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Waste industry dangers highlighted in court

Date:
17 April 2013

A Lincoln man suffered life-changing injuries because of a series of safety failings at the waste recycling plant where he worked in Scunthorpe, a court has heard.

The 25 year-old worker had his arm severed when he tried to clear a blockage on a conveyor forming part of a metal sorting line. The man was in hospital for a week but surgeons were unable to reattach the arm. He has been unable to return to work since the incident at the former City Scrap Ltd site in Mannaberg Way, Scunthorpe on 8 March 2011.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated, prosecuted City Scrap Ltd at Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court today (17 April) after uncovering a catalogue of dangers at the site. They included an absence of or poor guarding around moving machine parts, no emergency stop buttons on processing lines, a lack of a safe system of work and inadequate training for employees.

Immediately after examining the fragmentiser, HSE served four Prohibition Notices on the company because of deficiencies in the guarding, halting any further work on the machine, and a fifth notice regarding work at height.

The court was told that the man, then only 23, was working at a picking station on the conveyor taking off pieces of copper when he noticed a problem with the belt and realised something was caught.

He attempted to clear the line using a stick to dislodge the blockage, which was general practice among the operatives, but his right arm was drawn into the machine and severed at the shoulder.

HSE identified a number of safety failures and dangerous practices:

  • City Scrap failed to properly assess the hazards and risks to workers operating the line either when running steady or cleaning and clearing blockages
  • There was a consequent lack of a safe system of work
  • There were no emergency stops on the metal sorting line and no stop controls
  • Workers had insufficient training to enable them to safely clear blockages
  • The firm failed to ensure fixed guarding was in place and working efficiently
  • General safety conditions were poor enough to warrant immediate enforcement notices – four for the sorting line and one for working at height failures

City Scrap Ltd, of Dale Street, Lincoln, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £8,964 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Gale said:

"“A young man suffered horrific, life-changing injuries in an incident that was easily preventable.

"City Scrap Ltd should have had fixed guarding, properly secured, to prevent access to dangerous moving parts. In addition safe procedures should have been in place for clearing blockages, including isolation of power to the machinery.

"The waste and recycling sector has one of the worst records for injury incidents across all industries and yet the dangers of working with machinery and in the waste business are well known. Employers must ensure they take effective measures to address these risks and properly train their staff to carry out tasks safely."

HSE statistics for 2011/12 show the waste and recycling sector recorded five fatalities, 553 major injuries and 2577 over-3-day injuries.

Visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/waste/index.htm for safety advice in the waste management sector.

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."

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