Plastics recycler fined after crush injuries

A Lancashire-based environmental services company has been fined after a worker’s arm was crushed by a conveyor belt.

Muhammad Shoaib, 30, was cleaning waste plastic material from the conveyor at the Darwen site of plastics recycler Consilium Environmental Services when the machinery was started and his arm was caught between the rollers and the belt.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that, as a result of the incident, which took place on 20 May 2015, Shoaib suffered crush injuries in two places on his left arm and required ‘extensive surgery’. He has not yet been able to return to work following the injury.

The HSE found that no sufficient risk assessment had been carried out to identify the risks posed by the rollers and that there was not a suitable isolation process or guarding in place to prevent the machinery being restarted during work on the conveyor. Finally, it concluded that no safe system of work for the cleaning of the rollers had been implemented.

As a result, Preston Magistrates’ Court ruled that the company was guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and fined it £30,000, with an additional £4,500 in costs.

Following the ruling, HSE Inspector Sharon Butler said: “This incident was entirely preventable. It is essential to take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. As in this case, the outcome for ignoring these simple safety measures can result in life-changing injuries and a substantial fine.”

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

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