a series of failings by Nolan Recycling Ltd. The company failed:

  • to appreciate the risks associated with the site
  • to give full instructions, guidance and training to staff
  • to monitor and supervise staff, particularly Geraint Eagle
  • to devise a transport policy to segregate people from vehicles, and
  • to provide a system of proper maintenance for equipment like the weighbridge
  • to prepare a health and safety plan

HSE said there was nothing to stop lorry drivers driving on or off the weighbridge despite the maintenance work taking place. A suitable risk assessment for the work would have identified the potential dangers of lorries mixing with pedestrians on the site.

Nolan Recycling Ltd of The Old Quarry, Stormy Down, Pyle, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined a total of £250,000 and ordered to pay £53,100 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Sarah Baldwin Jones, said:

“This was a horrific incident with tragic consequences. It left Mr Eagle’s girlfriend without a partner, and his son, born eight months after the incident, without a father.

“There were multiple failings at the site, which should have been obvious and could easily have been addressed.

“Nolan Recycling Ltd should have closed the weighbridge while the work was taking place, had a clear written risk assessment for the maintenance work and had policies in place to separate site workers from moving vehicles. They should also have provided proper training to Mr Eagle and his colleague who was supervising his work.

“There can be no excuse for companies in the waste industry not taking reasonable steps to safeguard their workers as there is a wealth of information and guidance from trade bodies as well as the HSE.”

Mr Eagle’s father, Paul Eagle, who also lives in Nant–Y-Moel said:

“We all miss Geraint very much. This tragedy has had a huge impact on the family.

“I hope other businesses will learn lessons from this and put workers’ safety first. No other families should have to go through what we have been through.”

Further information on safety at waste transfer sites can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/waste/skiphire.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(1) of the Health and Safety at Work 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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