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Scrap metal firm and businessman fined £70,000 after worker loses both legs

June 25 2014

A scrap metal company and a businessman have been fined a total of £70,000 after a site worker lost both legs as the doors of a 16-tonne baling machine closed on him.

The 42-year-old worker, who now lives in Pontypool, Wales, was dealing with a problem inside the five-metre long baler at H Ripley & Co’s site in Westfield, East Sussex, when the doors of the machine began to close and a remote control he used to try and stop the doors closing failed to respond.

He made a desperate attempt to escape in the remaining seconds, but the force of the jaws hit his legs as he scrambled away. One leg was severed and the other severely crushed and was amputated later in hospital.

The Health and Safety Executive, which investigated the incident, on 24th May 2011, found the company’s isolation procedure for the baler was totally inadequate and found the remote control, built by co-defendant John Platt, of Thakeham, West Sussex, was seriously flawed.

Lewes Crown Court was told that it was possible for the baler, used to compact scrap metal, to take only one minute and 15 seconds to go from ‘car to cube’. The maximum force of its doors was some 180 tonnes.

HSE’s investigation identified that a lack of suitable controls meant workers were able to get too close to the crushing and shearing hazards presented by the machine.

It was also found that the remote was not robust enough for the demands of working in a scrap metal yard.

H Ripley & Co., of North Street, Hailsham, West Sussex, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £34,633 in full costs after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

John Platt, t/a John Platt Services of Bramble Lane, Thakeham, West Sussex, admitted to breaching Section 6(1) of the same Act and was fined £10,000 with £5,000 to pay toward costs.

After the court hearing, HSE Inspector Stephen Green said that the incident had been entirely preventable.

“This was a horrific incident in which a worker suffered the loss of both legs, endured a sixth-month period in hospital and who will now spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair,” he said.

“H Ripley & Co had completely neglected to consider the risks and identify control measures needed to operate the machine safely. It had failed to ensure that there was a system to isolate the machine from power before anyone could get inside.

“It appears that no thought was given to the safety aspects of the remote units for the baler or the way they worked. Had original remotes been sourced or had John Platt manufactured fully functional alternatives, it is likely the incident would not have happened.”

If you or your family have suffered a personal injury in the workplace, call UnionLine on 0300 333 0303.