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Company in court after worker is struck by washing machine

Date:
2 February 2015

A Lincolnshire recycling firm has been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker was left with a broken back when he was struck by a washing machine which fell from a grabber.

Desmond Adlington, 48, of Grantham, suffered fractures to three vertebrae and a broken rib following the incident at Environcom England Ltd, Grantham, on 22 April 2013.

Mr Adlington was taken to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and then Grantham Hospital and had to wear a back brace for more than a year. After many months of pain and discomfort, he underwent an operation to repair the damaged parts of his spine. He is still on pain relief medication, will require further medical interventions for the rest of his life and his mobility is seriously affected

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive  (HSE), which prosecuted the company at Lincoln Crown Court.

The court heard today (2 Feb) that a number of designated pedestrian walkways and entrances had been installed at the site following previous HSE enforcement related to workplace transport.

However, two of the key routes had since been allowed to fall into disrepair and weren’t being used due to overspill from the firm’s recycling activities.

Mr Adlington was walking back from the canteen and was using the goods-in door, walking down one side of a trailer. On the opposite side, a 360-degree rotating grabber machine was operating, lifting white goods earmarked for scrap onto the back of the trailer.

Mr Adlington thought the driver of the grabber had seen him, but he hadn’t and the driver continued the loading operations. A washing machine, weighing 65-80kgs, became detached from the grabber and was thrown over the top of the bulk trailer, striking Mr Adlington several metres away.

Two Improvement Notices were served on Environcom at the time – one in relation to a safe system of work for the grabber machine, and the other for effective control, monitoring and review of measures to prevent risks to pedestrians from vehicle movements.

Environcom England Ltd of Spittlegate Level, Grantham, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £16,286 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 Dr David Lefever said:

“This incident, which could easily have resulted in Mr Adlington’s death, was entirely preventable had the company maintained the pedestrian walkways previously required by HSE.

“It is vital that pedestrians are separated from the dangers posed by vehicles. The company let the walkways become blocked so pedestrians had to use other routes, including the main vehicle entrance to factory.

“As a result of this, Mr Adlington has needlessly been left with serious injuries which will no doubt affect him for the rest of his life.”

Vehicles at work continue to be a major cause of fatal and major injuries, with more than 5,000 incidents involving transport in the workplace occurring each year. About 50 of these incidents result in deaths. For further information go to http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport

Notes to Editors

  1. 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.”
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 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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