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Edinburgh firm fined after worker blinded in one eye

Date:
2 December 2014

An Edinburgh firm has been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker was severely injured and left blind in one eye when he was struck by a piece of high tensile wire.

Declan Shipcott, 20, of Alexandria, was working for Viridor Enviroscot Ltd at its Materials Recycling facility in Bargeddie, Glasgow, when the incident happened on 24 September 2012.

Airdrie Sheriff Court heard today (2 Dec) that Mr Shipcott was helping two colleagues clear a blockage on a baler machine, which had a wire tie mechanism to bind bales of waste material. The blockage was preventing the strapping wire from wrapping around the bale.

After 30 minutes they had been unable to clear the blockage and so cut the wire. The remaining wire was within a “recoil” box, which had a button to release any tension still in the wire.

Mr Shipcott opened the box to find that the wire had become knotted and, unable to undo the knot, he used wire cutters to cut it free. At that point a piece of wire flicked out and struck him on the face and left eye. He was not wearing any eye protection at the time.

He was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery to repair a cut to the cornea of his left eye and had to undergo further surgery the following month to remove the damaged lens and re-attach his retina.

This was only partially successful and he is now blind in his left eye, although he can see light, and has been told his vision will not improve due to the extent of the damage.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that although there was a risk assessment for replacing the wire in the machine, there was nothing referring to cutting the wire, although the fact that wire cutters were available at the machine acknowledged that sometimes wire had to be cut.

The court heard there was no safe system of work for those involved in cutting high tensile wire and that the company had also failed to distribute and ensure the use of personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses.

The company reviewed its risk assessments following the incident and employees now wear a full face visor when working at the baler.

Viridor Enviroscot Ltd, of Edinburgh Quay, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, was fined £165,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE inspector Aileen Jardine said:

“This incident could have easily been avoided if Viridor Enviroscot Ltd had carried out a risk assessment for the task, which would have identified the safety measures required to reduce any risks.

“The simple act of donning eye protection before working with high tensile wire may well have prevented this incident taking place. Instead, his employer’s failings led to an incident which has had real life changing consequences for this young man.”

Notes to Editors:

  1.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation. 
  3. 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.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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