23 March, 2021
In April 2019 a 22-year-old labourer had been working at Johnsons Scrap Metal Limited, assisting in loading a 44-tonne articulated third party vehicle with waste wood. He climbed onto the truck and while standing on the load, he manually levelled some wood that had prevented the automatic roof sheet from completely covering the load. As he was climbing back over the load to get down from the truck, the automatic sheeting device was inadvertently activated, trapping the worker's arm in the mechanism, resulting in injuries that included a broken arm, that later needed surgery to put two metal plates in place, and tendon damage.
The HSE's investigation found that Johnsons Scrap Metal Limited failed to assess the risks in relation to vehicles visiting the site and to take effective measures to prevent employees from accessing third party vehicles. The company did not provide adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to employees and failed to implement risk control measures to ensure their safety when dealing with third party vehicles.
Johnsons Scrap Metal Limited pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,000.
HSE Inspector Emily Osborne said after the hearing, "This incident and the resulting injury was entirely preventable had the risk in relation to visiting vehicles been assessed and suitable control measures put in place. Those in control of a workplace have a responsibility to identify and devise safe methods of working, and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers."
Leaving aside the modest level of sentence (which is primarily assessed on the turnover of the company in terms of size), the recently published HSE annual statistics for 2020 for the waste industry highlighted that 30% of fatal injuries to workers involved contact with moving machinery. For non-fatal injuries of the 4000 workers sustaining reportable RIDDOR accidents, 5% included being injured whilst in contact with moving machinery.
The HSE served 233 improvement notices and 59 prohibition notices for the Waste sector in 2019/20 and 14 prosecution cases were brought in the same period. 11 resulted in guilty verdicts with resultant fine totalling £2.6m with an average fine per case of £239,000.
A lot of improvement has been made over the last 5 years in the Waste sector but organisations cannot be complacent and must properly assess and ensure that suitable and sufficient risk assessments and control measures are in place.