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Mid-UK made to pay almost £1m after ‘horrific’ shredder death

Mid-UK Recycling has been made to pay almost £1 million and two directors given suspended prison sentences following the 2013 death of an agency employee working for the company.

Karlis Pavasars, 55, was working at the Ancaster-based firm, which shreds household waste for use as fuel pellets, on 19 July 2013, when he was killed in a ‘horrific’ incident, Nottingham Crown Court heard on Friday (10 November).

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Pavasars had been cleaning near a conveyor when the recycling line was started, drawing him onto the conveyor, along the line through a trammel and into an industrial waste shredder.

An inquest in 2015, which ruled that the death was accidental, heard that his injuries were so extensive that he had to be identified by DNA taken from his toothbrush.

The HSE found that the fixed gate that fenced the area off and prevented access to the conveyor had been removed for a number of weeks prior to the incident, which meant that workers could freely gain access to the area. It said that management were aware that the gate was not in place just days before the incident.

It also ruled that the company had failed to design and provide a recycling line that was safe for those that worked on and around it, and had failed to train and supervise agency workers like Pavasars.

On Friday, Mid-UK pleaded guilty to two offences of contravening the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) and was fined £880,000, as well as costs of £100,000.

Managing Director Chris Mountain and Operations Director Alan Munson also pleaded guilty to two offences of being the director of a company which committed an offence contrary to the HSWA. Both received a 20-week custodial sentence suspended for two years and Mountain was made to pay a fine of £50,000.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Dr Richenda Dixon commented: “This horrific fatality could so easily have been avoided by simply installing and maintaining physical guards around conveyors and ensuring that safe working practices were in place.

“Employers should make sure they properly assess, apply and maintain effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery.”

Improvements at Mid-UK

Following Friday’s hearing, Mid-UK released a statement saying that it was “extremely sorry that this incident occurred and for the failings in some of its processes which existed at that time”.

It added: “The company has always strived to maintain health and safety of the highest standards and is therefore devastated that on this occasion, those standards were not being met.”

Mountain, who is still the company's Managing Director, said: “We are extremely sorry that this accident occurred and our thoughts remain with Mr Pavasars' family. We have recognised that while we thought our processes were rigorous, there were clearly gaps in our systems which allowed this to happen. It is a hard lesson learned but since 2013 we have worked extremely hard to make sure we have as much as possible in place to prevent such a tragic incident ever happening again.”

In the four years since the incident, Mid-UK says it has ‘invested heavily’ in improving its health and safety systems and has made appointments to ensure there is ‘a strong health and safety culture across every area of its business’.

A full-time health and safety manager has been employed, as well as a director with responsibility for health and safety. Last year the company achieved the OHSAS 18001 accreditation for its health and safety management systems and says all of its managers have received the IOSH Management Safety training.

The company also that that it has introduced a new traffic management system and safety walking routes for pedestrians and that it also carries out regular internal audits and spot checks on health and safety, as well as employing an external auditor to carry out health and safety reviews.

The HSE released a plan for the waste and recycling sector in September after figures were released showing that 14 people were killed in the sector in 2016/17, which along with a high injury rate makes the sector one of the most dangerous in the UK.

The HSE’s plan prioritises the reduction in the amount of musculoskeletal disorders as well as the amount of people killed by moving vehicles and machinery, and implores the industry to take ownership of the challenges and take the lead on implementing solutions.

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