Countrystyle Recycling considering appeal after health and safety fine

Countrystyle Recycling is considering an appeal after it was fined £300,000 after a worker was injured while repairing a shredder.

Countrystyle Recycling considering appeal after health and safety fineMaidstone Magistrates’ Court heard last week how, on 7 October 2013, a plant mechanic employed by the Kent-based company was in the process of repairing a shredding machine after the metal plate forming the roof of the hammer drum had become detached.

The worker was kneeling on a conveyor belt inside the shredder when it restarted and he was thrown from the machine, suffering a fractured right leg and left arm.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company did not have adequate or suitable systems in place to protect the health and safety of their employees, including failing to enforce the ‘safe stop’ process which should be followed when using dangerous machinery.  It said that the company had allowed unchallenged poor practice to become the norm.

The company was fined £300,000 and order to pay £8,903 after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

However, despite the guilty plea, the company has expressed surprise at the extent of the penalty, with recent HSE investigations into incidents causing in similar injuries resulting in fines of tens of thousands of pounds, rather than the six-figure sum imposed on Countrystyle.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Following the submission of a guilty plea in this case, the Company is surprised by the extent of the fine imposed which seems disproportionate to the circumstances of the offence and the actual harm suffered. Accordingly, the Company is considering the possibility of an appeal with its legal advisers.”

Waste equipment firm fined after worker falls

The Countrystyle penalty was followed yesterday (24 October) by Cole Mechanical Services, a waste equipment maintenance firm, being fined after a worker suffered serious head injuries when a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) overturned.

Geoffrey Hatton, 49, from County Durham, was in the process of dismantling a compactor at a site in Cheshire, when the MEWP fell, causing him to fracture his skull and two ribs.

Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard that on 19 January 2015, Hatton, who was in the MEWP, was with a colleague taking large pieces of cladding off the frame of a compactor. A large piece of the cladding came into contact with the MEWP and caused it to fall over, seriously injuring Hatton, who spent two months in hospital as a result and has been unable to return to work.Countrystyle Recycling considering appeal after health and safety fine

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found serious safety failings by Cole Mechanical Services. The MEWP was being used outside when it was only suitable for internal work, the firm’s employees were not trained in how to use MEWPS or how to safely erect tower scaffolding, and no risk assessment had been conducted for the work being carried out. 

In addition, at the time of the incident another worker was working on a fragile roof with no protection to prevent falls.

Cole Mechanical Services pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and as a result was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,995.

Waste industry health and safety

The waste industry has previously been branded one of the most dangerous to work in, with the most recent HSE statistics for the waste management industry in the UK recording five fatal injuries to waste workers and six to members of the public in 2014/15. In the last five years, there have been 33 worker deaths in the waste sector.

The HSE figures suggest that 1,879 employer-reported non-fatal injuries occurred in the waste sector in 2014/15, almost 70 per cent of which were due to either slips, trips, falls or being struck by an object.

Between 2010/11 and 2014/15, an average of 5,000 cases of non-fatal workplace injury have been reported in the waste sector each year. This represents 4.1 per cent of all workers, twice the all-industry rate of 2.0 per cent.

This year, the number of deaths investigated by the HSE, which only deals with work-based incidents and therefore does not include road-traffic accidents, has already exceeded last year’s total after a man was found dead at a Milton Keynes materials recycling facility (MRF) operated by Viridor in August. This followed a tragic incident in July at a metals recycling site in Birmingham, when a wall holding back tonnes of scrap metal collapsed, killing five workers.

Further information is available in the HSE’s ‘Statistics on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain 2015