Director of Deeside recycling plant sentenced after worker’s arm ripped off

The director of a small plastic recycling company, Clark Technologies Wales Ltd, in Deeside, Cheshire, has been given a 10-week suspended sentence after an employee had his arm amputated while cleaning out a machine.

Wrexham Magistrates’ Court was told that Keith Lockett, who had worked for the company since 2013, was cleaning out a high speed friction washer, used to wash plastic bottles before recycling, by taking it apart on 6 December last year.

Whilst cleaning the machinery, Lockett found that part of the machine appeared to be blocked so switched the machine on to clear the blockage. The court heard that he then turned off the machine, but that the paddles inside continued spin, catching his jumper and ripping his right arm off just below the elbow.

Director of Deeside recycling plant sentenced after worker’s arm ripped off
The victim of the life-changing incident had no risk assessment to follow when cleaning the machine

An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that no safe system of work existed for operation of the machine and the site had no appointed a competent person to provide health and safety advice.

Robert James Shepard, who was the sole director of the recycling facility on Deva Industrial Park, pleaded guilty to breaching section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Wrexham Magistrates Court on Wednesday (29 November). He was handed a 10-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £4,000 and a victim surcharge of £115.

Defending Shepherd, Iain Simkin accepted there was no specific risk assessment for the work being carried out and the rules about cleaning machines and turning them off properly were too general.

He added: “Mr Shepherd was deeply shocked by Mr Lockett’s injury. It is a very small company with five people working there.”

The court heard that Shepherd had admittedly guilt at the earliest opportunity and had introduced new protocols after the incident to improve risk assessments.

The recycling industry has the second highest rate of fatal injuries in the UK, according to HSE research since 2009, which released its sector wide plan to improve health and safety in September.

Two weeks ago a 23-year-old man was killed after falling into a baler at a recycling facility in Redruth, Cornwall.

Speaking after the Deeside case, HSE inspector Mhairi Duffy said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life-changing injuries sustained by the employee could have been prevented.”