South Yorkshire waste wood worker died while unsheeting equipment

A worker at South Yorkshire wood waste company R Plevin & Sons died after he fell four metres from a walking floor trailer in 2014, Sheffield Crown Court has heard this week.

Paul Littlewood died from his injuries after the incident at the company’s site in Hazlehead, between Huddersfield and Sheffield, and the company was this week fined £216,000 for failing to take measures to avoid his death.

Littlewood was manually unsheeting the walking floor trailer on 30 June 2014 when he fell. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that access to the work platform was protected by a single manually fastened wire rope, which is normally fastened to a vertical post with a carabiner.

At the time of the incident, however, the rope was hanging loose and the access point was unprotected.

The court heard that R Plevin & Sons, which recycles waste wood into biomass wood fuel, animal bedding and panel board feedstock, had not carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment for sheeting and unsheeting the trailers and that the protection provided was inadequate to protect workers from the risk of falls.

“The incident could have easily been prevented by providing either automatic sheeting or self-closing gates similar to those at the access point on Mobile Elevated Work Platforms, coupled with a double guard rail along the length of the work platform,” said HSE Inspector Tim Johnson.

“It is a requirement to carry out suitable planning for significant risks such as working at height. The sheeting and unsheeting of lorry trailers is clearly working at height and the company should have identified the risks and control measures necessary to prevent this fatal accident.”

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations and was fined £216,000 and ordered to pay additional costs of £31,266.54.

R Plevin & Sons has been contacted for comment.

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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