Alutrade fined £2m over 2017 fatality

Oldbury-based aluminium recycling company Alutrade has been fined more than £2 million after admitting corporate manslaughter following the death of a worker in 2017. 

Three members of senior management at Alutrade one of the largest aluminium recyclers in the UK at the time of the incident have also been fined after pleading guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. 

According to a statement from West Midlands Police, Stuart Towns, who was 34 at the time of the incident, was killed after he had walked into an area underneath a hopper, which housed powerful engines used to feed a conveyor belt with scrap metal for processing.

The Police said a gate preventing workers from getting to the area had broken, and the machine should have been shut down and isolated if any kind of maintenance or cleaning work needed to be done. 

The statement said that minutes later, his body was discovered by “distraught colleagues” and he had suffered catastrophic head injuries and died at the scene.

Charges 

Alutrade admitted corporate manslaughter and was sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court on 25 March. The company was fined £2 million with £105,514 costs. 

Managing director Malcolm George was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,109. Director Kevin Pugh was fined £5,318 and ordered to pay £3,854 costs, while health and safety manager Mark Redfern was fined £2,635 and the company ordered to pay his costs. 

The trio were initially charged with gross negligence manslaughter, but instead pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

The police said they admitted the charge on the basis that their failings didn’t cause the death, but together the management of the company amounted to corporate manslaughter. 

‘Remorse’  

A spokesperson for Alutrade Ltd said: “We want to again express our deep remorse at the death of Stuart Towns, a valued and much liked employee.

“We accept the company is responsible for Stuart’s manslaughter by virtue of gross negligence. We fell short of the required standard by allowing him to work in the immediate vicinity of machinery when it was unguarded by lockable gates.” 

They concluded that “lessons have been learnt and the company has subsequently transformed its approach to managing and enforcing health and safety on site.”

CCTV footage

According to West Midlands Police, Mr George, who had previously told Mr Towns not to work so close to the hopper, took no action when he saw Mr Towns working dangerously close to the machinery forty minutes before his death.

West Midlands Police said its detectives and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) analysed an entire month’s worth of CCTV, and found “hundreds of breaches”.

Senior investigating officer Det Insp Hannah Whitehouse said: “Stuart’s death should never have happened, but sadly it was an incident waiting to happen.

“The company put profit before health and safety, and it cost Stuart his life. I hope today’s convictions and hefty fines act as a deterrent to anyone else involved in the industry who hasn’t got their workers’ safety as the top priority.” 

Family 

HSE inspector Jan Willets commented: “Serious injuries to workers in waste and recycling are too common; and robust health and safety management by employers would reduce the risk.  

The inspector said if the gates preventing access to the conveyor had been repaired, workers would not have been put at risk and Stuart Towns’ fatal injuries could have been prevented.

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