Countrystyle Recycling handed six-figure fine after worker left with severe brain injuries
Countrystyle Recycling has been made to pay a fine of over £666,000 after an employee was left with life-changing brain injuries following a collision a vehicle at the Kent-based company’s site.
The penalty is the second six-figure fine for a health and safety offence that Countrystyle has received in just over a year. In October 2016, the company was fined £300,000 after a worker was injured while repairing a shredder.
Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday (11 December) how the 34-year-old worker, who has not been named, was struck by the boom of a telehandler at Countrystyle’s Maidstone site after it was left unattended on 30 September 2015.
The man, a supervisor at Countrystyle, got out of the telehandler after instructing a colleague to use it to move paper at the company’s paper, cardboard and plastics baling facility. The vehicle was left running while unattended and when the colleague entered the cab the boom was lowered, striking the man’s head as he stood below.
According to Countrystyle Recycling Ltd, the injured man had been crouched at the front of the telehandler to clear material from the machinery and that he hadn’t been seen by his colleague, who lowered the boom. Air ambulance crews flew the man to St George's Hospital in London with head and chest injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to sufficiently plan the management and overseeing of workplace transport activities on site, while the investigation also found that employees of Countrystyle had not received the appropriate level of training in order to safely operate the telehandlers on site.
According to the HSE, the man has not been able to return to work since the incident, over two years ago.
However, this was disputed by Stuart Butler-Gallie, Director of Legal and Admin at Countrystyle, who said: “The company has fully supported and paid the injured party since the accident in 2015, and despite the [HSE’s] comment, it was made clear to the District Judge on Monday that the injured party’s recovery is such that he is engaged in fortnightly return to work sessions and has a role earmarked for his return within the administration of our paper/card recycling operation."
“The company recognised that the stop/start procedures that it had in place had not been followed and based on legal advice had pleaded guilty to the offences.”
The company, which operates across the South East, with a number of sites across Kent, was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Bose Gabriel said: “This incident could have been prevented had Countrystyle planned this workplace activity beforehand and identified the risks associated.
“Duty holders must ensure they devise and carry out safe systems of work at all times. Workplace transport incidents are very serious and usually result in life threatening injuries, as highlighted in this case.”
Countrystyle Recycling was subsequently fined £666,700 and made to pay further costs of £8,424.
This means that the company has now been made to pay almost £1 million in fines over the past 14 months. Following the previous hearing last year, the company announced that it was considering an appeal due to the extent of the penalty, stating that HSE investigations into incidents causing in similar injuries tended to result in fines of tens of thousands of pounds, rather than the six-figure sum imposed on Countrystyle.
Countrystyle has been approached for comment.